The Sports Report: Time to crown Mookie Betts as the NL MVP

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts participates in batting practice before a game against the Angels.
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts participates in batting practice before a game against the Angels at Angel Stadium on June 20.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Austin Knoblauch, filing in for Houston Mitchell, who is probably looking forward to the UFC permitting swanton bombs now that it has officially merged with the WWE. Let’s get right to the news.

From Bill Plaschke: While the Dodgers appear destined to finish behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League’s best record, another race between the two teams is still very much in doubt.

But it shouldn’t be.

As the ballots are filed around the country, a Dodger and a Brave are sprinting neck-and-neck toward the National League Most Valuable Player award.


But the duel is already over.

The clear MVP is the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts, not the Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr., period, election over, I’m calling it, and anything different would make one wonder what the voters are watching.

If they’re watching value, it’s Betts. If they’re watching versatility, it’s Betts. If they’re watching baseball, it’s Betts.

Acuña has been far more flashy, accumulating the league’s sexiest stat line in becoming the first player in baseball history to record at least 30 home runs with at least 60 stolen bases. But the larger bases and new pickoff rules have put a superfluous shine on that bling. When it comes to virtually every other important statistic, Betts rules.

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Noah Lyles reacts after crossing the finish line in a men's 200-meter semifinal at the World Athletics Championships.
Noah Lyles reacts after crossing the finish line in a men’s 200-meter semifinal at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on Aug. 24.
(Petr David Josek / Associated Press)

From Andrew Greif: For Noah Lyles, becoming the fastest man in track and field’s fastest race was never the point.

It is the title every sprinter chases. But for Lyles, never the entire ambition.

When he and his brother, Josephus, another decorated sprinter who is one year younger, arrived in the summer of 2016 for a meeting with their agent, Mark Wetmore, sprinting was in a transitional moment. Usain Bolt, whose world-record times in the 100 and 200 meters made him known the world over, was weeks from racing in his final Olympics. Lyles, 19 at the time and only weeks from turning professional right out of high school, left no questions about what would drive his own career: Not only chase the accomplishments of an icon like Bolt, but equal his household-name status.

“We were explaining what our goals were and were like, ‘We want to transcend the sport,’” Lyles said this spring. “It wasn’t, ‘We want to break the world record.’ It wasn’t, ‘We want to have the most world championship or Olympic medals.’ It was, ‘We want to transcend the sport.’

“We want to be those athletes that were known as, ‘They got out of track and field, they just became known. They became household names. They broke the box and now people are struggling to put it back together, and we’ve got to create bigger ones.’ So this was truthfully always my goal.”

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Virginia and Matthew Jarmond pose with NCCU and Aggies paraphernalia.
Virginia Jarmond graduated from North Carolina Central and and Matthew Jarmond graduated from North Carolina A&T.
(©Cindy Burnham – USA Today Network)

From Ben Bolch: The scene that unfolded before the Jarmonds for North Carolina Central’s biggest football game of the season was always one that drew them back, year after year.

The high-stepping, vibrant bands. The impromptu reunions, fans running into former classmates they had not seen in years. The dramatic games that always seemed to come down to the final possession.

That’s just the way it was whenever NCCU played its archrival, North Carolina A&T. It was the Eagles versus the Aggies, and in the home of Martin Jarmond, it was mom versus dad in a battle of alma maters.

The game would be dubbed the Aggie-Eagle Classic or the Eagle-Aggie Classic, depending on the home team. Shunning that tradition, Matt Jarmond always called it the Aggie-Eagle Classic in a nod to his alma mater, A&T, never mind that his wife and mother both went to that other school.

The father’s fanaticism for the blue and gold rubbed off on his son to the point where young Martin just had to root for the Aggies, even if it forced him to hide his preference. Sitting near his mother, Virginia, the family matriarch dressed in the deep maroon of the Eagles, Martin would try not to show his true allegiance.

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USC coach Lincoln Riley gestures on the sideline during the Cotton Bowl in January.
(Sam Hodde / Associated Press)

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: There was no way Lincoln Riley would bite, even if the stats gave him a perfect reason to indulge.

