Major League Baseball
The 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is moving forward at full speed. After the middle of the season (81 games played), the contending teams have for the most part parted ways with the suitors and the 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 moniker thanks to an explosive offense led by Aaron Judge, who has already hit 29 home runs in the final year of his contract. The San Francisco Giants are widely rumored to be one of the top suitors for the Northern California native if he decides not to re-sign with the Yankees in free agency. Speaking of the Giants, they’re having a hard time putting together another strong season after last year’s 107-win campaign in which everything seemed to be going well. The loss of Buster Posey to retirement proved to be a huge blow as his successor, Joey Bart, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, struggled so badly that the team sent him back to the minors. The Giants are 40-39 and sit in third place behind the San Diego Padres and Dodgers. However, they’re not as bad as their Bay Area rivals, the Oakland A’s, who trail the major leagues with an abysmal 28-56 record. His performance is expected given that the team held a fire sale before the season trading star players such as Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. Unfortunately, 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 keep them for more than a couple of years.
Both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) are in the offseason after crowning new champions last month. The Golden State Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight seasons by defeating the Boston Celtics. The Colorado Avalanche won their third Stanley Cup in franchise history, disappointing the triple-seeking Tampa Bay Lightning. NHL free agency is just getting started with the draft scheduled for this week, while NBA negotiations have been underway for a few weeks. Although the Warriors managed to re-sign starting center Kevon Looney, they were unable to 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 rising star Jordan Poole an extension, and will likely consider making additional signings or simply giving other young players roster spots.
Like everything else in sports and society, money seems to control college athletics. While universities have many athletic teams, their marketing and financial resources have been largely focused on men’s teams, particularly men’s soccer and 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.
Meanwhile, two of the biggest issues facing college sports right now are the impact Name Image and Likeness (NIL) has on college recruiting and conference realignment. Now that college athletes can benefit from playing sports, the recruiting algorithm has changed. Schools like USC, which are in a prime area and have a long history of soccer success and a large fan base, can attract top recruits by offering endorsement deals or other attractive ventures. For example, Caleb Williams, the top quarterback on the 2022 transfer portal, picked up multiple NIL deals after deciding to follow his head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC.
Speaking of USC, your recent announcement set the internet and the PAC-12 conference on fire. In the latest sign of where the power lies in college sports conferences, USC and UCLA have decided to leave the PAC-12 for the Big 10 in 2024. This change in scenery comes just after Oklahoma and Texas announced last year They have to move to the SEC in 2025. Besides the Big-10 and SEC being considered the top two conferences, they generate the most revenue and have the best TV deals. By adding USC and UCLA, the Big-10 will earn even more revenue thanks to the lucrative Los Angeles market. However, I wonder what the USC players will think when they have to fly across the country to play in Maryland, or when they have to play football in icy Wisconsin in October/November. Also, as someone who grew up going to Cal football games, this realignment could spell the end of the PAC-12 and a nail in the coffin for Cal Athletics if the conference collapses and they can’t get into the Big-10 or another conference. Fortunately, the conference still has legs, as the Big 10 have not expressed interest in adding more teams. I hope the conference stays together, perhaps with some new teams, because the realignment only destroys longstanding rivalries and related activities that fans look forward to every year.
And you can look forward to more information on US men’s and women’s soccer coming soon.