Aug 1, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

🏈 Football is back! The NFL preseason kicks off tonight, as the Broncos and Falcons go head-to-head in the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio (8pm ET, NBC).

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  • Today's word count: 1,253 (< 5 mins)
1 big thing: ⚾️ Houston, we have another ace

Zack Greinke is headed to H-Town. Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

After weeks of inactivity, the 2019 MLB trade deadline finished with a flurry of moves — but the day was still defined by some of baseball's best teams standing pat and doing nothing to improve.

What's new: Three division leaders (Dodgers, Yankees, Cardinals) made no notable trades, and a fourth (Twins) made a couple but didn't match the urgency of the Indians, who are breathing down their necks in the AL Central.

  • Either this was just a weird year, or it represents a growing trend in baseball where teams value future seasons more than the present one — routinely choosing to hedge their bets rather than go all-in.
  • "GMs have become so enamored with the building process that they miss opportunities now," writes SI's Tom Verducci. "Prospects ... become the unspent coins of the realm."

Meanwhile, the division-leading Astros and Braves did make trades improve, but it was Houston that won the day by adding Zack Greinke — the third time in the last 23 months that they've made a blockbuster trade for an ace (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole).

  • Houston's rotation will feature four of the top 15 starters by ERA: Verlander, 2.73 (5th in MLB), Greinke, 2.90 (9th), Cole, 2.94 (11th) and Wade Miley, 3.06 (14th). That's unfair.
  • World Series odds: The Astros are now the favorites (+200) followed by the Dodgers (+300), Yankees (+600), Braves (+900) and Cubs (+1400).

Go deeper:

2. 🏀 The Elam Ending, explained
2018 TBT "Elam Ending" action. Screenshot: YouTube

The Basketball Tournament (TBT) — a 64-team, single-elimination tournament with $2 million on the line — kicks off its quarterfinals in Chicago tonight (7pm ET, ESPN).

  • The field: The eight remaining teams include the four-time defending champs (Overseas Elite), alumni teams from Ohio State and Marquette, a DeMarcus Cousins-managed squad of former NBA players, and a team with four long-haul truckers.

The intrigue: TBT uses something called the "Elam Ending," which completely changes the way games conclude.

How it works: Instead of playing until the clock hits zero, teams play until the first stoppage at or under 4:00 in the fourth quarter.

  • At this juncture, eight points are added to the leading team’s score and that total becomes the "target score." Play then resumes without a game clock, and whoever reaches the target score first, wins.
  • For example: Team A leads Team B 70–63 at the first stoppage under 4:00. The game clock is turned off, the target score is set to 78 and the first team that reaches 78 points wins the game.

The backdrop: The Elam Ending was conceived by a middle school principal named Nick Elam, who, like many basketball fans, had grown frustrated with the foul-a-thon that often takes place at the end of games.

  • In 2016, he got in touch with TBT founder Jon Mugar, who was struck by his passion and agreed to test out the Elam Ending during a few preliminary games. Three years later, it's a staple of the tournament.

What they're saying:

"What Nick really impressed upon me is how futile the late-game fouling strategy actually is. Almost no teams come back. ... I consider myself a basketball purist, so the biggest sign to me that this has gone well is that I now have a really hard time watching the ends of games in the winter."
— Jon Mugar tells Axios

Go deeper: The top 25 remaining players in the 2019 TBT

3. ⚽️ Soccer roundup

Christian Pulisic. Photo: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Pulisic scores twice: 10 days before he embarks on his first Premier League season, 20-year-old American Christian Pulisic got the start in Chelsea's penultimate preseason tuneup … and, within a span of eight minutes, had a direct hand in three goals (scored twice and earned a penalty).

Women's World Cup expands: Following this year's successful edition, the Women's World Cup will expand from 24 to 32 teams in 2023. Flashback: The WWC started with 12 teams in 1991 before expanding to 16 in 1999 and 24 in 2015.

MLS All-Star Game: The MLS All-Stars lost 3-0 to Atletico Madrid (highlights) in front of a sold-out crowd of 25,547 fans in Orlando. After winning the first four "MLS vs. Europe" contests after the format was introduced in 2005, the All-Stars have gone just 3-8.

