Happy Hump Day, everyone. This is Wajih AlBaroudi filling in for Zachary Pereles, and I’ve got all you need to know about last night’s MLB All-Star Game, a lookahead to the NFL season and much, much more.
Let’s get right to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to…
Last night’s All-Star Game was the fifth for Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton, but this one will certainly go down as his most memorable. Stanton, a native of the Los Angeles area, slugged the game-tying home run in an eventual 3-2 win for the AL, a performance that earned him MVP honors.
The award put Stanton in elite company, and he got to raise it in Dodger Stadium, a venue he holds near and dear to his heart after several visits as a child.
- Stanton is only the third Yankees player to win All-Star Game MVP, joining Derek Jeter (2000) and Mariano Rivera (2013).
- According to Sarah Langs, Stanton’s game-tying bomb traveled 457 feet, the second-longest ever in an All-Star Game.
- The home run left Stanton’s bat at 111.7 mph, making it the hardest-hit ball in All-Star Game history, per Langs.
Stanton’s teammate, MVP candidate Aaron Judge, gets most of the love from the average fan, so Stanton’s home-town breakthrough was a joy to watch. Tony Gonsolin might disagree, but we’ll get to him in a moment.
Thanks largely to Stanton’s MVP performance, the AL has now won nine consecutive All-Star Games over the NL. In fact, 21 of the last 25 Midsummer Classics have gone the AL’s way, a win percentage so high only the Harlem Globetrotters would wince at it.
And not such a good morning for…
Dodgers right-hander Tony Gonsolin entered the All-Star Game with a perfect 11-0 regular-season record. The circumstances were right for him to keep the good times rolling, too, as he had the opportunity to pitch in front of many home fans at Dodger Stadium. The result wasn’t the storybook outing he anticipated.
- In the top of the fourth inning, Gonsolin allowed the aforementioned 457-foot home run to Stanton.
- The very next batter, Twins slugger Byron Buxton, homered again to give the AL a lead it would never relinquish.
- They were the first back-to-back home runs in an All-Star game since Alex Bregman and George Springer’s in 2018, and it gave Gonsolin his first loss of the season — in his home stadium.
Ouch is about all you can say.
In fairness to Gonsolin, his team didn’t do him many favors. After scoring two runs on four hits in the first inning, the NL proceeded to go scoreless with just one (!) hit the rest of the way. The Blue Jays‘ Alek Manoah — who was dynamite during his mic’d up segment — and Emmanuel Clase of the Guardians were two of many pitchers who dominated for the AL, as each struck out the side with the latter earning a save.
MLB eying an expansion to 32 teams ⚾
Less than a month ago, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stoked the flames of the expansion discussion by telling ESPN he “would love to get to 32 teams.” It turns out he has the players’ support — or at least their leader’s — as well. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark told reporters Tuesday he’s “hopeful” the league can find itself “in a world of 32 teams rather than 30.”
- It may be time for new blood in the MLB, as the league is currently in its longest expansion drought since 1961 — the Rays and Diamondbacks‘ addition in 1998 was the latest such move.
- Speaking of the Rays, Manfred has said Tampa Bay and Oakland need new ballparks before the league considers expansion.
- Manfred suggested last year the MLB would want over $2 billion in an expansion franchise fee, which would make for a sizable payday to the other 30 owners.
As for the cities the MLB could soon be home to, our MLB scribe Mike Axisa listed Charlotte, Montreal, Nashville, Portland and Las Vegas as the most viable options. Las Vegas has long been rumored as a potential destination for the Athletics, which would break the hearts of Oakland fans who already lost their beloved Raiders to Sin City.
While we know for sure an expansion to 32 teams would bring an additional 52 active roster spots and another 80 40-man roster spots, the rest of its effects are impossible to predict. Axisa, though, gave it his best shot.
