👋 Good morning! Axios Sports brings you what matters, in Smart Brevity. Today's word count: 1,442 (~7 minutes).
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The St. Louis Blues beat the banged-up San Jose Sharks 5-1 last night, setting up a long-awaited rematch with the Boston Bruins, who swept them in their last Stanley Cup Final appearance all the way back in 1970.
Why it matters: Because of people like Laila Anderson. Sports, man.
The backdrop: If Blues fans have taught us anything this year, it's that title runs are about cities as much as they're about teams, and St. Louis and Boston share plenty of championship history.
P.S. ... Speaking of rivalries, how about Pam Beasley vs. Jim Halpert?
Carter Stewart and commissioner Rob Manfred at last year's draft. Photo: Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
19-year-old pitcher Carter Stewart has agreed to a six-year, $7+ million contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League, a groundbreaking deal that could change baseball.
Why it matters: MLB's financial model (1) limits the bargaining power of amateurs, (2) pays minor leaguers sub-poverty-level wages and (3) keeps players locked into below-market contracts through their peak years.
By the numbers: Which route would you take?
The big picture: Even if this doesn't start a trend of players going overseas (not everyone is willing to spend their early 20s in Japan), it's a bad enough look for MLB that it could force the league to reassess its current system.
The bottom line: "Stewart, in the end, is a proxy for something bigger — a haymaker at a system capable of careening out of control until brought back into balance," ESPN's Jeff Passan writes:
Go deeper: 2019 MLB mock draft
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
"The legalization of sports betting has opened up new business opportunities for America's biggest media companies, forcing them to decide just how far they want to wade into the world of sportsbooks," Axios' Sara Fischer writes.
Driving the news:
Why it matters: As the sports betting industry matures, it's paramount that media companies strike the right balance between leaning into betting and not alienating casual fans.
Sign up for Sara's weekly newsletter, Axios Media Trends. It's wonderful.
Driving the news: In one of the few games that Kawhi Leonard hasn't absolutely dominated this month, his teammates stepped up to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 120-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks and even the series at 2-2.
Between the lines: For the first time all series, Toronto had the better bench, outscoring Milwaukee's 48-23. Norman Powell (above) poured in 18 points, Serge Ibaka added 17 and Fred VanVleet snapped out of a postseason funk with 13 points and six assists.
MVP: VanVleet credited his newborn son for his breakout performance. "Had to sit at the hospital all day [on Monday], had a lot of time to think," he told ESPN. "It just changes the way you're looking at things. You're not so down on yourself." You the real MVP, little guy.
Sports business spotlight: On Monday, we covered Fanatics. Yesterday, we covered Nasdaq. Today, we're taking a break from deep dives and sharing some nominees for tonight's 12th annual Sports Business Awards presented by Sports Business Journal.
Hey look, it's Daniel Manning and Eli Jones.
Photo: Matt Stroshane/Getty Images
28 years ago today, the NFL's 28 owners agreed to expand the league to 30 franchises and realign the AFC and NFC into six divisions with five teams each.
The NBA's All-Rookie team is made up of the top five picks from the 2018 draft: Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young.
Answer at the bottom.
From Mike Sykes: All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and WarnerMedia recently confirmed the longstanding rumor that the startup wrestling promotion will air weekly on TNT beginning this fall.
Why it matters: For the first time since World Championship Wrestling folded in 2001, TNT is back in the wrestling business — and the timing might be perfect.
The bottom line: If AEW succeeds, it could pose a legitimate threat to the WWE's dominance. But if the WWE's struggles prove to be less about the company and more about the health of the industry as a whole, WarnerMedia could be boarding a sinking ship.
Recent college grad, Maitreyi Anantharaman, on why she gave up politics podcasts (they were making her miserable) and started following basketball, instead — ultimately shelling out $199 for NBA League Pass:
Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
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🎰 Play now: Make your picks (cutoff time: 7pm ET)
Yesterday's results: 24.8% said the Bucks (-2.5) would not cover the spread … 41.7% said the Sharks would score under 2.5 goals ... 18% said Giannis would have between 33 and 37 combined points and rebounds.
See you tomorrow,
Kendall "Thrice is an underrated word" Baker
Trivia answer: Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Bowie, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and Charles Barkley