Oct 16, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Let's sports.

Today's word count: 1,338 words (5 minutes)

1 big thing: ⚾️ The Nationals' League

Photo: Will Newton/Getty Images

The Nationals beat the Cardinals, 7-4, last night, concluding an NLCS sweep that bucked every team narrative and sends the franchise to its first ever World Series.

  • After 4 heartbreaking first-round exits in 6 years, Washington dominated St. Louis so thoroughly that it was almost boring. At no point during the NLCS did they trail, and they had the lead for all but 5 of the 36 innings.

How they got here: After a rough first month of the season, the Nationals adopted the motto "Stay in the fight," and that's exactly what they’ve done.

  • They stayed in the wild-card race, fought back from 2 runs down in the 8th inning of their wild-card game against the Brewers and won 2 elimination games against the Dodgers in the NLDS.
  • "They have found themselves in fight after fight after fight, and each time, they have found a way to keep going," writes The Ringer's Claire McNear. "For this, they will be treated to one more."

Fun facts:

  • The Nationals are the 4th team in MLB history to reach the World Series after being at least 12 games below .500 during the regular season.
  • Washington's 4 aces — Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez — are 8-2 with a 2.04 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 61.2 innings as starters this postseason.

What they're saying: "Sometimes, bumpy roads lead to beautiful places," skipper Davey Martinez told a crowd that didn’t want to leave. "And this is a beautiful place."

The big picture: The last time a Washington team went to a World Series was in 1933, when the Washington Senators fell to the New York Giants. How different was the sports world then? Well…

  • There was no NBA.
  • There was no Heisman Trophy.
  • There was no NCAA basketball tournament.
  • There were no major league sports franchises west of St. Louis.

The front page of the Washington Post sports section on Sept. 22, 1933, the last time a D.C. team clinched the pennant...

Courtesy: WashPost
2. ⚾️ Cole, Astros take 2-1 ALCS lead

Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Gerrit Cole tossed 7 scoreless innings in Game 3 of the ALCS last night, helping the Astros beat the Yankees, 4-1, and take a 2-1 series lead.

  • Cole's October: In 3 starts (all Astros wins), he's surrendered a single run across 22.2 innings (0.40 ERA) and has 32 strikeouts.

Let's talk about the balls: Didi Gregorius nearly hit a 3-run HR in the 5th to give New York the lead, but it died at the warning track. Normally this wouldn't be a story, but MLB appears to have de-juiced the balls for the playoffs, so it is.

  • My take: The fact that we're talking about juiced (and now de-juiced) baseballs so freely without MLB ever having admitted to anything is wild. The World Series is about to start and it's unclear if the sport's main piece of equipment (the ball) has been altered. Absolutely insane.

What's next: As of last night, there was a 100% chance of rain in the Bronx today, which could delay Game 4 until tomorrow.

3. 🏈 Ramsey gets his wish, heads west to L.A.
Screenshot @jalenramsey (Twitter)

A month after his trade request, Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey got his wish and was sent to the Rams yesterday in exchange for two 1st-round picks (and a 4th-rounder).

  • In a separate move, the Rams traded CB Marcus Peters to the Ravens for LB Kenny Young and an undisclosed 2020 pick.

Why it matters: In addition to shaking up the current NFL season, this trade may have also "ushered in a new era of how NFL superstars view and wield their power," writes WashPost's Adam Kilgore.

  • "In the NFL, ownership has forever held the cards in player movement. … But this season, culminating with the Ramsey trade, has shown players hold more sway than ever."

Yes, but: While other players might replicate Ramsey's strategy going forward and essentially force a trade by making their displeasure public, it won't work for everyone. You need to be a full-fledged superstar to take that leap.

"Great players can dictate. Good players like Melvin Gordon [who tried to hold out for a new contract and failed] can't dictate."
— Anonymous NFL agent, per WashPost
Bonus: 🏈 Week 7 NFL rankings
Expand chart
Table: Axios Visuals
  • 📈 Biggest risers: Texans, Steelers, Vikings, Broncos
  • 📉 Biggest fallers: Cowboys, Titans, Rams, Eagles

Coming up: Sunday's best games include Saints at Bears, Texans at Colts, Ravens at Seahawks, Vikings at Lions and Eagles at Cowboys (SNF)

4. ⚽️ Soccer: By the numbers
Photo: Found Image Holdings/Corbis via Getty Images
29th franchise

Sacramento is expected to be announced as Major League Soccer's 29th franchise next week, the Sacramento Bee reports.

