Luka scores 48(!) in win; Padres bolster infield with trade; and a fire sale imminent for the Nationals?

The Monday afternoon edition of "Nine things to know before 9 PM" is here

Lots to cover on today’s Monday edition of Snippets, as one of the world’s best basketball players goes on a scoring spree in his Olympics debut; a U.S. gymnast is eliminated from finals’ contention despite finishing in 4th place; the Padres add their fourth NL All-Star infielder as we draw closer to the trade deadline; and a whole lot more.

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1) Luka has second-highest scoring output in the Olympics… all-time… with 48 points in win over Argentina!

The two-time NBA All-Star and young MVP finalist for the Dallas Mavericks had his Olympics moment early this morning, as Luka Doncic just could not be stopped offensively - he scored 48 points (28 in the first half) for his Slovenian team in a 118-100 opening game rout of the Argentinians.

Doncic was able to get any shot he wanted, whether it be a step-back crossover or a eurostep to the hole for an easy deuce, all afternoon (Japan time). He went 18-29 from the field (6-14 from threee), and had 11 rebounds, five assists and even three blocked shots in this win. To add-on… scoring above 30 in FIBA/Olympics play is already hard enough, as the referees do not call as many ticky-tack fouls and the quarters are only 10 minutes long (compared to 12 in the NBA). Which makes this near-50 point performance all the more remarkable. Unbelievable performance by a future NBA MVP.

For those wondering what the all-time Olympics record for most points in a game? You would have to go back to 1988, in the Seoul summer Olympics, when Brazilian Oscar Schmidt scored 55 points in a win over Spain. Schmidt also holds the fourth, sixth, seventh and tenth most points in an Olympics game, as he single-handedly carried that Brazilian national team between 1988-2006. As for the most points in a game for Team USA? That honor goes to one Carmelo Anthony, who scored 37 points in only 14 minutes of play back in a 156-73 thrashing of Nigeria in group play back in the 2012 London Olympics.

2) US softball wins on a walk-off HR to reach gold medal game against Japan

Yes, you read that right. Following a game against Australia in which the U.S. softball team won on a walk-off double in extra innings, we received more drama yesterday evening (this morning, Japan time) between Team USA and Japan.

The team was actually trailing for the second consecutive game - in this case, down 1-0 in the bottom of the 6th (and final) inning. After three consecutive singles, Team USA was able to tie things up at 1-1. In the following inning (bottom of the 7th), with the game still knotted at 1-1, American Kelsey Stewart drilled a high fastball to deep right field for the game-winning, walk-off home run to lift Team USA over Japan.

The teams will square-off again, this time with the gold medal as the reward for the victors, at 7 AM EST tomorrow morning (8 PM Japan time).

3) Controversy, as a top U.S. female gymnast (no, not Simone Biles) is eliminated from the gymnastics finals

So, the women’s gymnastics has … shall I just say… an unusual ruls as to which gymnasts reach the final day, which is leaving many diehard American gymnastics fans perplexed and outraged. This story may get little coverage (since everyone is falling in love with the Greatest [gymnast] Of All Time in Simone Biles), but I thought it is worth a mention.

The issue here is in one of the rules, in which only two gymnasts from one country can represent the team in the finals (regardless of routine): 24 gymnasts in total for the all-around final, with the top eight on each apparatus (balance beam, floor exercise, vault and uneven bars) advancing. From an ESPN article:

“If a U.S. gymnast finishes third-best in the world during qualifying - but also third-best in the U.S. - she misses out. ”

So, with that being said - such was the case after Sunday morning’s (Japan time) finals qualification for one women’s gymnast in MyKayla Skinner. After a strong 4th place finish on the vault - her only Olympic event, she was disqualified from the finals, as fellow American teammates Simone Biles and Jade Carey finished first and second in the same event.

This rule is very outdated and needs to change - regardless of country, the top six at each event should advance to the finals, regardless of nation. You do not see the same standard for the swimming events, for comparisons’ sake, as you routinely notice multiple players from the same country in the finals of, say, the breaststroke or the freestyle.

This ‘two gymnasts per country’ rule is not even going to be incorporated in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, which makes the rule all the more asinine. Now, Skinner will be returning home after just one elite performance and nary another attempt in the final.

4) Monday’s Olympics Medal Count Update

I should have posted this on my previous Snippets entries, but here is the medal count by country after Sunday:

5) We have another MLB trade, as the Padres add an NL All-Star

The proverbial MLB Hot Stove is getting really warm, as we get closer and closer to Friday’s trade deadline. One of the National League’s top teams just got a whole lot stronger, as the San Diego Padres added Pittsburgh Pirates’ second baseman Adam Frazier to their roster, while parting ways with three minor league players in Tucupita Marcano, Jack Suwinski and Michell Miliano - with Marcano being the Padres’ 5th-best prospect heading to the Pirates’ farm system.