- Axisa: “Expanding to 32 teams presumably would create two 16-team leagues and eliminate the need for daily interleague play, though the universal DH took the starch out of that. It’s likely MLB would realign to four four-team divisions per league and perhaps expand the postseason as well (14 teams?). That is my speculation, though it’s not hard to envision expansion driving all those changes.”
Get ready baseball fans: the MLB could be coming to your city sooner rather than later.
Nick Saban shuts down retirement rumors 🏈
A college football legend, Nick Saban is sixth on the all-time wins list and has the most national championships of any coach with seven. Yet some opposing coaches have pointed to another number, one they feel could be advantageous to them — and a detriment to Alabama — on the recruiting trail: 70, Saban’s age.
Saban addressed the elephant in the room — pun shamelessly intended — at SEC Media Days on Tuesday, explaining he loves his job and has no plans to retire any time soon.
“I love my job. I love it,” Saban said on the SEC Network set. “I love the relationships with the players, I love the competition, the preparation for the games. I just love it. I wish you all would ask all the other coaches who come up here — because they tell the recruits I’m going to retire — ask them how they know I’m going to retire when all I think about is what am I going to do if I retire, because I love what I’m doing now. So how am I going to be happy not coaching?”
He may possess the competitive fire of a man much younger, but Saban’s advanced age is still extremely uncommon among college football coaches. Saban is nine years older than the SEC’s next-oldest coach, Mississippi State‘s Mike Leach, and is only two months younger than North Carolina‘s Mack Brown, the oldest coach in FBS.
Still, our college football expert David Cobb explained why Saban coaching into his 70s wouldn’t be completely unheard-of.
- Cobb: “However, there is a precedent of legendary coaches continuing on through their 70s. Bobby Bowden was 80 when he retired from Florida State after the 2009 season, while Joe Paterno was 84 when he retired from Penn State in 2011. If Saban’s quippy response Tuesday was any condition, those expecting an imminent retirement may be jumping the gun.”
Alabama fans will surely hope Saban’s age-is-just-a-number philosophy proves to be true.
Biggest questions for teams in the NFC East, AFC East 🏈
All 32 NFL teams will open training camp by July 26 at the latest, meaning football is right around the corner. But while teams often present themselves as complete after their offseason acquisitions, some serious questions remain for even the most fearsome Super Bowl contenders.
Our NFL experts Cody Benjamin and Tyler Sullivan broke down the biggest questions for teams in the NFC East and AFC East, respectively. Here’s a look at what they have to say about the Eagles and Patriots, teams that met in Super Bowl 52 but have become somewhat rudderless in the years since.
- Benjamin: Is Jalen Hurts ready to throw the ball more? “This is something the Eagles will more likely have to assess as 2022 unfolds, but it’s pretty important nonetheless, considering all that could be affected by the young QB’s growth (or lack thereof) as a passer. A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert make a potentially elite pass-catching trio, but Hurts still has to prove he can win regularly with more than his legs. The answer could determine Philly’s approach at QB in 2023 and beyond.”
- Sullivan: Will Joe Judge or Matt Patricia call plays on offense? “This has been the biggest question in New England since Josh McDaniels accepted the Raiders head coaching job. With Mac Jones heading into a pivotal second year in the league, having a capable play caller is paramount to his development. While Bill Belichick could have a heavier hand in the offense, it seems like it’ll be either Judge or Patricia holding the play sheet on game day. Neither choice particularly instills a ton of confidence given their prior histories on offense in their head coaching stops, but a clear masthead would make things streamlined for the second-year QB.”
In the offense-centric league the NFL has become, teams must have confidence in their quarterback and offensive play caller to succeed at the highest level. Philadelphia and New England should begin to learn whether Hurts and the seemingly unimpressive duo of Judge and Patricia are up to the task as training camp progresses.
What we’re watching Wednesday 📺
🏀 Storm at Sky, 12 p.m. ET on NBA TV
⚽ UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 quarterfinals: England vs. Spain, 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2