Friday, October 7, 2022

Aaron Judge joins elite company with 60th home run, plus Nathan MacKinnon is the NHL’s new richest man

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Let’s get right to it.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

AARON JUDGE AND THE NEW YORK YANKEES…

We had planned to debut an Aaron Judge Watch section in the newsletter today, and the first edition wasn’t looking promising. Entering the ninth inning, he was 0 for 3 with a walk, and the Yankees trailed the lowly Pirates 8-4. Then came history. Then came victory.

Judge blasted his 60th home run of the season, and Giancarlo Stanton hit a walk-off grand slam in a wild 9-8 win. Judge is just the sixth player to reach 60 home runs in a season, joining Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris and Babe Ruth.

  • Judge is one home run behind Maris (61 in 1961) for the AL single-season record.
  • Judge’s 60 home runs through his team’s first 147 games is behind only Bonds in 2001 (64) and McGwire in 1998 (62).
  • Judge is on pace for 66 home runs this season, which would put him in a tie for third-most all-time.
  • Judge leads MLB in average, home runs and RBI — the Triple Crown categories.

Four batters later, Stanton launched his third career walk-off grand slam, which is tied for most in MLB history. While Judge’s home run chase is the biggest storyline, Stanton’s slam was huge: The Yankees’ AL East lead over the Blue Jays would have shrunk to just 4.5 games with a loss.

A few more notes on Judge…

… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO NATHAN MACKINNON

One of the NHL‘s brightest stars now has the NHL’s biggest contract. Fresh off leading the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup title, Nathan MacKinnon has signed an eight-year, $100.8-million contract to stay in Colorado.

  • The $12.6 million per year is highest in the league, surpassing Connor McDavid‘s $12.5 million.
  • MacKinnon, 27, was set to become a free agent after the upcoming season. Last season, he scored 88 regular-season points and 24 playoff points as the Avalanche won their first title since 2001.
  • MacKinnon has been a finalist for the Hart Trophy (league MVP) two of the past three seasons.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

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USATSI

THE OKLAHOMA SOONERS AND THE OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

One of the most iconic rivalries in college football is soon to be no more: When Oklahoma joins the SEC in 2025, the Bedlam Series rivalry game against Oklahoma State — which dates back to 1904 and has been played every year since 1910 — will go away, too.

To give you an idea of how long ago 1904 was, Oklahoma was still three years away from becoming a state.

  • Oklahoma owns a 89-20-7 advantage in the series, but the Cowboys won last year’s meeting, and this year’s matchup (Nov. 19) should be outstanding with both teams currently in the AP Poll top 10.
  • Oklahoma State’s non-conference schedule is full in five of the next six seasons. Oklahoma has openings starting in 2027, but Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione said, “Oklahoma State has shown no interest to schedule any future games in football, so we’re moving on.” Oklahoma State AD Chad Weiberg, meanwhile, placed the blame on Oklahoma joining the SEC.
  • It’s just the latest college football rivalry to end recently. Among the others: Oklahoma-Nebraska, Texas-Texas A&M and Pitt-West Virginia.

The Bedlam Series has been, well, bedlam time and time again. Even when the on-field action doesn’t live up to the hype, it’s a rivalry unlike any other. Money makes the world go ’round, and that’s especially true in college football, but rivalries make the sport so fun and unique. This news is a major bummer.

Not so honorable mentions

NFL Power Rankings entering Week 3, things we learned from Week 2 🏈

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After Week 1, our NFL reporter Pete Prisco said not to overreact. After Week 2, however, he might be changing his mind regarding one of the league’s most talked-about players.

  • Prisco: “I think I might have been wrong about Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. … It certainly was a special performance, throwing for 469 yards and those six scores, but doing it against a Ravens defense that was abysmal helped. Having said all that, Tagovailoa was impressive … and had the look of a passer who might just have had his moment that will allow his career to take off.”

Notice the word “might.” The Dolphins — one of just six undefeated teams left — are still just eighth in Pete’s latest NFL Power Rankings. Here’s the top five:

  • 1. Bills (prev: 1)
  • 2. Chiefs (prev: 2)
  • 3. Buccaneers (prev: 3)
  • 4. Eagles (prev: 4)
  • 5. Packers (prev: 9)

The Cardinals were the biggest risers, going from 21st to 12th after their comeback against the Raiders, while the Colts fell from 14th to 25th after a shutout loss in Jacksonville. The Colts entered the season as a playoff hopeful but are winless so far.

Another team with high expectations but without a win: the Bengals. Joe Burrow has been sacked 13 times, most in the league, and Jeff Kerr says several parties are at fault in his “One thing we learned about each NFL team” column.

Reacting to the NBA Top 100: Impact of stars returning from injury 🏀

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Getty Images

In case you somehow missed it, our NBA experts revealed their Top 100 NBA players on Tuesday, and it has produced a lot of reactions. As our NBA columnist Bill Reiter writes, “there are as many arguments as players.”

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s newsletter, four players in the top 50 didn’t play at all last season:

  • Kawhi Leonard (8)
  • Zion Williamson (17)
  • Jamal Murray (35)
  • Ben Simmons (42)

Are those rankings fair? Are we expecting too much from these players after career-altering injuries, or are we underrating them because it’s been so long? With Leonard, Murray and Simmons all on teams regarded by Caesars Sportsbook as top-10 title favorites, their performances relative to their rankings have massive impacts. Simmons is particularly intriguing, Bill notes.

  • Reiter: “He’s a former Rookie Of the Year, All Star, All-NBA and All-Defense ultra talent. As in, he’s good. … A year from now? He could be languishing at the bottom of our list, or even off of it entirely… Or he could be much, much higher. If things go that direction — into the top 20 where a player with his gifts belongs — the Nets could be the league’s most dysfunctional team and its most talented.”

For all of Bill’s biggest takeaways, click here.

If you thought chess was boring, think again 😦

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Getty Images

This is the first time I’ve covered chess in this newsletter. I will never forget — or unsee — it.

On Monday, Magnus Carlsen, the world’s top player and World Chess Champion since 2013, resigned on his second move in a match against Hans Niemann in the Julius Baer Generation Cup. Withdrawing is essentially unprecedented in professional chess, and Carlsen has not said why he decided to withdraw. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

  • On Sept. 4, Niemann beat Carlsen in the Sinquefield Cup, halting Carlsen’s 53-match winning streak. Niemann thanked a “ridiculous miracle” for helping him guess how Carlsen would start the game.
  • Carlsen withdrew from the tournament the next day and did not provide a reason.
  • Grandmaster and online streamer Hikaru Nakamura theorized that Carlsen withdrew because he suspected Niemann of cheating. Niemann admitted he has cheated before, and he is also banned from Chess.com over suspected cheating.

This is where things truly go off the rails, explains our staff writer Isabel Gonzalez who did a deep dive on the situation:

  • Gonzalez: “Unfortunately for Niemann, the speculation didn’t die down. Rumors of cheating continued spreading, and even Tesla CEO Elon Musk got involved when a particularly strange cheating rumor began gaining more traction online. A Reddit post suggested that Niemann could have used a sex toy to cheat. There is no concrete evidence and the claim might seem outrageous, but technically it would be possible to use vibrations to communicate.”

The Sinquefield Cup said that there were no signs anyone cheated in the event, but Carlsen’s latest withdrawal has only fanned the flames.

What we’re watching Wednesday 📺

⚽ Pride vs. Courage, 7 p.m. on Paramount+

Gotham FC vs. Reign, 7 p.m. on Paramount+

Thorns vs. Racing Louisville, 10 p.m. on Paramount+

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