This is a fantastic trade for both teams, as the Padres are adding a player that is second in the NL and fourth in the MLB with a crazy-high 0.324 batting average. Frazier is a high-contact hitter with little power (only 4 home runs on the year) - but should add to what is now a stacked All-Star infield that includes second-year sensation Jake Cronenworth; 2020 NL MVP runner-up Manny Machado and 2021 NL MVP favorite in Fernando Tatis Jr, as the team (currently third in the hotly-contested NL West with a 58-44 record) makes that second half season push for a Wild Card berth or better.

On the other side, the 38-61 Pittsburgh Pirates (last in the NL Central; 4th-worst in MLB) continue to stockpile prospects for their 8th-best farm system (according to MLB reporters back in late March).

6) Nationals get swept by Orioles - fire sale expected?

The Washington Nationals are in dire straights right now, despite their top talent in Juan Soto continuing his torrid second half start at the plate. The team has lost four straight (including this past weekend sweep to the I-95 North partners in my Baltimore Orioles); their franchise pitcher in Stephen Strasburg has recently had setback after setback, with no timetable to return to their team; their third and fourth starting pitchers (Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester) - both veterans that have had great seasons at their peak, but hold 5.71 and 5.02 ERA, have been anemic; and now the team is on their backup, backup catcher in minor league Tres Barrera, as Yan Gomes and Alex Avila are both on the Injured List. The Nats, who were in second place in the NL East just a couple of months ago, are now in 4th, with a 45-53 record and almost zero chance of reaching a playoff berth this season.

With that all said, and the trade deadline looming… it is time for the Nationals to do a complete fire sale and sell-off all of their premier, healthy talent (outside of Soto and Trea Turner) to bolster their 30th-ranked farm system and… to use the ‘r’ word… rebuild. That means, parting ways with fan-favorite and lights-out ace Max Scherzer and recent off-season signed closer Brad Hand. It is really unfortunate for the team to be at this point (sellers) after their 2019 World Series run, but the Nats front office, led by General Manager Mike Rizzo, has to do what is best for the franchise for the foreseeable future. And, this comes from an Orioles fan who loves watching their DC rivals play on a daily basis.

7) Remember how the Diamondbacks were on a losing skid? Looks like it’s the Rangers’ turn, as they have lost 12 straight games

We have a new MLB team that has seen new lows - first, it was the Arizona Diamondbacks back in May-June, with my Orioles suffering a similar fate. Now, it is the Texas Rangers, who have not even led at any point of their current 12-game losing streak. Sure, the team has talent in All-Stars Kyle Gibson (pitcher) and Adolis Garcia (outfielder), but the team has now predictably fallen to last place in the AL West with a 35-65 record with consecutive series sweeps by the Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros; only my Orioles and the D-Backs are worse-off this season.

8) Ohtani homers again! Temporarily breaks hitting slump

Speaking of the AL West… have we seen a Shohei Ohtani resurgence? On Saturday, he went 2-4 with a double and a run scored in a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, and again had two hits in Sunday’s matinee. Ohtani hit this solo blast past the right field wall in the sixth inning, extending his Major League leading home run total to 35, and had a single and a walk drawn against the Twins at Target Field.

After his early second-half slump that I reported days ago (4-24 with 14 strikeouts in the first six games following the All-Star Break), the Twins seemed to have righted Ohtani, as he went 4-11 with 2 doubles, an HR, 2 runs scored and bumped back his average to a respectable 0.277. Hopefully, his success will continue against the hapless Colorado Rockies (43-56), starting tonight.

9) The New Orleans Saints’ stadium has a name change

And in random NFL news to conclude this Snippets edition, the New Orleans Saints are changing the name of their Superdome stadium. Gone is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and in comes the Caesars Superdome. The Saints will no longer share the same car brand name for their stadium as their National Football Conference South division rival the Atlanta Falcons (theirs is called the Mercedes-Benz Stadium).

The reasoning behind this brand switch for the stadium name is simple; the original deal with Mercedes-Benz expired about a month or so ago, and the team came in arrangement with Caesars (the entertainment brand, not the pizza joint!) now, for a twenty-year exclusive naming-rights partnership.

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We are done with another edition of my Snippets on this July Monday afternoon. Enjoy the Olympic events taking place this evening-onwards. So, until next time, signing off.