Mar 1, 2019

Axios Sports

Happy Friday! You made it. OK, let's start with...

1 big thing: 💰 Philly wins "The Bryce is Right"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo and Aïda Amer/Axios

It took a while, but Bryce Harper has finally joined a Major League Baseball team, agreeing to terms with the Philadelphia Phillies on a 13-year, $330 million deal — the richest contract in the history of American team sports.

Details: Harper's deal includes a no-trade clause and has no opt-outs, indicating that he could be in Philadelphia, enjoying cheesesteaks and Wawa iced teas, possibly until the day he retires.

  • "The goal was to get the longest contract possible. That is what I was instructed to do," Harper's agent, Scott Boras, told the New York Post.
  • "He wanted to stay in one city, build a brand ... and recruit players. He wants to tell players: Come play with me."

By the numbers: In terms of total value, it's the largest contract in MLB history, surpassing the deals signed by Giancarlo Stanton ($325 million) and Manny Machado ($300 million).

  • In terms of average annual value (AAV), however, Harper ($25.4 million) doesn't even crack the top 10 and trails fellow February signees Machado ($30 million) and Nolan Arenado ($32.5 million) by a wide margin.
  • Yearly breakdown: 2019: $10 million salary, plus $20 million signing bonus // 2020-2028: $26 million per year // 2029-2031: $22 million per year.

The losers:

  • The San Francisco Giants offered 12 years, $310 million.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers (unconfirmed, but it was totally them) offered a short-term contract worth $43 million per season, which would have shattered the AAV record (Zack Greinke: $34.4 million).

Be smart: Harper's former team, the Washington Nationals, reportedly offered him a 10-year, $300 million contract last season — a deal that, notably, would have given him a higher AAV than the one he just signed.

  • However, the Nationals' offer also contained $100 million in deferred money, paying Harper until he was 60 years old (sup, Bobby Bonilla?).
  • Money loses value over time thanks to inflation, so the net present value of that deal was actually only $184 million. Harper's camp reportedly saw the Nats' offer as little more than a publicity stunt to appease fans.

Tweet of the day:

If Bryce Harper is worth $330 million, Mike Trout is the sun that provides the energy for all life processes on Earth, warming our seas and lighting our skies, the celestial body around which our planet orbits.

Go deeper:

BONUS: Scouting report on Harper from 2010
Source: Baseball Hall of Fame archives
  • Make-Up: Self-confident, competitive, false hustle
  • Strength: RAW POP!!
  • Weakness: Trouble vs. soft stuff
  • Summation: I need to see baseball skills dominate now to be taken that high!!!!!! Toss in Boras, OUCH!!!!
2. 🤔 A (totally serious) conspiracy theory

The news: Less than a year after retiring from football to take the "Monday Night Football" announcing gig, tight end Jason Witten has decided to rejoin the Cowboys on a one-year, $3.5 million deal.

Conspiracy theory: Hours after watching "The Departed" last winter, Jerry Jones hatched his evil plan.

  • Step 1: Convince Witten to retire. Tell him it's for the good of the franchise. He'll listen. As he prepares to leave the room, hand him a burner phone and tell him that further instructions will follow.
  • Step 2: Send Witten to the broadcast booth for a year to scout the rest of the league and gather valuable intel on coaches and players during pre-show meetings.
  • Step 3: Tell Jason it's time to come home. If he was as intentionally bad at announcing as you told him he needed to be (congrats, Jerry, he was), nobody will question a thing.
  • Step 4: Win the Super Bowl (correction: go 9-7 and lose in the Wild Card Round).

P.S. ... Word on the street is that Tony Romo predicted this 20 seconds before it happened.

3. 🏀 Roundball roundup

Source: ESPN

  • College: John Beilein having a mini-meltdown directly in front of an in-game interview with Jim Harbaugh is absolutely hilarious. How do I use a GIF as my phone background? Could watch this forever.
  • NBA: James Harden scored 58 points and dished out 10 assists to help the Rockets overcome a 21-point second-half deficit to beat the Heat. He has six 50-point games this season. Nobody else has more than one.
  • Youth: "The latest basketball technology is making players better faster than ever before," writes the WSJ's Ben Cohen (subscription). Just ask 11-year-old Lanie Grant, who has taken 65,000 shots since last summer.
4. 🏈 Gentlemen, start your engines
Expand chart
Reproduced from the NFL; Table: Axios Visuals

In 2008, East Carolina RB Chris Johnson ran a 4.24 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, a record that stood for nine years before Washington WR John Ross broke it with a 4.22 in 2017.

