🎉 Happy Friday! Laurent Hurtubise, who was born with one arm, recorded a hole-in-one during a PGA Tour event in California yesterday. Hell yeah, Laurent.
Today's word count: 1,919 (7 minutes)
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Carlos Beltrán, the only player named in MLB's investigation of the Astros' sign-stealing scandal, is out as Mets manager, departing less than three months into his tenure and becoming the third manager in four days to lose his job.
Why it matters: Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training in 27 days, and the Astros, Red Sox and Mets don't have managers. What we've witnessed this week is unprecedented — and the fallout has only just begun.
Meanwhile, on Twitter: Speculation surfaced that Astros players José Altuve and Alex Bregman wore devices under their jerseys that buzzed to tell them what pitch was coming, turning an already wild controversy into a full-blown conspiracy theory.
Between the lines: The buzzer rumors aren't supported by hard proof, so I don't want to mislead you into thinking they're anything more than internet rumblings.
Simply put, nobody trusts anything anymore. Fans feel betrayed and players feel cheated. Once spring training begins, the show will go on as it always does, but the stench of this scandal will linger.
The big picture: Modern baseball often feels like a "business" where teams are competing to find an edge, rather than a "sport." And when you add this scandal to the mix, it makes you realize how far removed baseball is from its original descriptor: "pastime."
P.S. ... The sign-stealing scandal is serious stuff, but it's important to remember that it's also hilarious. I just feel like that had to be said, as this is ultimately a story about grown men banging on trash cans.
P.P.S. ... In much more positive news, Alyssa Nakken became the first female coach in MLB history yesterday when she was named an assistant under Giants manager Gabe Kapler.
Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Michael Zagaris, Will Newton, Peter G. Aiken, and Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Go deeper: Sure, the NFL playoffs seem chaotic, but they're actually pretty predictable (FiveThirtyEight)
Sheffield United is back in the Premier League for the first time in 13 years, and through its first 22 games, the club has 32 points and sits in sixth place, just behind Manchester United and ahead of both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
Why it matters: It's the best 22-game start to a Premier League season for a newly promoted team since Birmingham City picked up 33 points in 2009-10, per FiveThirtyEight, and the fourth-best ever behind 2005-06 Wigan Athletic (34 points) and 2000-01 Ipswich Town (37 points).
Coming up: Sheffield United, whose nickname "the Blades" comes from the city's history of steel production, has two tough games coming up, as the club looks to become the first newly promoted team to ever qualify for the Champions League (finish top four).
Also this weekend: First-place Liverpool hosts fifth-place Manchester United at Anfield.
The National Stadium in Tokyo during a media tour following its completion in December. Photo: Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images
After recent Olympics in Russia, South Korea and Brazil struggled with attendance, tickets to this summer's Tokyo Games, which open July 24, are selling like gangbusters.
What they're saying:
"Tokyo 2020 continues to prove it is the most popular event of all time. Tickets for events like gymnastics and swimming are proving extremely difficult to obtain, even for veteran Olympic fans."— Ken Hanscom, COO of TicketManager, tells Axios
In related news ... NBCUniversal formally unveiled its new streaming service, Peacock, to investors yesterday. There will be live sports (including Olympics coverage), and the service will be mostly free.
NEW ORLEANS — Brandon Ingram scored a career-high 49 points to lead the Pelicans past Donovan Mitchell (career-high 46 points), and the Jazz 138-132, in overtime. And to think — you could have been sitting in the lower bowl for the price of a Big Mac meal!! More scores...
BALTIMORE — 19-year-old striker Sophia Smith, who helped Stanford win a national title as a sophomore last season before deciding to turn pro, was picked first overall in yesterday's 2020 NWSL draft by the Portland Thorns, making her the first teenager drafted in league history.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Alex Ovechkin recorded his 25th career hat trick in a 5-2 win over the Devils, and joined Mike Gartner and Jaromir Jagr as the only players to reach 30+ goals in 15 straight seasons. At 689 career goals, the 34-year-old is just one away from tying Mario Lemieux for 10th on the all-time list.
🏀 Career-high 37 points
Sabrina Ionescu played arguably the best game of her stellar career in No. 6 Oregon's 87-55 drubbing of No. 3 Stanford, scoring a career-high 37 points (and adding 11 rebounds and seven assists) to become the school's all-time leading scorer.
🏈 15 new Hall of Famers
The Pro Football Hall of Fame's special Centennial Class was formally announced yesterday. The 15 new inductees include legendary coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson, Eagles great Harold Carmichael, the founder of NFL Films Steve Sabol and former league commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
🚑 $250,000 in medical debt
"In the U.S., going bankrupt because of medical bills and debt is something that doesn't just happen to the unlucky uninsured, but also to people with insurance," writes Yahoo's Ethan Wolff-Mann."This is what pro cyclist Phil Gaimon discovered after a bad crash in Pennsylvania last June that left him with ... $250,000 in medical debt."
32 years ago today, Browns RB Earnest Byner fumbled on the Broncos' 1-yard line while trying to score the game-tying touchdown in the AFC Championship Game — a play that will be forever known as "The Fumble."
The backdrop: The same two teams had met in the previous AFC Championship Game, which also ended in victory for the Broncos following a famous five-minute, 98-yard touchdown drive led by QB John Elway — known simply as "The Drive" — to send the game to overtime.
"No other fan base has ever swung from total euphoria to total depression that quickly. And how 'bout poor Byner, who carried the Browns that game and was so tormented that he could barely walk back to the sideline? That game still haunts me, and I'm not even a Browns fan."— Bill Simmons, ESPN (2010)
Courtesy: U.S. Squash
NEW YORK — As I sign off from the JPMorgan Tournament of Champions, I wanted to reflect on the past week inside Grand Central Terminal, writes Axios Sports reader Jordan Brail.
Highlight of the week: Watching commuters discover squash for the first time. As they rushed home, they'd frequently pass by the court, stop, and walk back to watch a few points.
'Til next time.
On Monday night, the LSU Tigers and Clemson Tigers played for a national title, a rare occasion in which both finalists had the same nickname.
Answer at the bottom.
🏀 'Being honest is how you change': Brandon Roy is trying to find his peace (Jason Quick, The Athletic)
"Roy is 35 now ... He doesn't know when he will do it, but he figures he is now ready to get in his car and drive south to the ... city where he became an NBA legend. Yes, eight years after leaving, Brandon Roy says he is ready to return to Portland and watch the Trail Blazers in the arena where he created so much magic."
🏒 NHL draft pick inspires dreams as big as the Yukon (Gerald Narciso, NYT)
"Hockey culture in Whitehorse is a lifelong cycle. It's a place where people begin playing as toddlers and continue until they are in 55-and-over recreation leagues. ... [But] because of Whitehorse's isolation, hockey players have been as difficult to export as NHL merchandise to ship in."
Last day to win a custom Axios Sports hat!!!
Enjoy the weekend,
Kendall "I'm in too deep" Baker
Trivia answer: Arizona Wildcats vs. Kentucky Wildcats