34 years

The U.S. men's national team suffered a Trinidad and Tobago-esque loss yesterday, falling 2-0 to Canada in the CONCACAF Nations League — their first loss to Canada in 34 years.

317 goals

Chloe DeLyser, a senior at Marion (N.Y.) High School scored her 317th career goal last night, breaking the national record for most career goals by a high school girls soccer player.

5. 🥊 1st trans pro boxer is new face of Everlast

Courtesy: Everlast

Last December, Patricio Manuel became the world's first transgender boxer to compete in a pro fight (which he won). And now, he's the new face of Everlast, one of the preeminent and oldest brands in boxing.

The journey: Manuel, 34, won 5 national amateur championships as a female competitor before transitioning in 2013 — a decision that cost him his coach, his gym and some friends, but allowed him to finally live his truth.

What he's saying:

"Before I found boxing, I didn't have the words or the language to describe what was going on with me. There were so many parts of my identity that I didn't have access to until I put on those gloves."
"I don't know who I would be if I had never gotten into the ring. It was the first place where I really felt like I was a winner and it's given me an immense sense of pride and camaraderie that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life."
— Patricio Manuel tells Axios
6. Oct. 15, 2003: ⚾️ Aaron Boone's iconic walk-off
Photo: Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

16 years ago today, Aaron Boone hit an 11th-inning walk-off HR in Game 7 against the Red Sox to send the Yankees to the World Series and prolong the "Curse of the Bambino."

  • Fast forward: Boone is now the Yankees' manager and will be hoping for similar heroics in this year's ALCS.

Go deeper: "[T]he 2003 ALCS was much more than one at bat; Game 3 alone gave us a matchup of Cy Young winners, and one of them ended up Bald Bulling Don Zimmer. It's a classic series that deserves to be revisited like an old film." Revisit it.

7. ⚾️ MLB trivia

The last team to win the World Series in their first appearance was the 2002 Anaheim Angels.

  • Question: Who did they beat?
  • Hint: West coast.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🇫🇷 2020 Tour de France route unveiled

The 2020 Tour de France route presentation. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

The 2020 Tour de France route was unveiled in Paris yesterday. Initial reaction: "unconventional and mountainous," per Cycling News.

Go deeper: Aerial view (YouTube)

9. 📚 Good reads

🏀 The reboot: Inside Harden and Westbrook's reunion (Rob Mahoney, SI)

"They cut their teeth in Oklahoma City and always dreamed of playing together again. After a summer blockbuster, Russell Westbrook and James Harden got their wish."

🏈 NFL's failure to understand L.A. is hurting Rams and Chargers fans (Arash Markazi, LA Times)

"From 1995 to 2015, the NFL staged 31 preseason and regular-season games around the globe. ... Do you know how many games the league held in Los Angeles to cultivate interest in the country's second-biggest market? Zero."

⚽️ Where's the glory gone, Manchester United? (Brian Phillips, The Ringer)

"The Premier League giants are in crisis mode ahead of Sunday's clash against their archrivals, Liverpool. What does their legendary former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, think of their current state? We're glad you asked."
10. 🎧 Podcast Club: The Sterling Affairs, Ep. 3

Courtesy: ESPN

This week, we're listening to "The Sterling Affairs," a 5-part podcast about basketball in Los Angeles, a ruthless real estate empire and the scandal that rocked the NBA.

  • How it works: We listen to one episode per day and briefly recap it the following morning before proceeding to the next one.

⏪ Yesterday's episode: "Showtime" — Throughout the 80s and 90s, the Clippers were horrible and Sterling was known as the worst owner in sports. But he wasn't the joke we all thought he was.

"Sounds like Sterling was just another greedy businessman that made it big and thought he was untouchable. Problem is, he made people dislike him so much that everyone wants to tell the story of how terrible he is."
— Axios Sports reader Reed Myers (Sandy Springs, Ga.)

▶️ Today's episode: "Property" — Donald and Shelly Sterling escaped poverty, reinvented themselves, and became the biggest residential landlords in L.A. But in housing and basketball, they never had to face the consequences of their actions.

  • 🎧 Listen: Ep. 3: "Property" (51 minutes)
  • 💬 Comment: Thoughts after listening? Leave them here and I'll share the best tomorrow.
Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Hump Dayyyyy" Baker

Trivia answer: San Francisco Giants