This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 06/29/2009
A - Albuquerque. Manny Ramirez returned to action in the minors this week in preparation for his return to the pros next week, and as you would expect from him it was a bit of a circus. His first stop was in Albuquerque, where he was hitless in two Triple-A games while generally ignoring the media. A change was in order, so he headed to California to play A-ball. Ever the great teammate, he went 2-for-2 with a home run for the Inland Empire 66ers before leaving the ballpark in the fifth inning.
B - Boston. The Red Sox rotation got a new face this week when John Smoltz joined his new team. The potential for this pairing is high, but things did not start out well. Allowing four earned runs in the first inning is never a good thing, but especially not when you are playing the pathetic Nationals. Smoltz found better form after that, but he still allowed five runs in five innings en route to the loss. It wasn't a disaster - five strikeouts and just one walk - but not as good as it needs to be, either.
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C - Carolina. It might be too much to hope, but the Julius Peppers drama could be over for the Panthers. For now, anyway. Peppers has tried to get out of Carolina for months, but he has now decided he is willing to play this year at the ridiculous price being offered - $16.7 million for one year. Peppers signed the one-year tender this week, and he has even expressed his willingness to explore a long-term deal. The Panthers have a lot of problems, but this is a big one they don't have to worry about anymore.
D - Detroit. Magglio Ordonez enjoyed a rare experience this week - he ht a home run. Though the guy has more than a little power, he hadn't hit a home run over a span of 150 at-bats that extended more than 40 games. Ordonez is no stranger to long bouts of futility - he went 123 at-bats without a round-tripper two years ago. This is the longest drought by a power hitter since Vernon Wells went 160 at-bats last year for the Blue Jays. Ordonez now has just three homers on the season.
E - Encore. Rachel Alexandra returned to the track for the first time since her impressive Preakness victory, and she clearly hadn't missed a stride. She scared off all but four challengers in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont, and then health issues forced two more to scratch on race day. Rachel would have beaten however many she faced that day, though. She didn't break particularly well, and she settled in an unfamiliar position well off the blistering pace. She exploded on the final corner, though, and went on to win by almost 20 lengths in stakes record time.
F - Francis, Steve. This is deja vu all over again. Francis demanded to go to a more exciting locale than Vancouver where he was drafted, and his pouting was ultimately rewarded. Now Spanish point guard sensation Ricky Rubio seems to be trying the same thing. Though he has never actually been to Minneapolis he somehow knows it isn't for him, and he is threatening to stay in Europe if he doesn't end up in somewhere more cosmopolitan like New York. I doubt that I'm the only one who doesn't have enough patience for this garbage.
G - Griffin, Blake. To the shock of absolutely no one, Griffin is now a Los Angeles Clipper. Even the most pathetic team in sports couldn't manage to screw this one up. The team obviously has some holes to fill, but there is a very good chance that Griffin will be an all-star caliber beast in the front court for the next decade or more. That's something to build on, or at least hopefully it is - this is the same team that got pretty much nothing from their last two No. 1 picks, after all.
H - Hewitt, Lleyton. Wimbledon has reached the midway point, and one of the best stories so far has been the resurgence of the once great Australian. He's one of the last 16 standing thanks in large part to a stunning second round upset of fifth-seeded Spaniard Juan Martin Del Potro in straight sets. Hewitt hasn't dropped a set yet, and he looks very much like the guy who has a win and several other deep runs at Wimbledon. He's one win away from what could be a great quarterfinal match with Andy Roddick.
I - International. The story of the latter half of the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday was the number of international players that were drafted surprisingly early. Spaniard Victor Claver to Portland at 22, Rodrigue Beaubois at 25 to Oklahoma City, and 30th pick Christian Eyenga of Cleveland all came off the board well before it was thought they would. It's not ultimately a big surprise, though - none of the players will be ready for the NBA for a couple of years, so the teams can park them in Europe and save the expense of a guarnteed first round contract.
J - Jefferson, Richard. Jefferson has been traded to San Antonio, and he was the centerpiece of a very good week for the Spurs - one that ensures that they will remain a serious contender. On top of the big addition to their front court, the team stole DeJuan Blair far deeper into the second round than he ever should have fallen, picked up a brilliant shooter in Miami's Jack McClinton, and took an intriguing gamble in point guard Nando De Colo, a player who really turned heads at the Eurocamp.
K - Kings. Sacramento hasn't had a lot of positive moments lately, but they can take some solace in the fact that they had a very decent draft. Taking Tyreke Evans when Ricky Rubio was still on the board is a bit of a gamble, but Evans has the potential to be truly special thanks to his blend of athleticism and ferocity. Omri Casspi is the first Israeli draft pick, and he's a guy with massive upside. Washington big man Jon Brockman is a total beast who will be a big fan favorite. The team has never been accused of being tough, but they made real progress on that front with these picks.
L - LSU. The Tigers conquered Omaha this week. LSU crushed Texas, 11-4, in the third and deciding game of the finals of the College World Series to win their sixth title, and their first since 2000. The hero of the game, and of the whole season, was junior right fielder Jared Mitchell. He crushed an inside changeup in the first, almost sending it into orbit and giving his team a 3-0 lead. Mitchell is also a wide receiver, so he now has national championships in two sports.
M - Maria Sharapova. Wimbledon got much less visually interesting to watch this week after Sharapova was stunningly upset in the second round. She lost to Gisela Dulko, an Argentinian veteran. Sharapova is struggling to come back from injury, and this is clear proof that she still has a whole lot of work to do. She made the quarters in the French Open this year, so it's not a total loss, but she has won Wimbledon before so a second round exit is far from acceptable.
