Dec 11, 2019

Axios Sports

πŸ‘‹ Good morning! Let's sports.

  • 🚨 Breaking overnight: Gerrit Cole signed a nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees, absolutely shattering the previous record for most money ever given to a pitcher ($245 million), set Monday by Stephen Strasburg.
  • πŸ€ 100-point game: Wayland Baptist's J.J. Culver (older brother of Timberwolves rookie Jarrett) became just the second player in NAIA history to score 100 points in a game.
  • πŸ”₯ Crazy box score: Duncan Robinson (34 pts, 10-14 3PT) and Kendrick Nunn (36 pts, 14-26 FG), both of whom were undrafted, lit it up in Miami's OT win over Atlanta. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler (20-18-10) and Bam Adebayo (30-11-11) both had triple-doubles. The Heat are fun.

Today's word count: 1,589 words (6 minutes)

1 big thing: ⚾️ MLB's plan to overhaul the minors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As part of MLB's desire to overhaul the minor league system and streamline player development, it wants to sever its parent-club relationship with 42 minor league teams, entirely eliminating some and reorganizing others into a lower-quality "Dream League."

The 42 teams, listed alphabetically:

  • A-C: Auburn Doubledays (N.Y.), Batavia Muckdogs (N.Y.) , Binghamton Rumble Ponies (N.Y.), Billings Mustangs (Mont.), Bluefield Blue Jays (W.Va.), Bristol Pirates (Va.), Burlington Bees (Iowa), Burlington Royals (N.C.), Chattanooga Lookouts (Tenn.), Clinton LumberKings (Iowa), Connecticut Tigers
  • D-I: Danville Braves (Va.), Daytona Tortugas (Fla.), Elizabethton Twins (Tenn.), Erie SeaWolves (Pa.), Florida Fire Frogs, Frederick Keys (Md.), Grand Junction Rockies (Colo.), Great Falls Voyagers (Mont.), Greeneville Reds (Tenn.), Hagerstown Suns (Md.), Idaho Falls Chukars
  • J-P: Jackson Generals (Tenn.), Johnson City Cardinals (Tenn.) (13), Kingsport Mets (Tenn.), Lancaster Jethawks (Calif.), Lexington Legends (Ky.), Lowell Spinners (Mass.), Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Ohio), Missoula PaddleHeads (Mont.), Ogden Raptors (Utah), Orem Owlz (Utah), Princeton Rays (W.Va.)
  • Q-W: Quad Cities River Bandits (Iowa), Rocky Mountain Vibes (Colo.), Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Ore.), State College Spikes (Pa.), Staten Island Yankees (N.Y.), Tri-City Dust Devils (Wash.), Vermont Lake Monsters, West Virginia Power, Williamsport Crosscutters (Pa.)

Why it matters: Major league clubs currently provide and pay for the farm club's players and staff, leaving the minor league organization to cover things like fields, equipment and travel.

  • If that support disappears, it could be a death sentence for many of the teams listed above, putting cities across America at risk of losing parts of their culture and, in some cases, having their local economics shift.

This is why presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as other politicians, have come out against MLB's proposal.

  • It's got everything: Jobs, corporate greed and the blatant juxtaposition of billionaire owners trying to maximize profits while small-town baseball teams β€” organizations that provide their communities with an identity and a place to gather β€” suffer.

The other side: MLB contends that its plan is necessary to improve working conditions, and that eliminating hundreds of low-level players from the system will allow the league to increase minor league salaries across the board β€” an issue that was recently contended in the California Supreme Court.

  • The minor league system is old and bloated, and MLB believes it needs to be slimmed down and reorganized so that teams can focus on things like "analytics training" and spend less money and fewer resources on players with little chance of reaching the majors.

What to watch: MLB's current agreement with the minor league teams expires at the end of this upcoming campaign, which could "cast a certain pall over the 2020 season, as teams aim to, perhaps, play their way off the proverbial bubble."

2. πŸ’΅ NFL, NBA and NHL salary caps this decade
Expand chart
Data: RealGM (NBA); Spotrac (NFL); Puckpedia (NHL); Chart: Axios Visuals

Over the past decade, the NFL, NBA and NHL salary caps (i.e. limits on how much money teams can spend on players) have all increased, but at fairly different rates.

