Jul 9, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! The MLB All-Star game is tonight (7:30pm ET, Fox). Here are the lineups.

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  • Today's word count: 1,378 (~5 mins)
1 big thing: ⚾️ Alonso wins the Derby; Vladdy wins the night

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Mets rookie Pete Alonso won last night's Home Run Derby and was beyond impressive, pounding moonshot after moonshot (including a 453-foot bomb to the opposite field).

Yes, but: The true star of the evening was Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who hit 91 dingers — 32 more than Alonso. 91!!!

  • He shattered all the records. He bested Joc Pederson in an epic second-round that saw them combine for 79 home runs. He hit the scoreboard beyond the left-field stands — something that hadn't been done in 22 years — and he did it on his very first swing.
  • Most importantly of all, Vlad Jr. announced his arrival, cementing his place as one of baseball's true superstars and a future face of the sport.

Why it matters: "Alonso is less than 90 games into his MLB career, and his victory — along with Guerrero's epic entrance into the national consciousness — is baseball's best chance in years to burn the sport into a generation's mind," writes The Ringer's Danny Heifetz.

Go deeper: A visualization of every home run hit last night

2. ⚾️ Speaking of home runs...

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Yesterday's MLB news cycle began with All-Star Justin Verlander emphatically saying that the league is juicing the baseballs, adding more fuel to an already raging fire.

  • By the numbers: MLB teams are projected to hit at least 6,463 home runs this season, which would break the all-time record set in 2017 (6,105) by almost 400, per WashPost.

Verlander (via ESPN):

"It's a f*cking joke. Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you've got [commissioner Rob] Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f*cking company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened."
"Manfred, the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots. ... They've been using juiced balls in the Home Run Derby forever. They know how to do it."

Context: MLB does in fact own Rawlings, but they purchased the company last summer — more than two years into this ongoing home run surge. Obviously, that hurts the argument that the balls were suddenly altered once MLB took control.

  • On the other hand, multiple independent studies have shown that, beginning in 2015, the balls changed. So perhaps MLB was influencing the design before the purchase?
  • Hitters are being coached to elevate the ball like never before, and that is certainly contributing to the record numbers, but something is going on with the balls, and the players know it.

The bottom line: I'm not sure we've ever seen anything quite like this juiced ball saga, and MLB's "nothing to see here!" stance grows more disingenuous by the day.

  • And here's the crazy part: If they'd just admit that something significant is going on with the balls — instead of gingerly suggesting that maybe something is afoot — would anybody be mad? Fans love homers, and even pitchers would likely appreciate the transparency.
  • Instead, Manfred continues to play defense, seemingly worried that anything he says will make the league look bad when, in reality, the only thing making the league look bad is that they refuse to fully acknowledge what every fan and player is thinking.
3. 🎾 Wimbledon: Women's quarterfinals
Alison Riske. Photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images

29-year-old Pittsburgh native Alison Riske knocked off No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 yesterday, becoming the first unseeded American to beat a No. 1 seed at Wimbledon since 1994.

  • Her reward: A matchup with Serena Williams in today's quarterfinals.

Today's slate:

  • (11) Serena Williams vs. Alison Riske, 8am ET
  • (7) Simona Halep vs. Zhang Shuai, 8am ET
  • (8) Elina Svitolina vs. Karolina Muchova, 9:15am ET
  • (19) Johanna Konta vs. Barbora Strycova, 9:15am ET

The intrigue:

  • Four newbies: This is the first Wimbledon quarterfinal for Riske, Zhang, Svitolina and Muchova.
  • Hometown hero: Konta is three wins away from becoming the first British woman to win Wimbledon since Virginia Wade did so in 1977.

P.S. … Meanwhile, in the men's bracket, the big three strolled into the quarterfinals, which begins tomorrow.

4. 🏀 NBA Summer League: Best everything
Giphy
  • Best dunk: A Pelicans rookie had the best dunk of the NBA Summer League and it wasn't Zion Williamson (who is out with a minor knee injury). It was Jaxson Hayes, who finished with 28 points. More dunk angles.
  • Best upset: The Chinese National Team is participating in the NBA Summer League to prepare for the upcoming FIBA World Cup, and last night, they upset the Hornets, 84-80.
  • Best sophomore: Lonnie Walker IV, the Spurs' first-round pick in 2018, poured in 32 points against the Raptors and is now averaging 30 points per game in Vegas (stat leaders).
5. ⭐️ PLL All Stars

Kyle Hartzell (blue) was one of three long stick midfielders named to the All-Star Game. Photo: Courtesy of PLL

We're six weeks into the Premier Lacrosse League's inaugural season, and the All Stars have been selected.