“Do you think this team has the chance to be the best team you’ve ever coached?” a reporter asked this week.

Riley recoiled.

“This team has a chance to be a very good team,” said Riley, who is in second year leading USC and took three teams to the College Football Playoff in his first six seasons as a coach. “But we’re three games in. We’re one conference game in with a lot of things we haven’t done yet that we’re getting opportunities to do so. We’ll get our chance, just like we have every year. If we are [one of my best teams], then we’ll prove it here in the next couple months.”

The No. 5 Trojans (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) cruised into the bye week with blowout wins against San José State, Nevada and Stanford, but opening the season with three consecutive games of 50 points or more for the first time in school history won’t count for much on USC’s final resume. For a team with championship aspirations, the wins were only the beginning.

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San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle runs with the ball during a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

From Sam Farmer: They sit shoulder to shoulder as football commentators but don’t always see eye to eye, especially when it comes to a particularly intense NFL rivalry.

Andrew Whitworth and Richard Sherman, now Prime Video teammates as “Thursday Night Football” analysts, once stood on either side of the sports divide separating Los Angeles and Bay Area.

Whitworth played left tackle for the Rams, Sherman played cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers. Both were All-Pro selections. Both are on track for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

They’re realistic about the landscape — the Rams haven’t beaten the 49ers in the regular season since 2018 — even though they once saw the football world in shades of blue and red. The Rams play host to the 49ers on Sunday.

“It’s hard to call it a rivalry,” said Sherman, who played for the 49ers from 2018 through ‘20. “Because we’ve won all the matchups.”


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Chargers linebacker Joey Bosa chases after the ball during a loss to the Dolphins on Sept. 10.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

From Jeff Miller: In the aftermath of their opening loss, the Chargers’ general disposition matched their performance: boldly graphic and brutally real.

“We’re pissed off,” safety Alohi Gilman said. “None of us like how that went down.”

Believe it, the Chargers’ Week 1 was a weak one, their pass defense buried in an historically bad showing that ended as a 36-34 defeat to Miami.

They were powerless to stop quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins making football a footrace against a secondary that too often appeared to be standing on flat feet.

“It was eye opening for us on defense,” safety Derwin James Jr. said. “It definitely woke a lot of us up.”


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Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler delivers against the New York Mets on June 4, 2022.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

From Mike DiGiovanna: Walker Buehler rounded the final turn in his 13-month rehabilitation from a second Tommy John surgery and appeared to be sprinting down the homestretch when he threw two perfect innings, with his fastball touching 96 mph, for triple-A Oklahoma City against Round Rock on Sept. 3.

But the 29-year-old right-hander who hoped to boost the Dodgers’ beleaguered rotation in the playoffs couldn’t quite make it to the finish line, aborting his comeback because the recovery process was taking longer than he anticipated, and he didn’t want to jeopardize his 2024 season.

“The way I kind of explain it is I feel like I kind of bet on a longshot horse and it ran second,” Buehler said before Wednesday night’s 6-1 loss to the San Diego Padres in Dodger Stadium. “I certainly don’t think it came in last. I got really, really close.

“Whenever you’re in a rehab process, you’re assessing everything. After the game, we just didn’t like the pros and cons of where I was at and kind of moved forward with getting ready for next year.”


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More on the Dodgers: Evan Phillips has a new challenge: ‘You can’t replicate postseason pressure’


Canelo Álvarez greets the crowd during a news conference in Beverly Hills on Aug. 16.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

From Jorge Castillo: A familiar sight will unfold in Las Vegas this Saturday: Mexicans descending on the city for a fight card headlined by a Mexican star on Mexican Independence Day weekend. It’s become a raucous annual pilgrimage going on 30 years, since Julio César Chávez stopped Meldrick Taylor at the MGM Grand in 1994.

But this year comes with a twist. An octagon, not a boxing ring, will be center stage when the UFC hosts an event on the Mexican holiday for the first time in its history. The main event will have Mexican Alexa Grasso, the UFC’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, put her flyweight title on the line in a rematch against Valentina Shevchenko at T-Mobile Arena.

