Jul 2, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Has your best friend signed up yet?

  • RIP, Tyler: Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs died at age 27 yesterday, hours before the team's game against the Rangers (which was canceled). Tell your family you love them this morning.

Today's word count: 1,323 (~5 mins)

1 big thing: ⚽️ USA vs. England

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Fresh off a momentous win over France, the U.S. women's national team faces yet another daunting task: England, which is brimming with confidence after four straight shutouts.

  • Kickoff: 3pm ET (Fox)
  • By the numbers: Of the remaining four teams, the U.S. ranks first in goals for (22) and second in goals against (2), while England ranks second in goals for (11) and first in goals against (1).
  • Recent history: In their only World Cup encounter in 2007, the U.S. prevailed 3-0. Earlier this year, they tied 2-2 in the SheBelieves Cup.
  • The intrigue: USWNT head coach Jill Ellis grew up in England … the build up to the match included a "Spygate" situation yesterday … Alex Morgan (U.S.), Megan Rapinoe (U.S.) and Ellen White (England) are tied for the tournament lead with 5 goals each.

What they're saying:

Source: @dkurtenbach
2. ⚾️ Finally, a mythical athlete

In the age of social media, the cameras are always rolling and athletes begin building their "personal brands" as early as middle school.

  • It's empowering, I suppose, to give kids that kind of platform. And while I'm fearful of what this "me, me, me" culture might do to young athletes, I can't deny that I thoroughly enjoyed watching a 14-year-old Zion Williamson throw down viral dunks, knowing that one day he'd be starring in the NBA.
  • The downside, of course, is that all the mystery is gone. 20 years ago, we'd hear rumblings about the next big thing. Now, we follow them on social media, where we quickly learn that they're fairly normal. There are no more urban legends; no Bo Jackson-esque myths.

Or so I thought...

Driving the news: Today is the first day MLB teams can sign international amateurs, which means today is the day the Yankees will sign Jasson Dominguez, a 16-year-old center fielder who might be the best baseball prospect ever.

  • In his native Dominican Republic, they call him "El Marciano," which means "The Martian," because there's no way he is from this world.
  • "He's like [Mike] Trout. And Trout wasn't close to this good when he was 16," said one GM who saw him play. "It's like Mickey Mantle," said another. "He's a switch-hitter. He's got crazy power. He's fast as s---."

By the numbers:

  • Power: Dominguez regularly hits 110 mph exit velocities swinging from both sides of the plate. Only 28 major leaguers have hit a ball that fast at least 10 times this season. Again, he's 16.
  • Speed: Dominguez runs the 60-yard dash in 6.3 seconds. "That's faster than Mo Hampton, arguably the best athlete in the MLB draft class of 2019, who decided instead to play cornerback at LSU this year," writes ESPN's Jeff Passan.

Best part: Outside of a few random videos of his majestic swing, there's zero footage of Dominguez on the internet. He has an Instagram account but barely any followers.

  • The mystery is enthralling, and so instead of sharing a photo of what Dominguez looks like, I opted to keep the mythical nature of his story intact and let you marinate in it a little bit. We're out of time now, though, so I'll get to the big reveal...

What do you think "The Martian" looks like? Scroll to the bottom to find out...

3. 🎾 Yesterday at Wimbledon

Cori Gauff. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images


  • Gauff seizes her moment: 15-year-old Cori "Coco" Gauff upset her idol Venus Williams, 6-4, 6-4. Here are the highlights. Make sure you watch until the end so you can witness her maturity and humility in her post-match interview. She's special.
  • Osaka falls: World No. 2 Naomi Osaka is struggling to find answers right now. When asked about the pressures of her newfound fame after her stunning loss, she turned to the moderator and said, "Can I leave? I feel like I'm about to cry." Such a genuinely good person; I feel bad for her.


  • Old man dominance: In 2009, one male player in the top 25 topped 30 years of age. In 2019, that number is 12, including the top three players in the world: Novak Djokovic (32), Rafael Nadal (33) and Roger Federer (37).
  • Old man dominance (cont'd): Two of the youngsters looking to knock those guys off — No. 6 Alexander Zverev and No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas — suffered shock exits yesterday. Meanwhile, 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic, the oldest man to ever start in the main draw, won easily. What's going on?
4. 🏒NHL free agency: Day 1 recap

The Rangers sped up their rebuild by landing the biggest free agent on the market, Artemi Panarin. Photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

On the first day of NHL free agency, over $697 million was committed to 118 free agents. For comparison's sake, the first day of NBA free agency saw over $3 billion committed to just 45 free agents.