  • How it works: The top two vote-getters — Trevor Baptiste (faceoff) and Matt Rambo (attack) — will draft from the following pool of players, and the two teams will go head-to-head during All-Star Weekend on July 21 in Los Angeles.
  • P.S. ... current standings: Whipsnakes (5-1), Redwoods (4-2), Chaos (4-2), Archers (2-4), Atlas (2-4), Chrome (1-5)

Attack

  • Matt Rambo, Whipsnakes (Maryland); Ryan Drenner, Whipsnakes (Towson); Jules Heningburg, Redwoods (Rutgers); Matt Kavanagh, Redwoods (Notre Dame); Marcus Holman, Archers (UNC); Will Manny, Archers (UMass)
  • Ryan Brown, Atlas (Johns Hopkins); Connor Fields, Chaos (Albany); Miles Thompson, Chaos (Albany); Justin Guterding, Chrome (Duke); Jordan Wolf, Chrome (Duke); Josh Byrne, Chaos (Hofstra)

Midfield

  • Tom Schreiber, Archers (Princeton); Paul Rabil, Atlas (Johns Hopkins); Mike Chanenchuk, Whipsnakes (Maryland); Myles Jones, Chaos (Duke); Joe Walters, Redwoods (Maryland); Ned Crotty, Chrome (Duke); Kyle Harrison, Redwoods (Johns Hopkins)
  • Jake Froccaro, Chaos (Villanova); Sergio Perkovic, Redwoods (Notre Dame); Jake Bernhardt, Whipsnakes (Maryland); Connor Buczek, Atlas (Cornell); Sergio Salcido, Redwoods (Syracuse); Mark Glicini, Chaos (Yale); Tyler Warner, Whipsnakes (Yale); Drew Snider, Whipsnakes (Maryland)

Defense

  • Garrett Epple, Redwoods (Notre Dame); Matt McMahon, Archers (Penn); Tucker Durkin, Atlas (Johns Hopkins); Brodie Merrill, Chaos (Georgetown)
  • Matt Landis, Redwoods (Notre Dame); Bryce Young, Whipsnakes (Maryland); Jarrod Neumann, Chaos (Providence); Matthew Dunn, Whipsnakes (Maryland)

Long Stick Midfield

  • Kyle Hartzell, Atlas (Salisbury); Michael Ehrhardt, Whipsnakes (Maryland); Scott Ratliff, Archers (Loyola)

Goalies

  • Jack Concannon, Atlas (Hofstra); Blaze Riorden, Chaos (Albany); Kyle Bernlohr, Whipsnakes (Maryland); Tim Troutner, Redwoods (High Point)

Faceoff

  • Trevor Baptiste, Atlas (Denver); Greg Gurenlian, Redwoods (Penn State)
6. July 9, 1877: 🎾 Wimbledon is born

Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

142 years ago today, the first ever Wimbledon championship was held at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

  • Details: 21 amateurs competed in the tournament, which featured only a men's single event. It lasted 11 days and drew a crowd of about 200 spectators to the lawn.
  • The big picture: Many of the tournament's first rules are still part of the modern game, including clock face scoring (15, 30, 40, game), six games for a set win and one fault per serve.

Go deeper: How Wimbledon got its start

7. 🏀 NBA trivia

The Clippers are the second team in NBA history to add multiple 25-point-per-game scorers in one offseason.

  • Question: Can you name the only other team to do that?
  • Hint: It happened in the past five years.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🚲 Frenchman leads Tour de France

Julian Alaphilippe. Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Frenchman — and World No. 1 — Julian Alaphilippe captured Stage 3 and the yellow jersey as the Tour de France made its way into its namesake country for the first time in this year's race (started in Belgium).

Why it matters: Alaphilippe earned France's first yellow jersey since Tony Gallopin had it for a day in 2014.

"Alaphilippe attacked on the stage's second-to-last climb with a devastating burst of speed. ... He'd long targeted the stage, with its final section of sharp hills among the Champagne vineyards, as suiting his explosive strengths, and executed his plan to perfection."
— AP (full article)

Leaderboard:

  1. Julian Alaphilippe (France): 9:32:18
  2. Wout Van Aert (Belgium): +20 seconds
  3. Steven Kruijswijk (Netherlands): +25 seconds
  4. George Bennett (New Zealand): +25 seconds
9. 📺 DAZN goes on offense

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

DAZN, an international sports streaming company, is eyeing U.S. rights to NFL games, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

  • It's also reportedly exploring a deal with the NBA in order to launch a RedZone-style show, according to a report from Sports by Brooks.

Why it matters: DAZN has been able to nab streaming rights for major leagues abroad, but so far has limited its influence in the U.S. mostly to pay-per-view type boxing matches.

  • Now, it's looking to challenge the major U.S. sports broadcasters for rights to big-ticket events.

Go deeper: Read Sara's piece in the Axios stream

P.S. ... If you're into media, I highly recommend signing up for Sara's Axios Media Trends newsletter, which comes out every Tuesday. This week's edition should go live around 9am ET.

10. Vote: 🏈 Who is the best WR in the NFL?
DeAndre Hopkins (L) and Julio Jones. Photos: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images; Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Click to vote: The winner will be announced tomorrow.

Runners-up from yesterday: Antonio Brown (3rd place), Odell Beckham Jr. (4th), Michael Thomas (5th), A.J. Green (6th)

Kendall Baker

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "Sports, man" Baker

Trivia answer: Cavaliers in 2014 (LeBron James, Kevin Love)