N - NHL Draft. The terrible Islanders took a big step towards respectability this week by drafting John Tavares first overall in the NHL Draft. There was some debate over who the top pick would be, but in the end the Canadian center was the clear and obvious choice. He's a truly exciting player - as natural a scorer as a guy can be, and one with the incredible ability to find space where none should be in front of the net. The guy will be a star.
O - Oudin, Melanie. Women's tennis in the U.S. has been about two sisters for a long time now, but there are signs that that could change. Oudin, a 17 year old from Georgia, is using Wimbledon as a coming out party on the world stage. After working her way through qualifying, Oudin has made it through to the second week. The 124th ranked player in the world, who is making her Wimbledon debut, turned heads on Saturday when she upset former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic to make it through to the fourth round.
P - Pronger, Chris. There wasn't as much trade action in the NHL this week surrounding the draft as expected, but there were still some big names in play. The biggest is defenseman Pronger. Anaheim was paying too much money to too many good d-men, so Pronger was expendable. Philadelphia needed to get serious about defense, and they are instantly much more of a contender. The price was reasonable for the Flyers, too - they only had to send the well-travelled Joffrey Lupul back to Anaheim where he began his career along with unproven young defenseman Luca Sbisa. It's a steal if Pronger stays healthy.
Q - Quits. Jeff Jordan seems not to be interested in taking over the family business. Michael's son has decided to give up basketball to concentrate on his studies at Illinois. Though no one was ever going to mistake son for father, the move is a bit of a surprise. After walking on with the Illini instead of taking a scholarship at lesser schools, Jordan had earned a scholarship and had a decent shot at starting this year.
R - Ricky Romero. In Romero, the 24-year-old rookie starter, the Blue Jays could have a special player. He showed us another aspect of his potential this week against the Phillies. He took a no hitter into the seventh and wound up giving up just two hits in seven scoreless innings to move to 5-3 and to drop his ERA to a solid 3.20. Romero is part of the stellar 2005 draft class that is just packed with stars. The same game saw the return to action of Brad Lidge, and that was not nearly as impressive - he allowed two runs while recording just one out.
S - Shaq. The big man has one more legitimate look at a title. The trade that was supposed to happen in February happened this week - Shaq was sent to the Cavs for a couple of contracts and a little cash. O'Neal isn't the player he used to be obviously, but he still is a big upgrade for the team in terms of inside presence. If he can mesh with LeBron and the Cavs' system better than he did in Phoenix then this team could go even further than they did this year.
T - Timberwolves. David Kahn has only been in charge in Minnesota for a month, but it has already been memorable. His first draft strategy was certainly a unique one - to draft every single point guard available. In the end, Minnesota picked four - Rubio, Flynn, Lawson and Calathes. It's not as bad as it seems - Lawson and Calathes are already gone in trades. Still, it's definitely unconventional. Kahn insists that the plan is to play both Flynn and Rubio together in the back court, but I have yet to see a single basketball person say that that seems like a good idea.
U - U.S.A. It was one heck of a story, and it was very, very close to being a truly unbelievable one. Four days after stunning the soccer world with an upset of Spain, the co-favorites for next year's World Cup, the Americans found themselves up 2-0 at the half to Brazil. It wasn't meant to be, though - the Brazilians unleashed all of their power in the scond half, and the Americans couldn't keep up. Still, this Confederations Cup performance is an amazing way to get ready and gain confidence for next year.
V - Vince Carter. Carter has wasted a lot of talent over the years, but now he has absolutely no excuses. He was traded to Orlando this week. There he will be playing in his home town, and he'll be part of the most legitimate contender of his career. Vinsanity has made me too cynical to believe that he will make the most of it, but if he does decide to be a team player then Orlando could be especially dangerous next year - especially if they can find a way to re-sign Turkoglu. The NBA only just ended, but all these trades have me ready for it to start up again.
W - World Series rematch. If the World Series were played again right now then maybe it would have a different result. Tampa Bay and Philadelphia played a three-game rematch of their final last year, and this time the Rays came out on top. They lost the first one, but came back to win the next two. The most interesting aspect was that none of the games were at all close - Philly won 10-2, then lost the next two by a combined 16-5 score.
X - diXon, Scott. Dixon made some IndyCar history on Saturday. He won in Richmond, Virginia, to secure his third win of the year and a record-tying 19th career win, matching Sam Hornish Jr. It's almost impossible to pass on the narrow Richmond track, so Dixon took advantage of the only real opportunity he had to get past teammate Dario Franchitti, making the pass in the pit. The second was enough to move Franchitti, coming off a disastrous move to NASCAR, into the series points lead.
Y - Youngest. It seemed like Joe Gibbs had lost his mind when he let Tony Stewart leave his team and then replaced him with Joey Logano, the driving phenom who is just 19 years old. Well, the gamble is starting to pay off. Logano became the youngest NASCAR winner ever on Sunday when he won the rain-shortened event in New Hampshire. He's 15 months younger than Kyle Busch, the previous record holder, was when he won in 2005.
Z - Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra isn't the only female horse out there with serious game. In fact, I think Zenyatta has even more game. The undefeated five year old mare moved to a perfect 11-for-11 in her career in a dominating win in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park. She unleashed an explosive late move despite being handicapped with significantly more weight than anyone else in the field. More exciting than the win was the news that her owners are interested in facing Rachel Alexandra, and may go to New York or Delaware to do it this summer. The showdown can't happen in Zenyatta's home base of California because Rachel's owner won't run her on a synthetic surface.