Oct 22, 2020

Axios Sports

👋 Good morning! Let's sports.

Today's word count: 1,899 words (7 minutes).

1 big thing: ⚾️ Lowe shines as Rays even Series

Brandon Lowe celebrates his first-inning bomb. Source: Giphy

Brandon Lowe broke out of a postseason slump, the Rays' bullpen bent but didn't break, and Tampa Bay held on for a 6-4 win to even the World Series at one game apiece.

  • Lowe, who has struggled mightily in the playoffs (.104 BA entering Game 2) after being the Rays' best hitter all year, became the first player to hit two opposite-field HRs in a World Series game. Here's the first; here's the second.
  • Blake Snell didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning and became the third pitcher in World Series history with two strikeouts in four straight innings, joining Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson.
  • Ji-Man Choi became the first Korean-born player to record a hit in the World Series.
Dustin May after surrendering a two-run HR to Lowe. Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

For the Dodgers, Game 2 was a stark reminder that 26-year-old Tony Gonsolin (lasted just 1.1 IP) and 23-year-old Dustin May (3 ER in 1.1 IP) haven't come even close to being the postseason weapons L.A. was hoping they'd be.

  • Corey Seager's solo shot in the eighth was his seventh HR and 16th RBI of the playoffs, extending the franchise records he'd already set.

🎥 ICYMI: A fan sporting what appeared to be a puka shell necklace caught Will Smith's sixth-inning HR, then ... threw his glove on the field? Just a really weird but hilarious moment that Joe Buck summed up perfectly:

"What?"
— Joe Buck

Looking ahead:

  • See ya Friday: After an off day today (first of the playoffs), Game 3 features the best pitching matchup of the series: Charlie Morton vs. Walker Buehler.
  • History on the horizon: Seager and Randy Arozarena are both one HR shy of tying Barry Bonds, Carlos Beltrán and Nelson Cruz for most in a single postseason (eight).
2. 🎓 Division I's "have-nots" are drowning

Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The pandemic has wreaked financial havoc on universities across the country. But while Power 5 schools are finally getting financial relief from their lucrative football programs, Division I's "have-nots" are still drowning.

Driving the news: The University of California, Riverside, which competes in the Big West Conference but doesn't play football, is considering dropping all 15 sports to cut costs.

By the numbers: UC Riverside is the most subsidized D-I athletic department in the country, per USA Today, with more than 90% of its $23.2 million in annual revenue coming from institutional support ($18.7 million) and student fees ($2.3 million).

  • Revenues (2019): $18.7m in school support; $2.3m in student fees; $646k in rights/licensing; $151k in ticket sales; $816k in 'other" = $23.2m
  • Expenses (2019): $7.7m on coaching/staff; $4.8m on scholarships; $92k on facilities/overhead; $11m on "other" = $24.2m

The state of play: School officials project a loss of $32 million in state funds due to the pandemic. Eliminating sports expenses while redirecting school funds elsewhere could help alleviate some of that financial stress.

The other side: Athletic director Tamica Smith-Jones has proposed an alternative solution, ESPN's Myron Medcalf reports.

  • Her plan involves increasing student fees (currently $105 per student) and expanding the athletic department to include recreational programs.
  • What's next: UC Riverside is expected to make a decision before the end of the year and possibly as early as next month.
Data: NCAA; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: D-I, D-II and D-III athletics exist in entirely different galaxies. But even within the top division, itself, there's a huge gap between the UCLA's and UC Riverside's of the world.

  • With football underway and basketball nearing its return, Power 5 schools are back to generating millions of dollars from TV deals (plus some ticket sales) despite many of their campuses looking like ghost towns.
  • Meanwhile, UC Riverside and other smaller D-I school that rely primarily on institutional support and student fees are scrambling.

The bottom line: The Division I divide was best illustrated in a recent Knight Commission study, in which college administrators showed an openness for radical restructuring.

  • 61% of Power 5 administrators said they'd support breaking away and creating a fourth division for Power 5 programs in all sports except basketball.
  • All other segments of Division I — Group of Five, FCS and non–football playing members — were categorically opposed to that plan.

Go deeper: Inside the world of college sports financing (Axios)

3. 🏈 NFL Power Rankings: Week 7
Table: Axios Visuals

The NFL season is one-third over, but we still don't really know who a lot of these teams are, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

  • Are the 5-1 Bears actually good or just lucky? They've only lost one game, but their five conquests (Lions, Giants, Falcons, Bucs and Panthers) are a combined 11-29 and they've only outscored opponents by a total of 128-116.
  • How about the Eagles? 1-4-1 looks bad, but they've played the Ravens and Steelers close the past two weeks and could sit atop the NFC East by Sunday.

