April 15, 2024

Juan Soto’s massive gamble, plus Iowa-LSU’s viewership record

The Pulse Newsletter 📣 | This is The Athletic’s daily sports newsletter. Sign up here to receive The Pulse directly in your inbox.

Good morning! Watch out for the brat today.

OMG, AAV: Can Juan Soto pull an Aaron Judge?

For better or worse, the New York Yankees know this dance. A superstar on the roster enters a contract year with no extension in sight. He is motivated, betting on himself in a prove-it season that will earn just as much attention as the team’s on-field performance. 

Two years ago, Aaron Judge produced one of the best seasons of all time under said circumstances. Juan Soto could have millions — maybe hundreds of millions — more on the line than Judge did. 

Brittany Ghiroli wrote a wonderful story on Soto today. He was frank in the interview about his past two seasons and what he hopes to achieve next winter (💰💰💰💰). Even with the $700 million offseason of Shohei Ohtani behind us, Soto might be the most fascinating free agent in recent memory: 

  • We somehow forget how young Soto is. He’s already enjoyed a magical ascendance, a World Series ring, a batting title and two blockbuster trades. He’s only 25 years old. Baseball doesn’t often see superstar 25-year-old free agents, much less one whose Baseball Reference page lists Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr. as peers.
  • There is complexity to Soto. In Brittany’s story, he still sounds genuinely upset about the end of his Washington tenure, when the franchise with which he forged a deep bond jettisoned him to San Diego after Soto turned down a $440 million extension. Soto never placed roots in San Diego over the last 1.5 seasons because he simply knew the big-spending front office would not have money to give him. Tough to blame him there.
  • Thus Soto is in New York, back on the East Coast where he’s comfortable, shelling opposing pitching so far this season. He’s hitting .417 with a 1.100 OPS through six games for the 5-1 Yankees. Whew. Imagine if a fraction of that pace carries through the year. 

So what is he worth? Brittany reports Soto has been “fully Boras-ized” by his agent, Scott Boras, which essentially means the contract will be massive, no matter how long the negotiation takes. Also in the story: a source saying Soto wants to match Ohtani’s $46 million average annual value, without the deferrals

Will the Yankees give that to him? We still have a long time to find that out. But Soto finally, somehow, sounds free — during the most pressure-packed season of his career. Read the story for his full comments.

News to Know

KC rejects stadium tax
Last night, Kansas City voters overwhelmingly denied a sales tax that would’ve kept the Chiefs and Royals in the metropolitan area for the next 25 years. The tax would’ve provided about $2 billion to help renovate Arrowhead Stadium and build a new Royals stadium. Both Chiefs and Royals owners don’t appear to have a Plan B right now. Nate Taylor broke down the brewing mess here.

Harper socks three
Bryce Harper entered last night’s game 0-for-11 on the season, which understandably sparked some worry. He seems just fine from here after blasting three home runs in the Phillies’ 9-4 win over the visiting Reds, becoming just the fifth player in franchise history to hit three dingers in a game this century. Matt Gelb has more on a memorable night in Philadelphia.

Cardinals to pay ex-employee millions
The Arizona Cardinals will pay former executive Terry McDonough $3 million for “false and defamatory” comments in the media, which stem from a bizarre story involving a suspended general manager and burner phones. It has not been a great year for the Cardinals, perception-wise.

More news

Eyebrow-Raisers: The numbers almost don’t feel real

For the last two years, viewership numbers for women’s college basketball have hit us over the head, again and again. This sport is really, really popular. Bonk. Here’s a new record. Bonk. Here’s another one. Bonk. Over and over and over again. 

The latest bonk came yesterday, when ESPN announced viewership for Iowa’s momentous Elite Eight win over LSU, a rematch of last year’s title game: 12.3 million average viewers, with a peak of 16 million. BONK. To compare, that is: 

  • Higher than any other women’s college basketball game ever. The previous high: 9.9 million average viewers, which came … last year for LSU’s national-title win over Iowa.
  • More than every NBA game last season outside of Game 5 of the Finals, every MLB game last season and all but five of college football’s matchups. (Source.)
  • Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is clearly the big draw, but as we wrote yesterday, it’s not just Clark fueling the popularity push. UConn’s big win over USC in the subsequent game drew 6.7 million average viewers, which is still more than every women’s college basketball title game viewership since 1996, save for last year’s game.

Naturally, there are questions about staying power, which we’ll dive into more later this week with our experts. Expect more huge numbers produced by this weekend’s Final Four, though. Bonk.

Things You Need to See: Bratwurst coming through

When you play in Milwaukee, this just happens:

That’s Twins star Byron Buxton, nearly getting clipped by a giant bratwurst mascot racing other sausage foes in between innings. We are very glad Buxton escaped a possible brat injury.

Watch This Game

NBA: Thunder at Celtics (get tickets)
7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Boston has already clinched the East, but watch this for the Thunder, who trail the West’s No. 1 Nuggets by a half game after last night’s loss to the Sixers. Oklahoma City, Denver and Minnesota sit within a game of each other, and all three are playing well. In the stacked Western Conference, seeding matters a lot. 

MLB: Giants at Dodgers (get tickets)
10:10 p.m. ET on Local TV/MLB Network
These two are a.) heated rivals and b.) likely the two best teams in the NL West, with minor apologies to Arizona, last year’s World Series representative.

Pulse Picks

Widespread gambling has made life miserable for college basketball’s benchwarmers. I urge you to read this story today

Austin Mock and Nick Baumgardner updated the consensus NFL Draft Big Board, with a new name at No. 1 and some big risers on there. The draft is so close. 

Sean McIndoe has an insightful column on why Connor McDavid’s chase for 100 assists is a bigger deal than you think

There has never been a voice quite like Paul Heyman. His unmistakable gift for gab has influenced wrestling for over 40 years — and it’s sending him to the WWE Hall of Fame this weekend. Jason Jones has a great interview with the legend

Most-read from the newsletter yesterday: It was our report on Vontae Davis’ death. The tragedy left former Colts coaches and teammates stunned

Most-read on the website yesterday: Ari Wasserman explained how Deion Sanders is not maximizing his recruiting potential at Colorado. Interesting angle.

Sign up for our other newsletters:

The Bounce 🏀 | The Windup | Full Time | Prime Tire 🏁 | Until Saturday 🏈| Scoop City 🏈

(Photo: New York Yankees/Getty Images)