Boxing, for at least one year, has been boxed out from staging the biggest fight card in Las Vegas that night, allowing for a significant milestone for Dana White and his booming mixed martial arts promotion.

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Colorado coach Deion Sanders responds to questions during a news conference on Aug. 4.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

From Chuck Schilken: Colorado State coach Jay Norvell made the odd choice of trying to give Colorado coach Deion Sanders a lesson in etiquette just days before the teams play in the latest edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown.


After what Norvell said about Sanders wearing a hat and sunglasses at news conferences, it sounds like Sanders and the Buffaloes want to teach Norvell and the Rams a different kind of lesson Saturday night in Boulder.

No. 18 Colorado (2-0) has won the last five matchups against its in-state rival (most recently in 2019) and holds a 67-22-2 edge in the series. Colorado State (0-1) hasn’t had a winning campaign since 2017 and is a 23½-point underdog, according to FanDuel.

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1899 — Willie Smith wins the U.S. Open golf title, beating George low, Val Fitzjohn and W.H. Way.

1923 — Bill Tilden wins the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association championship, beating William Johnston in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

1962 — Frank Tripucka of the Denver Broncos passes for 447 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-20 win over the Buffalo Bills.


1971 — Stan Smith wins the U.S. Open title over Jan Khodes and Billie Jean King beats Rosemary Casals for the women’s title. It’s the first time in 16 years both titles were won by U.S. players.

1973 — Three-year-old Secretariat wins the Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap in the then-world record time of 1:45 2-5 for 11/8 miles.

1973 — Archie Griffin of Ohio State starts his NCAA record string of 31 games of rushing for at least 100 yards, leading the Buckeyes to a 56-7 rout of Minnesota in Columbus.

1978 — Muhammad Ali becomes the first three-time heavyweight champion with a unanimous 15-round decision over Leon Spinks at the Superdome in New Orleans.

1991 — The United States women’s gymnastics team makes history with its first team medal — a silver — at the World Championships in Indianapolis.

1995 — Cards shortstop Ozzie Smith sets record of 1,554 double plays.

2002 — Sam Hornish Jr. wins another incredible race at Texas Motor Speedway, and his second straight IRL title. Hornish side-by-side with Helio Castroneves for many of the last 25 laps in the season-ending Chevy 500, crosses the finish line 0.0096 seconds — only a few inches — ahead of the other driver in contention for the season championship. Hornish wins his IRL-record fifth race of the season and becomes the first driver to win two IRL championships.


2002 — Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon begins NFL record-tying (Kurt Warner, Steve Young) streak of 6 consecutive 300-yard passing games, throwing for 403 yards in Raiders’ 30-17 victory at Pittsburgh.

2004 — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announces a lockout of the players union and cessation of operations by the NHL head office.

2012 — LSU beats Idaho 63-14 to give the Tigers an NCAA FBS record 40th-straight non-conference regular season victory. LSU also set a Tiger Stadium mark with 20 straight home wins. Kansas State had 39 straight non-conference regular-season wins from 1993-2003.

2013 — Philip Rivers is 36 of 47 for 419 yards and three touchdown passes to Eddie Royal to lead San Diego to a 33-30 victory at Philadelphia. Michael Vick of the Eagles passes for a career-best 428 yards and two touchdowns and runs for a score.

2017 — The Cleveland has its AL record run stopped at 22 straight games as the Indians are beaten 4-3 by the Kansas City Royals.

2018 — Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores his 500th worldwide goal in the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 5-3 loss to Toronto FC. The 36-year-old Swede joins Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the only active players with 500 goals for in club and international play.


2021 — US gymnasts, including Simone Biles, testify against former team doctor Larry Nassar at a Senate Committee hearing, criticizing a system that allowed it to happen.

2022 — Tennis great Roger Federer announces his retirement from professional tennis at 41 with 20 grand slam wins and 103 ATP titles.

— Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Sure, you’ve seen the script and already know who will win the Super Bowl, but do you know the difference between Sourdough Sam and Captain Fear? Be sure to check out our definitive guide to every NFL mascot.

Until next time...

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