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Newsletter: The Sports Report: Mookie Betts is here to stay

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts smiles during spring training Feb. 21
Mookie Betts and the Dodgers agreed to a 12-year, $365-million contract extension Wednesday.
(Gregory Bull / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers and outfielder Mookie Betts agreed to a 12-year, $365-million contract extension Wednesday that should keep Betts in Los Angeles for the rest of his career.

It is the second-largest deal in Major League Baseball history, exceeded only by the 12-year, $426.5-million extension Mike Trout signed with the Angels in March 2019. The pact includes a a record $65-million signing bonus. Betts will make $10 million during this abbreviated season before playing under the new deal in 2021.

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“It’s what I’ve been working for my whole life,” Betts, 27, said in a videoconference call with reporters. “My family has been part of this, my parents have been a part of this. Everybody who has been a part of this whole thing, this is the day that we’ve been dreaming about.”

The agreement materialized a day before the Dodgers face the San Francisco Giants to open a pandemic-shortened 60-game season that appeared in jeopardy when heated negotiations between owners and the union festered during the league’s shutdown. Not staging a season could have meant Betts never played a meaningful game for the Dodgers. He will now not only play in Los Angeles in 2020, but potentially through 2032 and his 39th birthday.

The contract Betts signed is the richest Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, has given a player by a huge margin. The team has re-signed players to substantial contacts since Friedman took over in October 2014, but none reached the $100-million threshold. Even in the anticipated depressed free-agent market this winter after a truncated season without gate revenue, Betts easily smashed that ceiling.

“When you’re making an investment of this magnitude, you’re not just betting on the player’s ability, you’re also betting on the person,” Friedman said. “With that, we couldn’t be more comfortable to make that bet than on Mookie Betts.”

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For Bill Plaschke’s take on the deal, click here.

For Bill Shaikin’s analysis of the deal, click here.

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MLS

Kevin Baxter on the MLS Is Back tournament: The task is crystal clear for the Galaxy heading into the final day of group play Thursday in the MLS Is Back tournament: Beat the Houston Dynamo and erase most of a ghastly goal differential and they can squeeze through to the knockout rounds. Anything short of that and the team will be heading home this weekend following the worst five-game start in franchise history.

In the last game of the tournament’s 36-game group stage, LAFC — which already has secured a spot in the round of 16 — plays the unbeaten Portland Timbers with first place in the group at stake.

The top two teams in each of the six groups, plus the four best third-place teams, advance to the next stage. LAFC, 1-0-1 in the tournament and 2-0-2 on the season, is all but assured a top-two finish. The Galaxy (0-2 in the tournament and 0-3-1 on the season) can finish third with a win, leaving goal differential to determine who advances. The Galaxy entered Wednesday a tournament-worst minus-five in that category.

“It’s the reality we’re playing in,” Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham said. “We have to keep our eyes forward and try to get a pretty big win against Houston.”

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ANGELS

Mike DiGiovanna on the Angels: For all Mike Trout has accomplished in the game—three American League most valuable player awards, rookie-of-the-year honors, eight straight All-Star Game appearances, seven Silver Sluggers—the Angels star is about to experience something more exhilarating than any emotion he’s felt on a baseball field.

Trout’s wife, Jessica, is due to deliver the couple’s first child, a boy, on Aug. 3.

“Realizing I’m having a child in a couple of weeks, it’s surreal,” Trout said on a videoconference call before Wednesday night’s exhibition game against the San Diego Padres in Angel Stadium. “When I first started dating Jess [in high school], we talked about having kids, and now it’s happening.

“We’re very fortunate and blessed. I can’t wait to be a dad. I can’t even describe the emotions of it right now. Seeing Jess’ belly every night, talking to [the baby] … he’s kicking and going crazy. I can’t wait to meet him.”

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Trout, who turns 29 on Aug. 7, plans to leave the team for the birth, but he has not yet formulated a plan for his departure or determined how many games he will miss.

NBA

Andrew Grief on the NBA: With a plexiglass shield protecting the scorer’s table, a bottle of Clorox wipes at the feet of assistant coaches and the sound of sneakers bouncing around arenas devoid of fans, the NBA on Wednesday ended a 133-day layoff by hosting four scrimmages that quickly became part competitive game, part experiment.

In an arena on Walt Disney World’s Wide World of Sports Complex, Clippers guard Lou Williams darted past Orlando Magic defenders for 22 points and teammate Paul George made four three-pointers in a 99-90 Clippers victory that marked their first game since March 10, the day before the novel coronavirus pandemic suspended the league’s season.

To restart the season with the pandemic still raging near the Orlando, Fla., campus, the NBA created pages of medical guidelines that made Wednesday’s exhibitions “definitely an interesting environment,” Williams said. They were, undoubtedly, a dry run for the first official games of the NBA’s restart, which begins July 30.

