Major League Baseball
The 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is hurtling right along. After half the season (81 games played), the contending teams have for the most part separated themselves from the pretenders and tankers. The teams expected to contend (New York Yankees and Mets, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers) are all in first place in their respective divisions. The Yankees (58-23) are living up to their Bronx Bombers nickname thanks to an explosive offense led by Aaron Judge who has already smashed 29 home runs in the final year of his contract. The San Francisco Giants are widely rumored to be one of the main suitors for the northern California native if he decides to not re-sign with the Yankees in free agency. Speaking of the Giants, they are finding it difficult to put together another strong season after last year’s 107-win campaign in which everything seemed to go right. The loss of Buster Posey to retirement has proved to be a major blow as his successor, Joey Bart, the number 2 overall draft pick in 2018, struggled so much that the team sent him back to the minors. The Giants are 40-39 and find themselves in third place behind the San Diego Padres and Dodgers. Yet, they are not as bad as their Bay Area rivals, the Oakland Athletics, who trail the major-league with an abysmal 28-56 record. Their performance is expected given that the team held a fire sale before the season trading star players like Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. Sadly, things won’t change for A’s fans until the team gets a new stadium and hopefully a new owner who is willing to invest in players to retain them for more than a couple of years.
Both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) are in the offseason having just crowned new champions last month. The Golden State Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight seasons defeating the Boston Celtics. The Colorado Avalanche won their third Stanley Cup in franchise history, disappointing the Tampa Bay Lightning who were seeking a three-peat. The NHL free agency is just getting started with the draft scheduled for this week, while NBA negotiations have been going on for a few weeks. Although the Warriors managed to re-sign starting center Kevon Looney, they couldn’t keep their other free agents, losing Damien Lee to the Phoenix Suns, Gary Payton II to Portland, and Otto Porter Jr to Toronto. They signed Donte DiVincenzo, are expected to give an extension to rising star Jordan Poole and will likely consider making additional signings or just giving roster spots to other young players.
Like everything else in sports and society, money seems to control college athletics. While colleges have many athletic teams, their marketing and financial resources have largely focused on men’s teams, particularly football and men’s basketball. Although last month marked the 50th anniversary of Title IX, we clearly have a long way to go before there is parity between men’s and women’s sports.
In the meantime, two of the biggest issues facing college sports right now are the impact that Name Image and Likeness (NIL) has on college recruiting and conference realignment. With college student-athletes now able to profit from playing sports, the recruitment algorithm has shifted. Schools like USC, which are in a prime area and have a long history of football success and a deep fanbase, are able to attract top recruits by offering sponsorship deals or other attractive ventures. For instance, Caleb Williams, the top quarterback in the 2022 transfer portal, landed multiple NIL deals after deciding to follow his head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC.
Speaking of USC, their recent announcement set the internet and the PAC-12 conference ablaze. In the latest sign of where the power lies in college sports conferences, USC and UCLA decided to leave the PAC-12 for the Big-10 in 2024. This landscape altering move comes on the heels of Oklahoma and Texas announcing last year that they would be moving to the SEC in 2025. In addition to the Big-10 and SEC being seen as the two best conferences, they generate the most revenue and have the best television deals. By adding USC and UCLA, the Big-10 will get even more revenue thanks to the lucrative LA market. However, I wonder what USC players will think when they have to fly across the country to play Maryland, or when they have to play football in freezing cold Wisconsin in October/November. Also, as someone who grew up going to Cal football games, this realignment could mean the end of the PAC-12 and a nail in the coffin for Cal Athletics if the conference collapses and they are unable to get into the Big-10 or another conference. Fortunately, the conference still has legs as the Big 10 has expressed no interest in adding more teams. I hope that the conference stays together, perhaps with a few new teams, because realignment just destroys long-standing rivalries and related activities that fans look forward to every year.
And you can look forward to more on US men’s and women’s soccer coming soon.