Mookie Betts, Sabrina Ionescu, Jamal Adams and much more in Five Things From the Week.
1. The logistical issues facing Canadian teams playing in U.S. sports leagues do not stop with the Blue Jays
The Canadian government was not about to let the Blue Jays play in Toronto against opponents from the United States for understandable reasons. Turns out the state of Pennsylvania wasn’t interested in hosting them either, as the idea of the Blue Jays playing at PNC Park in Pittsburgh was nixed by health officials. Major League Baseball’s shortened season got underway on July 23, yet one of its teams still did not have a home ballpark. While a solution has since been found in the form of their AAA affiliate’s stadium in Buffalo, the Blue Jays will not be the only team in a messy situation if conditions don’t improve over the next month or two.
Up next are Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact, Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC, who are currently scheduled to resume their regular season after the MLS is Back tournament concludes. Fast forward to December and the proposed start of the NBA’s new season, and the Toronto Raptors could very well find themselves in the same position, especially if there is another coronavirus spike in the winter. U.S.-Canadian relations are almost always pleasant enough to blend the two countries’ teams seamlessly, making it easy to forget how complex the arrangement can be.
2. Mookie Betts just wanted a team willing to pay him what he’s worth and a place to call home
There was nothing complex about the Los Angeles Dodgers’ strategy when it came to Mookie Betts: capitalize on Boston Red Sox’s fear of losing him for nothing but a draft pick in free agency and get a new deal done as soon as possible. For some additional salary in the form of David Price and a couple disposable pieces, the Dodgers bolstered their roster for another World Series run and gave themselves a year to make a good impression on Betts prior to him hitting the open market. Before he ever played a game in a Dodgers uniform, the 2018 AL MVP had agreed to a 12-year, $365 million extension.
The speed with which the contract came together makes it clear Betts was never determined to become a free agent and earn every dollar possible. His wish was the same as any player’s, which is to be compensated fairly for their performance. Much like Bryce Harper last year, Betts prioritized long-term security and the ability to call somewhere home for the rest of his career over maximizing his income. The Red Sox weren’t willing to make that happen, and Betts will enter the Hall of Fame in a Dodgers hat as a result.
3. Sabrina Ionescu’s New York Liberty are an exciting work in progress
When the New York Liberty selected Sabrina Ionescu first overall in the WNBA Draft on April 17, it was not merely the beginning of a new era for the franchise; it was the second step of a complete overhaul. The first was hiring 34-year-old Walt Hopkins as head coach in January. He immediately decided to build everything around Ionescu, prompting the trade of franchise cornerstone Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics prior to the draft. The flurry of offseason activity left the Liberty with four veterans, last year’s No. 2 overall pick Asia Durr and seven rookies on their roster.
As a reward for their bravery, the Liberty got to face the Seattle Storm — healthy for the first time since winning the championship in 2018 — in their first game on July 25. Ionescu had a rough outing, going 4-of-17 from the field and 0-for-8 from three in the 87-71 defeat. Adjusting to the WNBA is no easy task, even for someone as gifted as Ionescu. Focusing too much on stat lines distracts from the biggest takeaway from Ionescu’s debut, which is that she instantaneously transformed her teammates into willing passers. The ball moved with energy and purpose thanks, in large part, to Ionescu. Learning how to win will take time, but this team is already playing an incredibly entertaining brand of basketball.
4. The Jets made the right call moving on from Jamal Adams
There are a handful of NFL players who can get away with requesting a trade and then publicly criticizing their head coach’s leadership abilities. Jamal Adams is not one of them, if only because he plays safety instead of a more valuable position. So when the Seattle Seahawks offer two first-rounders and a third-rounder for Adams and a 2022 fourth-rounder, the New York Jets were wise to say yes.
Part of Adams’ frustration came from the lack of progress toward a new contract, another indication he was not likely to stay in New York long term. The longer the Jets kept him around, the closer he got to free agency, and the less valuable he would be in a potential trade. By making the deal now, New York gets a reasonable return for a guy who will probably receive more than he is actually worth in his next deal. The organization’s relationship with Adams was deteriorating rapidly, and the Jets did the right thing by taking action quickly.
5. The Premier League will enter next season in fine form
Identical 2-0 victories by Chelsea and Manchester United on the final day of the Premier League season secured their participation in the Champions League next season, promising an intriguing situation as the 2020-21 campaign gets underway. The ability to offer Champions League competition makes Chelsea and United significantly more appealing to the players they will be targeting in the transfer window. Missing out on the top competition in club soccer would’ve made building on the progress both teams made this season much more difficult.
Liverpool obviously isn’t going anywhere. Manchester City will retool with the money from the Leroy Sané sale in addition to the seemingly endless financial resources at Pep Guardiola’s disposal. Chelsea appear determined to bring in more reinforcements with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech already on the way to Stamford Bridge. United haven’t lost a Premier League game since Jan. 22 and finally seem to be headed in the right direction. All four teams have to feel like they have a real shot at winning both the Premier League and Champions League. No other league in Europe can say the same.
Tom Thibodeau is only the right man for the New York Knicks if they can build a contender quickly. There was no steady improvement during his tenures in Chicago or Minnesota, as his team’s winning percentage has only increased in consecutive seasons once. The Knicks better be ready to turn things around in short order or this is not going to end well.
Photo by Arturo Pardavila III / Flickr