The big signings/trades:

  • Blue Jackets breakup: Columbus' top three free agents signed yesterday's three biggest contracts, with winger Artemi Panarin (7 yrs, $81.5M) going to the Rangers, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (7 yrs, $70M) going to the Panthers, and center Matt Duchene (7 yrs, $56M) going to the Predators.
  • Aho signs rare offer sheet: The Canadiens tendered a five-year, $42.3M offer sheet to Hurricanes restricted free agent Sebastian Aho — the NHL's first offer sheet since 2013. All signs point to Carolina matching the offer.
  • Anders Lee stays put: The Islanders avoided the embarrassment of losing their captain to free agency for the second straight season (John Tavares last year) by signing center Anders Lee to the fourth-biggest deal of the day (7 yrs, $49M).
  • Toronto clears space: The Maple Leafs, who are hoping to sign restricted free agent forward Mitch Marner, took to the trade machine to clear some much-needed cap space.
  • Pavelski leaves the Bay: For the first time in his 13-year career, Joe Pavelski won't be playing for the Sharks, who simply couldn't afford to keep him. He's headed to Dallas (3 yrs, $21M), where he'll likely anchor the second line.

All signings.

BONUS: 💰 Speaking of contracts...

1999–2000 highest-paid

  • NHL: Jaromir Jagr ($10.4M)
  • NBA: Shaquille O'Neal ($17.1M)
  • MLB: Albert Belle ($11.9M)
  • NFL: Troy Aikman ($10.75M)

2019–2020 highest-paid (by average annual value)

  • NHL: Connor McDavid ($12.5M)
  • NBA: James Harden ($42.8M)
  • MLB: Mike Trout ($35.5M)
  • NFL: Russell Wilson ($35M)
5. 🏉 Rugby star's anti-gay post has Australians debating religion

Israel Folau after a mediation hearing on Friday. Photo: Don Arnold/Getty Images

The firing of one of Australia's biggest sports stars for homophobic statements has the entire country arguing "at home, online and over the airwaves" about freedom of religion and gay rights.

Driving the news: Rugby Australia kicked Israel Folau off the national rugby team and terminated his $2.8 million contract in May after he made a post on Instagram telling gays, atheists and others that "hell awaits you."

  • Folau sued the organization, claiming he was expressing religious beliefs and is protected under federal employment law. A mediation hearing on Friday ended without an agreement, meaning the case is now headed to court.

Why it matters: The outcome of this case could set a precedent in Australia for how discrimination rules are interpreted.

  • "The case has also highlighted cultural divides between Australian athletes of Pacific Islander descent and their teammates," per NYT.
  • "Nearly half of the players on the national rugby squad have family ties to the Pacific islands, and they largely share the evangelical religious beliefs of Mr. Folau, who was born in Australia and is of Tongan heritage."

The big picture: Australia isn't the only country where courts are deciding what constitutes religious discrimination. Just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

What they're saying:

  • "Might as well sack me and all the other Pacific Island rugby players around the world because we share the same Christian beliefs," Folau's teammate, Taniela Tupou, wrote on Facebook.
  • “The starting point for this whole debate ... is vulnerable gay teens who take their lives at five times the rate of straight teenagers. ... [I]t behooves the rest of us to say: ‘Shut up,’” when a public figure indicates there's something wrong with gay teens, former national rugby player Peter FitzSimons tells NYT.
6. July 2, 1995: ⚾️ Japan's first All-Star

Hideo Nomo. Photo: Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images

23 years ago today, Dodgers rookie pitcher Hideo Nomo became the first Japanese player in MLB history to be elected to an All-Star team when he was named the NL starter.

The backdrop: Nomo's brilliance that season (he finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting) provided a much-needed jolt to a league that was still reeling from the 1994 labor strike, notes Japan Times' Robert Whiting.

"A player from Japan had emerged to reignite the national pastime in a way that perhaps no native-born American could have, given the bitter emotions that remained over the strike."
— Robert Whiting

Fast forward: Since Nomo, a total of 11 Japanese players have made All Star teams. He helped pave the way for future generations, and that will forever be his legacy.

Go deeper: Hideo Nomo blazed a trail while mending fences (Japan Times)

7. ⚾️ MLB trivia
  • Question: Who was the last pitcher to win 20 or more games in consecutive seasons?
  • Hint: First name starts with R. Did it in 2004 and 2005 while playing for a team in Texas.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🚲 Biking down a glacier
Screenshot from Mountain of Hell 2019 on YouTube

One of the Top 10 most absurd videos I've ever watched.

BONUS: 📸 "The Martian"
Jasson Dominguez. Screenshot from his Instagram: @jassondominguez_7

World, meet Jasson Dominguez. How'd you do?

Kendall Baker

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "God bless Bobby Bonilla" Baker

Trivia answer: Roy Oswalt