  • Will the record be broken this weekend? Probably not, honestly. But you can still bet on who will record the fastest time!

Odds (via BetDSI)

  • CB Kendall Sheffield, Ohio State: +120 (meaning if you bet $100, you'd win $120)
  • WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State: +200
  • WR Darius Slayton, Auburn: +225
  • RB Bryce Love, Stanford: +250
  • Field (any other player): +135

Go deeper: How the 40-yard dash became a draft staple

5. 🎮 The dark side of video games

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

From Mike: As esports continues its meteoric rise, more attention is being paid to the video game industry's widespread harassment problem, forcing publishers to address the situation head-on.

Why it matters: While harassment affects casual gamers much more than the professional world of esports, it has cast an ugly shadow over the entire ecosystem.

  • If fewer kids were playing pickup basketball due to increased bullying at local playgrounds, the NBA would have a vested interest in fixing that problem. It's the same thing here.
  • Young gamers, who might one day become esports stars, are being exposed to a toxic culture in their basements. What if that turns them off and they never pursue the esports career they once dreamed about?

Between the lines: Gamers regularly face verbal abuse, racism, misogyny and even death threats while playing online, with women receiving the brunt of it.

  • Gamers can mute or report abusive players, but the former does nothing to solve the problem, while the latter doesn't always result in a suspension or ban.
  • Some publishers have responded by implementing systems in which players are rewarded for positive behavior. The FBI has also involved itself in some instances but hasn't always been able to press charges.

Related: "The video game subscription wars are on," writes my colleague Sara Fischer. Fascinating stuff. Dive in.

6. On this date: 3/1/1996

Lenny Wilkens is the man. Photo: Doug Collier/AFP/Getty Images

23 years ago today, Atlanta's Lenny Wilkens became the first coach in NBA history to reach 1,000 career victories.

The all-time wins list:

  1. Don Nelson: 1,335 wins, 1,063 losses (.557 winning %)
  2. Lenny Wilkens: 1,332 wins, 1,155 losses (.536)
  3. Gregg Popovich: 1,231 wins, 570 losses (.684)
  4. Jerry Sloan: 1,221 wins, 803 losses (.603)
  5. Pat Riley: 1,210 wins, 694 losses (.636)

P.S. ... Speaking of Don Nelson, he has apparently "been smoking some pot."

7. 🏀 College basketball trivia

Detroit Mercy freshman Antoine Davis drilled his 123rd three-pointer of the year last night, breaking the freshman record for most in a season.

  • Question: Whose record did he break?
  • Hint: He was born in the same Akron hospital as LeBron James, 36 months apart.

P.S. ... Davis ranks third in the nation in points per game (26.0). Oh, and did I mention that his dad is his head coach?

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: The 2019 Arnold Sports Festival is this weekend
Last year's Arnold Classic winner, 5'7" William Bonac. Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arnold Sports Festival is an annual event held in Columbus, Ohio. that consists of a fitness expo followed by prestigious bodybuilding (Arnold Classic) and strongman (Arnold Strongman Classic) competitions.

  • Bodybuilding: The 12-man field features three former champions: William Bonac (2018), Cedric McMillan (2017) and Victor Martinez (2007). Pro tip: Click those links to check out their Instagram profiles.
  • Strongman: Fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1982 epic movie "Conan the Barbarian" will recognize this year's newest challenge: "The Wheel of Pain."
9. 📚 Good reads

⚽️ The truth according to Zlatan (NYT)

"Ibrahimovic, the iconic striker, tends to serve up his brand of supreme confidence with a disarming smile and a subtle wink, and suddenly you feel as if you are in on the joke. Except it is not a joke."

🏒 How Barry Trotz has shaped the NHL's unlikeliest success story (SI)

"With John Tavares gone, the Islanders were supposed to be destined for doom. Instead they’ve risen to the top of the Metro Division, with Barry Trotz as the mastermind." Last night: Islanders 6, Maple Leafs 1.

🏈 Kyler the Creator: How Kyler Murray became a sports media content machine (The Ringer)

I'm a simple man. When Bryan Curtis writes something, I read it. You should, too.
10. 💉 When you get caught literally red-handed

Source: NRK

During a doping raid at the Nordic World Cup Ski Championships, Austrian police caught skier Max Hauke in the act. My man was literally mid-blood transfusion.

Go deeper: Hauke, four other skiers and a doctor were among nine people arrested in the raids, which were targeting a worldwide doping network, per the AP.


Kendall "MLS is back" Baker

Trivia answer: Steph Curry (Davidson)