Feb 12, 2020

Axios Sports

πŸ‘‹ Good morning! In the latest bombshell Astros report from The Athletic (subscription), we learn that Carlos Beltran was the relentless "Godfather" in the sign-stealing campaign.

  • When Beltran joined the team in 2017 after three seasons with the Yankees, he told the organization its sign-stealing methods were "behind the times."
  • When Astros players tried to put a stop to the cheating, Beltran steamrolled everybody, according to an anonymous team member. "Where do you go if you're a young, impressionable player with the Astros and this guy says, 'We're doing this'? What do you do?"

Today's word count: 1,342 words (5 minutes).

1 big thing: πŸ’΅ Average NBA team now worth $2.1B
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Reproduced from Forbes; Chart: Axios Visuals

The average NBA franchise is now valued at $2.12 billion, per Forbes β€” a figure that has grown 476% in the past decade.

Why it matters: Thanks to the NBA's international growth and the $24 billion TV deal it signed with ESPN and Turner in 2014, team values have grown at a much faster rate than the other three major U.S. sports leagues.

  • NBA: 476% growth
  • MLB: 262% growth
  • NHL: 192% growth
  • NFL: 179% growth

Most valuable teams: The Knicks ($4.6 billion) grabbed the top spot for the fifth straight year, followed by the Lakers ($4.4 billion) and Warriors ($4.3 billion). Among all American sports, only the Cowboys ($5.5 billion) and Yankees ($4.6 billion) can rival them.

  • Filling out the top 10: Bulls ($3.2 billion), Celtics ($3.1 billion), Clippers ($2.6 billion), Nets ($2.5 billion), Rockets ($2.48 billion), Mavericks ($2.4 billion) and Raptors ($2.1 billion).
  • The bottom five: Only five teams are valued at less than $1.5 billion: Pistons ($1.45 billion), Magic ($1.43 billion), Timberwolves ($1.38 billion), Pelicans ($1.4 billion) and Grizzlies ($1.3 billion).

Wild stat ... In 1999, the Warriors were the seventh-least valuable NBA franchise and the Clippers ranked dead last. Two decades later, they are now the third- and sixth-most valuable NBA franchises, respectively.

  • Food for thought: Which NBA franchise is best positioned to make a similar leap by 2040?
2. πŸŽ“ NCAA president appears before Congress

NCAA president Mark Emmert at yesterday's hearing. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

NCAA president Mark Emmert and four other witnesses testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee yesterday, as the issue of student-athletes profiting off their name, image and likeness (NIL) took center stage in the nation's capital.

"Sports is something that cuts across party lines, it cuts across geography and it's so ingrained in our culture. Everyone wants to see that if nothing else in our country works, they want to see our sports work."
β€” Sen. Jon Thune (R-S.D.)

Driving the news: During the hearing, senators questioned whether the NCAA could be trusted to get this right β€” and even Emmert publicly acknowledged that, as the NCAA works to revamp its rules, "we may need Congress' support in helping maintain uniform standards in college sports."

  • This is indicative of the NCAA's fear that states will pass their own NIL laws with slight variations, leading to competitive unbalance across its 1,1000 member schools and regulatory chaos.
  • National College Players Association executive director Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player, thanked the states for being the catalyst that brought the NCAA to the table.

What to watch: For all the frustration lawmakers projected yesterday, Congress "did not seem poised to act immediately," notes NYT's Alan Blinder β€” a result of a Washington consumed with election-year politics and "rooted in lobbying" (the NCAA spent $750,000 last year on lobbying).

  • With dozens of states considering whether to follow California's lead, that wait-and-see approach could embolden them to take matters into their own hands and challenge the NCAA on their own.
3. πŸ“Έ Last night in photos
Photo: Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images

ANAHEIM, Calif. β€” Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was taken to the hospital after suffering a cardiac episode on the bench during last night's game against the Ducks, which was postponed as a result. Thankfully, Jay is currently "conscious and alert," per the team.

Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA β€” Joel Embiid was booed by Philly fans following his recent Twitter drama, but he turned jeers into cheers by leading the Sixers to a 110-103 win over the Clippers. Meanwhile, Ben Simmons (26-12-10) recorded his 28th career triple-double β€” the third-most ever through a player's first three seasons.

Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

NEW YORK β€” "Siba, a black standard poodle with a meticulously groomed coat and a taste for chicken, won best in show at the 144th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show ... defeating a final group of contenders that included a wildly popular golden retriever and two repeat best in show contestants." (NYT)

4. πŸ“Š By the numbers
Screenshot: @GoNUwhockey (Twitter)
  • πŸ’ 17-time champs: On Monday night, the Northeastern men's hockey team beat Boston University in double OT to win the Beanpot title. Last night, the women's team did the same exact thing (beat BU in double OT) to secure a record 17th title.
  • ⛳️ 0-for-12: Tiger Woods will be back in action tomorrow at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, a course he has failed to win at more than any other. Proof: His 12 PGA Tour starts there without a victory is triple the amount of any other course.
  • ⚽️ 76 days: Former USMNT coach JΓΌrgen Klinsmann resigned as manager of the Bundelisga club Hertha Berlin yesterday, abruptly abandoning his post after just 76 days in charge.
5. 🎧 Podcast wars heat up; sports playing role
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Reproduced from The Nielsen Total Audience Report, February 2020; Chart: Axios Visuals

Most Americans subscribe to multiple video services, but not multiple audio services, according to Nielsen. That could soon change if more podcasts begin to be offered exclusively on certain platforms, writes Axios' Sara Fischer.

  • Scoop: Sources tell Axios that Luminary, which raised $100 million last year to become the "Netflix of podcasts," is expanding its service to three new countries: New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland.

The big picture: Podcast companies are looking to invest more in their own exclusive content to lure users to pay subscription fees to their services.

  • Spotify recently paid $250 million to acquire The Ringer, a sports media company founded by Bill Simmons, as part of a $600 million investment in its podcasting business.
  • Apple will reportedly fund exclusive podcasts for its podcast app and plans to make original podcasts to promote its TV shows.

The bottom line, via Axios' Ina Fried: "The big question is whether this [Ringer deal] and other moves by Spotify and Luminary will mark the end of a world in which podcasts were largely openly and freely distributed."

6. 🎠 Coaching carousel
Mel Tucker. Photo: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
  • 🏈 Tucker to MSU: Michigan State is set to hire Colorado's Mel Tucker as its next football coach. The Spartans will reportedly more than double Tucker's Colorado $2.7 million salary, further evidence of the widening gap in resources between the revenue-rich Big Ten/SEC and the rest of college football.
  • ⚾️ Boston's new boss: The Red Sox are promoting 63-year-old bench coach Ron Roenicke, who managed the Brewers from 2011 to 2015, to interim manager in the wake of Alex Cora's unceremonious departure.
  • πŸ€ Wesley not joining Knicks: William Wesley (aka Worldwide Wes), whom GQ's Alex French once suggested might be the "most powerful man in sports" due to his connections and influence, is no longer expected to join the Knicks' front office.
7. Feb. 12, 1876: ⚾️ Spalding opens first store
Al Spalding poses for a portrait in Chicago in 1900. Photo: Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images

144 years ago today, Albert G. Spalding opened his first sporting goods store in Chicago, marking the birth of an iconic American brand that is still around today.

Biography: "Spalding's life story could have been written by Horatio Alger. He had three careers β€” as a baseball pitcher, a club owner, and a sporting goods tycoon β€” and was very successful at all of them," per the Society for American Baseball Research.

  • Pitcher: Spalding was the premier pitcher of the 1870s, leading baseball in wins in each of his six full seasons, which were spent with the Boston Red Stockings (now the Atlanta Braves) and later the Chicago White Stockings (now the White Sox). His .796 career winning percentage is the highest ever.
  • Owner: After his playing career ended, Spalding became president and part-owner of the White Stockings, leading the club to three pennants and inventing the concept of modern-day spring training.
  • Tycoon: In 1876, Spalding and his brother Walter opened "A.G. Spalding & Bros." in Chicago, which grew rapidly (14 stores by 1901) and eventually became a manufacturer of all sports equipment. He used his influence to supply official balls, bats and other equipment to the National League.


  • World tour: In 1888, Spalding took the White Stockings and a group of all-stars on MLB's first world tour, visiting 14 different countries including Egypt, France and Italy in an attempt to spread the baseball gospel.
  • Publisher: In 1877, Spalding founded the "Baseball Guide," which was among the most popular baseball publications at the time. In 1911, he published "America's National Game," which many consider the first scholarly account of the history of baseball.

1909 vintage ball...

Photo: John Kanuit Photography/Sports Studio Photos/Getty Images
8. The Ocho: 🐴 Horseball in Kyrgyzstan

Photo: Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP via Getty Images

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan β€” Players from Canada (in red) and France (in burgundy) compete in a game of horseball, a centuries-old sport that has been described as "Quidditch on horseback."

πŸŽ₯ Watch: Tour of Kyrgyzstan (YouTube)

9. 🏈 NFL trivia

Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Titans star Derrick Henry could become the NFL's highest-paid RB this offseason.

  • Question: Who are currently the four highest-paid RBs in the NFL (by average annual salary)?
  • Hint: Three play in the NFC, one plays in the AFC.

Answer at the bottom.

10. πŸ€ The NBA's 20-year evolution
Screenshot: @kirkgoldsberry (Twitter)

πŸ“Ί Tonight: Tune into ESPN for back-to-back servings of three-pointers.

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Spalding!! Spalding!!!!" Baker

Trivia answer: Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys), Todd Gurley (Rams), Le'Veon Bell (Jets), David Johnson (Cardinals)