Soccer in St. Louis? Reps from eight potential MLS expansion markets attended the All-Star Game. The three leaders in the race to 30 teams are believed to be St. Louis, Sacramento and Charlotte, with multiple sources suggesting St. Louis is the furthest along.

4. 🏈 Canton's big bet on pro football

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Museum in Canton, Ohio. Photo: Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This week, some 250,000 people will descend on Canton, Ohio — home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame — to watch the NFL season kickoff game and induction of former players and coaches, writes Axios' Marisa Fernandez.

Why it matters: Looming over the festivities is a nearly $1 billion, slow-moving project to build the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village — an "NFL theme park" that will attract football fans year-round.

  • Details: The $900 million project includes a rebuilt stadium, a water park, hotels, entertainment and retail. It will also have advanced video, audio and digital technology to immerse fans into the sport, NYT reports.
  • But, but, but: It's running way behind schedule. Construction has been at a standstill for more than a year, the Plain Dealer reports, and it won't be ready for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the NFL planned for 2020.

The bottom line: If successful, the Hall of Fame Village would give the Rust Belt city of Canton a much-needed economic boost estimated to be worth $15 billion over the next 25 years.

More HOF:

  • RIP, Nick: Nick Buoniconti, the undersized HOF linebacker who helped lead the Dolphins to the NFL's only perfect season, has passed away at the age of 78. Highly recommend the HBO doc, "The Many Lives of Nick Buoniconti."
  • Running back drought: In the modern NFL, it's becoming increasingly difficult for RBs to put up the lofty numbers needed to get a bronze bust, which means they could be headed for a HOF drought.
5. Good reads

🥊 Immigrant Song (SI)

"This is the story of a Havana-trained, Olympic gold medalist boxer and the Tampa-based chef who put aside her award-winning cream cheese flan to help him escape from one of the world's most oppressive regimes."

⚾️ Dorktown: The Night That Destroyed The 2007 Baltimore Orioles Forever (SB Nation)

"For the first 123 games of the 2007 season, the Baltimore Orioles' pitching staff was doing fine. Really! They weren't bad! Everything was okay! [But] after the events of August 22nd, nothing would ever be the same."

🏈 How EA Sports' NCAA Football Has Lived On Despite Cancellation (B/R)

"Although it has been more than six years since EA Sports published an NCAA Football game, the passion hasn't waned. … A small but mighty subset of NCAA Football fanatics has even poured countless hours into bringing its own version of the game to life every year."
6. Aug. 1, 1992: 🎽 Devers wins 100m in photo finish
Gail Devers crossing the finish line (top). Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images

27 years ago today, a photo review granted Team USA's Gail Devers the gold medal in the women's 100m final at the 1992 Barcelona Games

What happened: It was one of the closest races ever, with five runners crossing the finish line within 0.06 seconds of each other.

  1. Gail Devers (USA): 10.82 seconds
  2. Juliet Cuthbert (Jamaica): 10.83 seconds
  3. Irina Privalova (Russia): 10.844 seconds
  4. Gwen Torrence (USA): 10.865 seconds
  5. Merlene Ottey (Jamaica): 10.88 seconds

P.S. ... Four years later, Devers repeated as the 100m champion in yet another photo finish. Her combined margin of victory in those two races: 0.01.

7. ⚾️ MLB trivia

Anthony Rendon is the third player in Nationals/Expos history with four straight seasons of 20 HR and 80 RBI.

  • Question: Who are the other two players?
  • Hint: They both won an MVP.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🏁 Race trucks in the dirt
Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

When the NASCAR Truck Series added the Eldora Dirt Derby to the schedule in 2013, it marked the first time drivers competed at a dirt track since 1970.

  • Since then, it's become a crown jewel race for NASCAR thanks to the unique surface, the unusual location (Rossburg, a town of 198 people in Ohio), and the fact that it's under the lights on a weeknight.

📺 Watch: This year's race is tonight (9pm ET, FS1), and I am 100% tuning in. Zero idea what to expect. Will report back tomorrow.

Kendall Baker

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "Settle down, Rick" Baker

Trivia answer: Vladimir Guerrero (five in a row, 1998–2002) and Bryce Harper (four, 2015–2018)