Stat leaders:

  • Passing yards: Dak Prescott, DAL (1,856); Matt Ryan, ATL (1,843); Deshaun Watson, HOU (1,786)
  • Passing TD: Russell Wilson, SEA (19); Josh Allen, BUF (16); Patrick Mahomes, KC (15)
  • Receiving yards: DeAndre Hopkins, ARI (601); Robby Anderson, CAR (566); Stefon Diggs, BUF (555)
  • Receiving TD: Adam Thielen, MIN (7); Mike Evans, TB (6); six players (5)
  • Rushing yards: Derrick Henry, TEN (588); Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC (505); Dalvin Cook, MIN (489)
  • Rushing TD: Cook (7); Henry (6); Kyler Murray, ARI (6)
  • Interceptions: Xavien Howard, MIA and Kendall Fuller, WSH (4); Pierre Desir, NYJ and Carlton Davis, TB (3)
  • Sacks: Aaron Donald, LAR (7.5); Myles Garrett, CLE (7); Jason Pierre-Paul, TB (5.5)

Coming up:

  • Tonight: Giants at Eagles (-4.5)
  • Sunday's best games: Steelers (-1) at Titans; Seahawks (-3.5) at Cardinals; 49ers at Patriots (-2)
  • Sunday night: Bucs (-3.5) at Raiders
  • Monday night: Bears at Rams (-6)
4. 📸 Photos from abroad
Photo: David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

MADRID — Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) stunned Real Madrid, 3-2, in their Champions League opener. Madrid has now lost twice at home in four days — increasing the pressure going into Saturday's clash with Barcelona.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy — The Giro d'Italia is nearing the finish, but COVID-19 restrictions have forced organizers to make big changes to Saturday's final mountain stage.

Photo: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

SYDNEY — Projections are displayed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge ahead of Saturday's National Rugby League Grand Final between the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm.

5. 🏀 NBA offseason primer

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With the NBA Finals over a week in the rearview, it's time to look toward an offseason likely to be fraught with chaos and uncertainty, Jeff writes.

Where it stands: Most key dates and decisions have yet to be determined or set in stone.

  • Draft: The one relative certainty is that the NBA Draft will be Nov. 18.
  • Salary cap: It's expected to remain flat ($109.1 million), which means just four teams will have cap space to sign someone beyond the mid-level exception (Pistons, Hawks, Knicks, Hornets).
  • Season start: The NBA is targeting Jan. 18, but because they want as many in-person fans as possible, it's a moving target.
  • Season end: This obviously hinges on when it begins, but two driving factors are avoiding competition with the NFL and finishing at least most of the playoffs before the Olympics. In order to make that work, a condensed (~60 games) or altered schedule could be on the table.

Free agency: It's a relatively weak class, headlined by Fred VanVleet and a bevy of role players like Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell and Goran Dragić.

  • Yes, but: In reality, the biggest name to watch is two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has to decide if he'll accept an extension to stay in Milwaukee or play out his contract and become a free agent next summer.
  • If he declines the extension, more than a few teams will begin reshuffling their rosters to best position themselves for the feeding frenzy next year.

Coaching carousel: The draft is less than a month away, and though the Pacers (Nate Bjorkgren) and Pelicans (Stan Van Gundy) filled coaching vacancies this week, two job openings still remain (Rockets, Thunder).

  • Rockets: Van Gundy's brother, Jeff, is a top candidate. He coached them from 2003 to 2007 and has spent the past decade calling games for ESPN.
  • Thunder: The laundry list of candidates includes Sydney Kings (NBL) coach Will Weaver, Sixers assistant Ime Udoka and Dayton coach Anthony Grant.

Trade talk: The weak free agent class should make for an active trade market. The transaction window hasn't opened yet, but here are names to look out for when it does.

  • Chris Paul is like a fantasy running back coming off a 30-point performance. If his turn-back-the-clock season can entice a buyer despite his bloated contract (two years, $85 million), the Thunder could cash in.
  • Jrue Holiday is a two-way star, but the Pelicans might be better off trading him and using the return haul to build around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
  • Victor Oladipo broke out in 2018, but a quad injury kept him on the shelf for most of the last two seasons. Could Indiana trade its franchise star yet again?

