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Apr 2, 2021 - Health

Nationals-Mets opening series postponed after positive COVID-19 tests

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Major League Baseball has postponed its opening series between the Washington Nationals and New York Mets to double down on testing and contact tracing for Nationals players, coaches and staff, the league announced Friday.

Why it matters: After three Nationals players tested positive for the coronavirus this week, MLB is taking precautions to prevent further delays.

Experts say the Tampa Bay Rays should be OK in 2021

Wander Franco slides during a spring training game against the Minnesota Twins. Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

Our Tampa Bay Rays are back again.

The question on everyone's minds: How will they fare a year after winning the AL East for the first time in years and ousting the Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros in the playoffs before losing the World Series to the Dodgers in Game 6?

  • If history serves: After finishing 2008 with 97 wins and 65 losses and a World Series appearance (we see you, Philly), the Rays took a step back the following year, finishing third and missing the playoffs.
  • This year's team has a bunch of questions marks, and that should make for a fun season. Almost always does.

Here's what the experts are thinking:

  • The Tampa Bay Times' John Romano: "It may not be the classic model of five starters combining for 750 innings or more — the way the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres and Nationals will likely do it — and the Rays are not making any top-10 lists of MLB rotations, but don’t be shocked to see Tampa Bay in a familiar place come September."
  • FiveThirtyEight predicts they'll finish with a 88-74 record and have a 51% chance of making the playoffs, a 21% chance of winning the division, and a 4% of winning the World Series.
  • 30 of ESPN's 37 baseball experts picked the Yankees to win the AL East, with just 3 going for the Rays. "While the Yankees certainly face formidable competition from the Rays, the upstart Blue Jays and potentially the Red Sox, I think their top-tier talent will win out," wrote Joon Lee.

If you're thinking about going to a game, the Rays fall on the higher end of the pack in terms of COVID-era capacity — and they do play in the MLB's only fully enclosed stadium:

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

Apr 1, 2021 - Health

Mets-Nationals Opening Day game postponed due to COVID-19

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Washington Nationals-New York Mets Opening Day game, which was set to kick off in the nation's capital on Thursday night, will reportedly be postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, per ESPN's Buster Olney.

Why it matters: More than one year after the first professional sports game was canceled due to COVID-19, it's a reminder that the pandemic is still disrupting everyday life — especially as fourth wave of infections driven by new variants looms over the country.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Apr 1, 2021 - Sports

America's pastime returns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Baseball is back, America. After a 60-game season in 2020, this year's complete 162-game schedule begins this afternoon in the Bronx.

Driving the news: MLB saw just 17 positive tests out of 72,751 conducted (0.02%) last Friday. But five Nationals are currently in quarantine due to a positive test — a reminder of how fragile any sense of stability will be.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Mar 30, 2021 - Sports

NBA's Africa League to debut May 16

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The NBA's Basketball Africa League will make its long-awaited debut with a 12-team tournament beginning May 16 in Kigali, Rwanda.

Why it matters: The NBA's attempt at operating a league outside of North America is part of a long-term plan to make the league synonymous with competitive basketball around the world.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Mar 29, 2021 - Sports

Eight of the 10 most-followed NCAA Elite 8 basketball players are women

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Impending legislation will allow student-athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness (NIL) through sponsored social media posts and other means.

Why it matters: If athletes had full control of their NIL rights, the top women's basketball players in this year's Elite Eight would have greater earning power than the top men.

Mar 26, 2021 - Sports

How the pandemic crushed baseball

Data: Sportico; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New estimates show how brutal the pandemic was for MLB teams.

What happened: Sponsor revenues fell as much as 60% for most teams, while local media revenues plummeted even more, per Sportico.

Mar 25, 2021 - Sports

The money behind March Madness

Expand chart
Data: Department of Education; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The beauty of March Madness is in the diversity of its participants, evidenced by the remaining schools' total athletic department expenses.

By the numbers: The Sweet 16 runs the gamut from behemoths like FSU ($198.4 million in fiscal year 2019) to this year's Cinderella, Oral Roberts ($12.1 million).

Mar 24, 2021 - Sports

Texans QB Deshaun Watson faces 16 lawsuits alleging sexual assault, misconduct

Deshaun Watson during a game against the Tennessee Titans on Jan. 3 in Houston, Texas. Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson faces 16 lawsuits in Harris County, Texas, from women alleging sexual assault and harassment, after two new suits were filed on Tuesday, the NFL announced.

Why it matters: Watson has been called a "serial predator," per a lawsuit filed Monday night. Accusers have called his behavior "part of a disturbing pattern," CNN writes, though the QB has denied the accusations.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Mar 24, 2021 - Sports

Survey: Sports fans increasingly prefer highlights over live games

Reproduced from Maru Group for Variety Intelligence Platform; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new era of sports fandom is upon us, one in which fans increasingly come for snacks (highlights) instead of meals (live games).

By the numbers: Among U.S. sports fans ages 18–34, 58% of MLB fans, 54% of NBA fans and 48% of NFL fans say they prefer watching highlights to full games, according to a survey by Variety Intelligence Platform.