Aug 27, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Let's sports.

  • Today's word count: 1,198 (4 minutes)
1 big thing: 🏈 NFLPA aims to kill archaic "funding rule"

Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the NFL and NFLPA continue early CBA talks, the 18-game regular season proposal has stolen all the headlines. But there is another issue that is being largely ignored — and it could be just as impactful.

Driving the news: According to multiple reports, the elimination of the NFL's archaic "funding rule" is a top priority for the NFLPA.

  • In fact, Broncos kicker Brandon McManus, the team's NFLPA player representative, called it "almost a non-negotiable for us," per The Athletic (subscription).

How it works: The NFL's funding rule stipulates that every fully guaranteed dollar owed to a player, but not yet paid to him, must be placed in a league-run escrow account.

  • In other words, even if a player is owed guaranteed money over the course of two or three years, ownership still must place all of that money into a separate bank account.

The problem: Back when the NFL wasn't the cash cow that it is today and players had legitimate concerns about owners not being able to fulfill future financial obligations, this rule made sense and worked in the players' favor.

  • But in today's era, the funding rule has morphed into something completely different: a convenient excuse for ownership during contract negotiations.
  • Basically, teams will tell players that they can't afford to guarantee their deals because funding them would create cashflow issues. "Negotiations are a leverage game. And it's a cudgel they can go to," agent Jelani Roy told The Athletic.

The big picture: Thanks in part to the funding rule, fully-guaranteed contracts — which are the norm in the NBA, NHL and MLB — are a rarity in the NFL.

  • Last offseason, Kirk Cousins became the first QB to sign a multi-year, fully-guaranteed deal (three years, $84 million with the Vikings), and that only happened because he was the rare in-his-prime QB to hit free agency, which gave him all the leverage in the world.

The bottom line: The elimination of the NFL's funding rule might not make deals like the one Cousins signed the norm, but it would remove a giant roadblock in the players' ongoing fight for more guaranteed pay.

2. ⚾️ American League snapshot
Expand chart
Playoff odds by FanGraphs as of Aug. 26; Logos: SportsLogos.Net; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Division leaders:

  • The Yankees have the AL's biggest divisional lead (9.5 games) and are riding high after taking two out of three against the Dodgers.
  • The Astros are 23-2 at home against the AL West this year, the best home record by a team against its own division since divisional play began in 1969.
  • The Twins have hit an MLB-best 253 home runs this season, putting them on pace to obliterate the all-time record of 267 set by the Yankees last season.

Wild Card:

  • The Indians have dwindled the Twins' division lead down from 11.5 games to just 3.5, but an injury to stud 3B Jose Ramirez could hinder their playoff hopes.
  • The Athletics have won seven of their last 10 to move into a tie for the second wild-card spot. They have to face the Yankees and Astros coming up, but maybe that's good news: They're 6-1 against them this month.
  • The Rays have been in the mix all years thanks to stellar pitching. Their 3.56 team ERA leads the AL and Charlie Morton (13-5, 2.85 ERA) is a Cy Young favorite.
3. ⚾️ National League snapshot
Expand chart
Playoff odds by FanGraphs as of Aug. 26; Logos: SportsLogos.Net; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Division leaders:

  • The Dodgers have a 19.5 game cushion in the NL West and have been pegged as World Series favorites all year. Here are some takeaways from their recent showdown with the Yankees.
  • The Braves had won eight games in a row and 14 of their last 18 before falling to the Rockies last night. Bad news for the rest of the NL: Dallas Keuchel has returned to Cy Young form.
  • The Cardinals have won eight of their last 10 games and seem to be tightening their grip on first place in the NL Central.

Wild Card:

  • The Nationals have won 12 of their last 14 games, outscoring opponents by 63 runs in that span, per WashPost. They play the Braves seven times in September, so a division run isn't out of the question.
  • The Cubs begin a pivotal three-game set against the Mets tonight in New York. On the bump in Game 1: Yu Darvish (4-6, 4.43) for the Cubs and Marcus Stroman (7-11, 3.18 ERA) for the Mets.
4. 📸 Photos 'round the world
Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

LEEDS, ENGLAND — 'The Ashes" is a cricket series played between England and Australia that dates all the way back to 1882. On Sunday, Ben Stokes played the hero in England's one-wicket win for the ages.

Photo: Romina Amato/Red Bull via Getty Images

MOSTAR, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA — Our friends Gary Hunt and Rhiannan Iffland clinched their eighth and fourth Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series titles, respectively, in Mostar this past weekend. More photos.

Photo: Clive Rose/Gran Turismo via Getty Images

NEW YORK — Just kidding, this isn't a photo. Rather, it's an in-game screenshot taken during the Gran Turismo World Tour stop in New York, which saw the world's best online players compete in the popular racing simulation video game.

5. Best everything
Screenshot: @NBCSWarriors

🏀 Best stadium unveiling: The Warriors officially unveiled the Chase Center yesterday — the team's new billion-dollar home in San Francisco. NBC Sports posted photos and videos from the media tour on Twitter.

🎬 Best trailer: HBO released the first trailer for their upcoming Diego Maradona documentary directed by Asif Kapadia ("Senna"). Looks incredible.

🏈 Best thing to read if you want to cry: Debra Fellows wrote a piece for Deadspin about her husband Ron Fellows, 61, a former NFL cornerback who is "dying every day."

"I want people to understand — not only for the well-being of the players, but for the caretakers. Ron gets really sad. He gets really, really sad. He said to me a few weeks ago, 'I wish I would have met you sooner so I could love you longer.' And it broke my heart. We thought we had all this time to be able to enjoy one another."
6. Aug. 27, 2004: 🏀 Argentina stuns Team USA

Photo: Donald Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

15 years ago today, Argentina pulled off a shocking 89-81 victory over the U.S. in the semifinal game at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

  • By the numbers: Manu Ginobili's 29 points led Argentina, who went on to beat Italy in the gold medal game. Stephon Marbury led Team USA with 18 points, while Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade and a 20-year-0ld LeBron James combined for just 25.
  • The big picture: This loss, along with Team USA's loss in the 2002 World Championships, led to a restructuring of the team's program under Mike Krzyzewski. Since 2008, they've won three straight Olympic gold medals.

Go deeper: How 2002 changed Team USA basketball (The Ringer)

7. ⚾️ MLB trivia

Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has now recorded at least 30 HR and 100 RBI in five straight seasons.

  • Question: Only two other active players have accomplished such a feat at some point in their careers. Who are they?
  • Hint: Both play in the AL.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🏐 Women's volleyball preseason poll
Screenshot: @Huskervball

The DI women's college volleyball season doesn't begin until Saturday, but Nebraska is already selling out practices in the Bob Devaney Sports Center — the crown jewel of volleyball-specific arenas.

The backdrop: The Huskers (five national titles) fell to Stanford (eight) in last season's championship. Naturally, the two powerhouses sit atop the preseason poll.

Top 10:

  1. Stanford
  2. Nebraska
  3. Minnesota
  4. Texas
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Illinois
  7. Kentucky
  8. Penn State
  9. BYU
  10. Florida

11-25: 11. Oregon, 12. Pittsburgh, 13. Washington, 14. USC, 15. Michigan, 16. Marquette, 17. Purdue, 18. Creighton, 19. Tennessee, 20. Baylor, 21. San Diego, 22. Washington State, 23. Cal Poly, 24. Arizona, 25. Louisville

Kendall Baker

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "So you're telling me there's a chance (for the Reds to make the playoffs)" Baker

Trivia answer: Albert Pujols (20012010) and Miguel Cabrera (20072013)