By the numbers: The NFL salary cap has jumped from $120 million to $188.2 million this decade, a 57% increase. The NBA's has jumped from $58 million to $109.1 million (+88%) and the NHL's has jumped from $59.4 million to $81.5 million (+37%).

  • What's next: The NFL informed teams yesterday that projections for the 2020-21 salary cap are in the range of $196.8 million to $201.2 million, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The NBA's latest projection is $116 million, while the NHL hasn't released one.

Chart notes:

  • NFL: The 2010-11 season was played without a salary cap thanks to the impending end of the CBA.
  • NBA: Between 2014 and 2016, the NBA's salary cap skyrocketed from $63.07 million to $94.14 million β€” a direct result of the nine-year, $24 billion contract it signed with ESPN and TNT, nearly three times the value of the prior deal.
  • NHL: There was a lockout during the 2012-13 season, which resulted in a smaller salary cap for the shortened campaign and caused the small dip you see above.

Go deeper: Baseball's luxury tax has become a salary cap (Axios)

3. πŸ“Έ Yesterday in photos
Photo: Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

NEW YORK β€” Last season's national runner-up Texas Tech took down No. 1 Louisville, 70-57, in the Jimmy V Classic at MSG. The college basketball season is just six weeks old and we're already headed for a fifth No. 1 team.

  • Elsewhere: Penn State upset No. 4 Maryland, No. 11 Baylor squeaked past No. 18 Butler by one point, Northern Iowa upset No. 24 Colorado and No. 2 Kansas smoked Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA β€” Mo Salah and Liverpool beat Red Bull Salzburg 2-0 to advance to the knockout stage of the Champions League.

  • Also advancing: Manchester City, Chelsea, Juventus, Barcelona, Tottenham, PSG, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund, Valencia, Red Bull Leipzig and Lyon, leaving only two spots heading into today's action.
Photo: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

WINNIPEG, CANADA β€” Blake Wheeler, Andrew Copp and Patrik Laine (above) scored in a two-minute span in the second period, as the Winnipeg Jets dealt the Detroit Red Wings their 12th straight loss, 5-1.

  • NHL standings: The Capitals (49 pts) have the best record in the East, while the Red Wings (17 pts) have the worst. In the west, the defending champion Blues (42 pts) have the best record, while the Kings (26 pts) have the worst.
4. 🎟 Inside Stubhub's $4B sale to Viagogo

Illustration: Sarah Grillo


  • 2000: Stanford business school students Eric Baker and Jeff Fluhr launch StubHub, a secondary marketplace that makes it easier to buy and sell tickets online.
  • 2006: A rift between the founders causes Baker to leave the company. He then creates a rival, Viagogo, which has since built a strong presence in Europe.
  • 2007: eBay buys StubHub for $310 million, and Fluhr leaves the company.
  • 2019 (two weeks ago): Viagogo announces it will acquire StubHub for $4.05 billion, reuniting Baker with the company he founded 20 years ago β€” and creating a ticketing behemoth.

The big picture: Viagogo operates in 70 countries and is strongest in Europe, while StubHub operates in 44 countries and is strongest in the U.S. "When you put the two together, you're giving fans access to almost any ticket anywhere, in any language and in any currency," Baker told NYT.

P.S. ... Speaking of Stubhub, the company just released its best-selling events of 2019:

  1. ⚾️ World Series
  2. 🏈 Super Bowl LIII
  3. πŸ€ NBA Finals
  4. 🎾 US Open
  5. πŸ’ Stanley Cup Finals
  6. 🎡 Coachella
  7. ⛳️ The Masters
  8. 🏈 LSU vs. Texas
  9. 🏈 LSU vs. Alabama
  10. 🏈 CFP Final (Alabama vs. Clemson)
5. 🏈 Vince Young headlines 2019 Hall of Fame class

Vince Young scoring the winning TD during the iconic 2006 Rose Bowl. Photo: Scott Clarke/WireImage

The 2019 College Football Hall of Fame class was officially inducted at the 62nd National Football Federation Annual Awards Dinner in Manhattan last night.