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OLYMPICS

David Wharton on the Olympics: The Tokyo Olympics might not be held next summer unless there is a vaccine or other medical advancement regarding the coronavirus, a Japanese official said Wednesday.

Yoshiro Mori, president of the event’s organizing committee, told broadcaster NHK he was looking for significant change in the battle against the pandemic over the next 12 months.

“Whether the Olympics can be done or not is about whether humanity can beat the coronavirus,” he said in Japanese. “Specifically, to develop a vaccine or drug is the first point.”

As of mid-week, Japan had 27,090 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 988 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

Galaxy vs. Houston, 5 p.m.

San Francisco at Dodgers, 7 p.m., ESPN, AM 570

LAFC vs. Portland, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2

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THIS DATE IN SPORTS

John Daly battled the winds and Costantino Rocca on this date in 1995 to win the British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, by four strokes in a four-hole playoff.

Rocca pulled into a tie with Daly, at six-under-par 282, when he sank a 66-foot putt on the 72nd hole and sent the Open into the playoff.

The victory for the Old Claret Jug was Daly’s second major title — he had won the PGA Championship in 1991 at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind. — and gave his sagging career new life. He began the year on a leave of absence from the PGA Tour after acknowledging he had a drinking problem.

“To win here at St. Andrews is a lifetime dream for anybody,” Daly said. “And mine’s come true today.”

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Other memorable games and outstanding sports performances on this date:

1921 — At the annual Harvard-Yale vs. Cambridge-Oxford track and field meet at Harvard Stadium, Harvard’s Edward Gourdin sets the world record in the long jump with a leap of 25 feet 2 inches, the first time anyone had gone past the 25-foot mark. Gourdin’s jump was measured at 25-3 but the official record in the U.S. Track and Field journal was recorded at 25-2.

1960 — Betsy Rawls is the first woman to win the U.S. Women’s Open golf title four times when she beats Joyce Ziske by one shot at the Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Mass. Rawls, from Spartanburg, S.C., got into contention after shooting a four-under-par 68 in the third round. Although she slipped to a three-over-par 75 in the final round, her score was still good enough to top Ziske.

1966 — Just two days before his 26th birthday, John Pennel sets a world record in the pole vault when he cleared the bar at 17 feet, 6¼ inches on his final try at The Times International Games in front of a crowd of more than 27,000 at the Coliseum. Pennel broke the record of 17-5½ held by his roommate, Bob Seagren, who set the mark two months earlier in May at the Fresno Relays.

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1976 — Dick Williams, who led Boston and Oakland to American League pennants with his sharp tongue and drill-sergeant actions, is fired by the Angels and replaced by former Dodgers catcher Norm Sherry. The Angels, who were on their way to the worst record in their history, said that Williams was not the man to inspire a club of young and inexperienced players, several of whom had complained to the front office about Williams’ managerial methods.

1976 — The exhibition game between the NFL’s world champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the College All-Stars is called late in the third quarter when rain and wind from a deluge of thunderstorms made conditions unplayable at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Steelers, who led the annual charity contest 9-0 at halftime, scored two touchdowns on runs by Franco Harris and Tommy Reamon before the game was stopped with Pittsburgh ahead 24-0. It was the last game in the series that began in 1934.

2000 — Tiger Woods, 24, became the youngest player to win the career Grand Slam when he shot a 19-under-par 269 in the British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Woods was briefly challenged by David Duval but pulled away for an eight-stroke victory, the largest in 87 years of golf’s oldest championship. Woods was the first player to win all four majors since Jack Nicklaus took the British Open in 1966 at age 26. The other players to win the career Grand Slam were Gene Sarazen in 1935, Ben Hogan in 1953 and Gary Player in 1965.

2009 — Mark Buehrle sends the Chicago White Sox into a tie with Detroit for first place in the American League Central Division when he pitched the 18th perfect game in baseball history, a 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Buehrle, a four-time All-Star who had pitched a no-hitter against Texas in 2007, joined Frank Smith (1905, 1908) as the only White Sox pitchers to throw two no-hitters. Josh Fields gave Buehrle all the run support he needed when the first baseman hit a grand slam off Scott Kazmir in the second inning.

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2012 — Penn State is punished for its role in the sexual-abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky when the NCAA dropped the hammer on the football program with penalties that included an unprecedented $60-million fine, a four-year ban from postseason play and a forfeit of 80 football scholarships. Players were allowed to transfer to any other school without restriction, which threatened further damage to the program.

2017 — Jordan Spieth, 23, avoids a collapse by playing a remarkable string of holes on the back nine, that held off a charging Matt Kuchar, to win the British Open at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England, for his third major championship. Spieth won by three shots — the same margin he had when the day started — after a final-round one-under-par 69. He joined Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three legs of a career Grand Slam before the age of 24.

Sources: The Times, Associated Press

And finally

John Daly wins the 1995 British Open. Watch it here.

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Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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