Go deeper: The people with the power to make big moves (ESPN)

6. ⚡️ Lightning round
Screenshot: @seattlestorm (Twitter)
  • 🇺🇸 Storm endorse Biden: Fresh off a WNBA title, the Seattle Storm endorsed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Wednesday, a rare formal backing of a ticket by a professional sports team.
  • 🐶 Dog show goes north: The Westminster Dog Show will be held in June next year. And it's moving from the city (Manhattan) to the country (Lyndhurst, New York) to comply with pandemic restrictions.
  • ⚽️ L.A.'s new team: Angel City FC has officially joined the NWSL, while also adding Billie Jean King, Candace Parker (and her daughter), Lindsey Vonn and others to its high-profile ownership group. The club will debut in 2022.
  • 😷 College outbreaks: Florida's football program will remain closed until Monday, Marquette has paused men's and women's basketball for two weeks, and Toledo has done the same for men's basketball.
  • 🏈 Fun read: When Stephen F. Austin football coach Colby Carthel couldn't be on the sideline for his team's upcoming game, he turned to his father, Don, who left his tractor to return to the gridiron. Dive in.
7. Oct. 22, 1845: ⚾️ The first box score
Photo: Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

175 years ago today, the New York Morning News printed what is believed to be the first ever baseball box score.

Details: This was the second of three October games played on Hoboken's Elysian Fields (above) between the New York and Brooklyn Ball Clubs. New York won, 24-4.

Courtesy: This Day In Baseball

The big picture: Eight players, 12 outs and just three items of information is a far cry from today's box scores, but it had to start somewhere.

  • 14 years later, baseball writer Henry Chadwick created something more akin to the modern product, adding things like hits, assists, errors and strikeouts.
  • Fun fact: Chadwick is the reason we use "K" for strikeouts, because he already used "S" for sacrifice, and K is the last letter in "struck."

Fast forward: Nowadays, we're provided every statistic under the sun, although if a 19th century fan saw last night's box score their first question would most likely be: "They used how many pitchers?!?"

Screenshot: ESPN.com
8. ✍️ Sports media roundup

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  • 📉 Quibi, the mobile-focused streaming service that raised $1.75 billion, is shutting down after just six months. Sports shows included: ESPN's "The Replay," TSN's "SportsCentre AM," and LeBron James-produced "I Promise."
  • ⚾️ World Series: Game 1 drew just 9.2 million viewers, making it the least-watched World Series Game 1 on record. The previous low came in 2014 (12.2 million viewers for Giants-Royals).
  • 💵 ESPN plans to move much of its high-profile, feature-type writing and analysis content to ESPN+ in an effort to drive subscriptions, Sportico reports.
  • 🎙 Good read: Of the top 100 sports talk show hosts in the country, just four are women: Sandra Golden (Atlanta), Maggie Gray (New York), Dawn Davenport (Nashville) and Stacy Rost (Seattle). The Athletic dives into why so few women work in sports radio (subscription).
9. 🏀 NBA trivia

Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

New Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals, where they lost to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in five games.

  • Question: What four players started alongside Dwight Howard for the Magic during those Finals?
  • Hint: One player is still active.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ❤️ Why we love sports
Rachel and Irving. Photo: Rachel M.

Rachel M. (Hartford, Conn.) writes:

A few years ago I saw a story about the world's oldest living Dodgers fan (he was 107 at the time). His name was Irving Piken, the same last name as my mom's maiden name.
I thought we could possibly be related, since it's not the most common last name. So I hunted down his son's contact info and reached out. Turns out, we were. Irv was my grandpa's first cousin (which made him my third cousin I think).
I work at ESPN, so they flew me out to the L.A. area to meet Irv and write bout it. By then he was 108.
Here's the story, which we brought back last year when he turned 111. At that point, he was the oldest man in the United States.
Irving meeting Vin Scully. Photo: Rachel M.
In February, Irv died at 111. I emailed his son this week to say hi, and that I was thinking of them with the Dodgers in the World Series, the first one since Irv passed.
He said, "Dad is smiling in heaven. We buried him wearing his Dodger World Series cap and holding his Dodgers uniform."
Irv's story, from growing up as a Dodgers fan in Brooklyn, to moving out to L.A. after they did, was incredibly heartwarming. How often does someone remember their first baseball game being 100 years ago?
But my discovery that he was my cousin, and getting in touch with long-lost relatives, was even cooler.
The Piken family. Photo: Rachel M.

✍️ Submit your story: Do you have a fondest sports memory? Or a story about sports impacting your life? To share, simply reply to this email.

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Grew up on box scores and cereal" Baker

Trivia answer: Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Türkoğlu