Offensive players (7):

  • Vince Young, QB, Texas (2003-05)
  • Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas (2005-07)
  • Joe Thomas, OL, Wisconsin (2003-06)
  • Torry Holt, WR, NC State (1995-98)
  • Jake Plummer, QB, Arizona State (1993-96)
  • Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, WR, Notre Dame (1988-90)
  • Lorenzo White, RB, Michigan State (1985-87)

Defensive players (6):

  • Patrick Willis, LB, Ole Miss (2003-06)
  • Troy Polamalu, S, USC (1999-02)
  • London Fletcher, LB, John Carroll (1995-97)
  • Terrell Buckley, DB, Florida State (1989-91)
  • Rickey Dixon, DB, Oklahoma (1984-87)
  • Jacob Green, DL, Texas A&M (1977-79)

Coaches (2):

  • Dennis Erickson, who had stints at Idaho, Wyoming, Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona State and, most notably, Miami, where he won two national titles (1989, 1991)
  • Joe Taylor, who compiled 233 wins in 30 years at Howard, Virginia Union, Florida A&M and Hampton, where he won four black college national championships (1994, 1997, 2004, 2006).
6. πŸ“Š By the numbers
Photo: Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

πŸ€ 18 years old

Paige Bueckers of Hopkins High School (Minnetonka, Minn.) is the best girls' high school basketball player in America and UConn's next big thing. Get to know her.

🏈 21 black coaches

From 2008 to 2018, there were 152 Power Five head coaches. Only 21 identified as African American, per FiveThirtyEight, highlighting how few chances college football gives to black coaches.

🎾 48 straight points

Artem Bahmen, a "tennis player" from Ukraine, is being branded as an impostor after video emerged of him losing 48 straight points in a 6-0, 6-0 loss on the ITF World Tennis Tour β€” "a match where it was unclear if Bahmen had ever picked up a racket before." Hahaha what?!

7. Dec. 11, 1938: 🏈 Giants beat Packers in title game
Melvin Jack Hein, circa 1945. Photo: Sporting News via Getty Images

81 years ago today, the New York Giants beat the Green Bay Packers, 23-17, in the 1938 NFL Championship Game at the Polo Grounds in New York City.

  • With the victory, the Giants became the first team to win two championship games since the league split into two divisions in 1933.
  • The two teams met again in the championship the following year in Milwaukee, with vastly different results (Packers won 27-0). I found footage and it's glorious.

Meet Mel: Giants center (then a position on both offense and defense) Mel Hein was named the NFL's MVP in 1938 and went on to have a Hall of Fame career in New York β€” a place he may never have ended up if it hadn't been for a friendly postmaster.

"In 1931, Mr. Hein wrote to several NFL teams, including the Giants and the Providence Steamrollers, offering his services. When the Providence team was the first to respond, offering him a $125-a-game contract, Mr. Hein signed it and mailed it back."
"The next day a Giants contract, offering $150 a game, arrived, and Mr. Hein sent a wire begging the postmaster in Providence to intercept the other contract and return it. The official obliged, and the rest is Giants history."
β€” From Hein's 1992 obituary
8. The Ocho: β›· Big air at the ballpark
Screenshot: @Frntofficesport (Twitter)

Next weekend, the Braves will host the U.S. Ski and Snowboard's new "Visa Big Air" series at SunTrust Park.

By the numbers: 1.6 million pounds of snow will be created using liquid nitrogen, compressed air and winter, and there will be an elevator to take the athletes to the top of the 15-story jump consisting of 29,000 unique steel pieces.

9. ⚾️ MLB trivia

Gerrit Cole's contract is just the fifth $300 million deal in MLB history.

  • Question: Can you name the other four?
  • Hint: All players are currently active.

Answer at the bottom.

10. πŸ’΅ My tweet went viral
Screenshot: @FloydMayweather (Twitter)

My tweet about the world's highest paid athletes went extremely viral yesterday. It's crazy how certain posts can just take off like that. Am I an influencer now?

Go deeper: Found the original creators and they have some more insights on their blog.

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "LeBron is so good" Baker

Trivia answer: Mike Trout ($426.5M), Bryce Harper ($330M), Giancarlo Stanton ($325m) and Manny Machado ($300M)