This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 5/3/2010
A - Atlanta. The resurrection of the Hawks may not be complete, but it sure is moving in the right direction. After winning their first two games at home, Atlanta dropped three in a row to the pesky Bucks, but they were able to get their act together to win the last two and move onto a second round meeting with Orlando. The most impressive part of the series came from a Milwaukee player, though - Jerry Stackhouse did an impressive rendition of the national anthem before the sixth game.
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B - Borel, Calvin. Borel is making a mockery of the Kentucky Derby. He's a good jockey, but for much of the year he's probably not considered among the very elite in the world. On the first Saturday in May, though, there is no one better. Borel won his third Kentucky Derby in four years - an unprecedented streak - when he piloted Super Saver to the finish line first. The most stunning thing about his success is that he keeps getting away with it - he has a one-dimensional, rail hugging approach to the race, but no one tries to stop him.
C - Colby Lewis. Cliff Lee made his debut for the Mariners on Friday night, and he was worth the wait - three hits in seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. The problem was, though, that Lewis, the Rangers' starter, was better. He allowed just three hits and struck out 10 in nine scoreless innings. Lewis is back from a self-imposed exile in Japan, and the results have been impressive. Neither guy got a decision despite their strength - Texas broke the scoreless tie to win 2-0 in 12.
D - Dallas. There must be something about Dallas. The Cowboys have an impossibly rich owner who spends lavishly, but they always find a way to disappoint. The Mavericks match them on every front. Dallas came into these playoffs with high expectations - they had the second best record in the West, they were hot down the stretch, and they should have done some damage. Instead, they rolled over and offered just a weak fight in losing to the under-powered Spurs in just six games.
E - Emmert, Mark. For the first time since the death of Myles Brand in September, the NCAA has a new president. Emmert, currently the president of the University of Washington, takes over on Nov. 1. He was an unexpected choice, but not a surprising one - he is one of the best fundraisers in the country. Emmert faces a massive challenge as the NCAA tries to balance expansion to satisfy money-hungry member schools with the integrity of their central sports.
F - Floyd Mayweather. Money's back, and it's like he never left. Mayweather had a rough start to his match with Shane Mosley, and was rocked in the second round. It's like that hit woke him up, though, because he was almost flawless after that point, toyed with Mosely in the later rounds, and won a convincing unanimous decision. Here's hoping that the fight was a step towards the only fight that matters - a mega-showdown with Manny Pacquiao.
G - Gordon, Jeff. Jeff Gordon seems like he may never win another race again. He has lost 39 straight races, though it hasn't been for lack of opportunities. He's finished second eight different times over that stretch, with the most recent time coming at Richmond this weekend. Gordon led 144 laps in the second half of the short-track race, but couldn't hold on through the last restart and was passed by Kyle Busch. Busch had dominated the first half of the race, so it was fitting that he won it in the end - and snapped a 21-race losing streak of his own.
H - Halladay, Roy. For a couple of days it seemed like the Phillies' new ace was perhaps mortal. He had a very rough outing on Monday, allowing five earned runs in seven innings to lose to the Giants. He erased any doubts next time out, though. Against the Mets on Saturday he posted his third compete game and second shutout of the season to move to 5-1 and drop his ERA to just 1.47. As good as he is, his biggest impact may be on his bullpen - he has averaged more than eight innings per start, so the pen is fresher and sharper than they could be.
I - Inevitable. Sooner or later Todd Pletcher was going to win a Kentucky Derby. He'd entered 24 horses without a win coming into Saturday, and four more entered the gates this year. Pletcher has one of the biggest and most loaded stables in the country, and his focus on two and three year olds is the most intense of any part of his business, so it was bound to happen sooner or later. I just hope that he uses some of the money that this win will get him to buy himself a personality.
J - Jason Heyward. Heyward came into the season as one of the most hyped rookies we have seen in a decade. The Atlanta star certainly hasn't disappointed. In fact, he's a bit of a freak. He's only 20, but he has 23 RBI in 24 games, has seven of those RBI in his last four games to break out of a short slump, and has already established a habit of performing under pressure. The guy is really, really, really good.
K - Kansas City. Last year Zack Greinke jumped out to a lightning fast start and never really looked back on the way to the Cy Young. This year you'd think he'd forgotten how to pitch if you looked at his 0-3 record, and you might think that he was just a flash in the pan. A closer look, though, shows that he's still a very good pitcher who just needs an infusion of luck. On Sunday he allowed just one run on four hits in eight walk-free innings, but lost 1-0. Four times this year he has allowed two runs on fewer in six or more innings, yet the team has been unable to win any of the games.
L - LeBron. The King's reign has been extended for a second year - James became the 10th player to win consecutive MVP awards this week. He wasn't a unanimous winner, but it was close - he earned 116 of 123 first-place votes, along with five seconds and two thirds. Kevin Durant earned four of the remaining first place votes and finished second, while Dwight Howard earned the last three and finished fourth behind Kobe Bryant. At his award acceptance ceremony, which was more of a carnival, James made some statements that can be interpreted by Cavs' fans as hints that he intends to re-sign with the team this summer.
M - Montreal. The Habs are giving me a headache. They were barely talented enough to make the playoffs, yet they have already knocked off the best team in the league in Washington, and they have taken home ice advantage away from Pittsburgh in the second round. It's all being done on the back of goalie Jaroslav Halak. He was a star for Slovakia at the Olympics, and his hot touch has extended to the playoffs. He hasn't been unbeatable, but he bounces back from rough outings with a vengeance, and has made more than a few incomprehensible saves.
N - Nash, Steve. The Suns beat the Blazers with relative ease, and look good against the Spurs, but only if their point guard and floor general is ready to go. Unfortunately, that is no certainty. Nash hurt his hip in the shootaround before Game 3 of the Portland series, and struggled at time the rest of the way - especially in the first half of Game 5. He sat out of practice on Saturday and Sunday, and his status is uncertain now - he'll play, but there are questions about his potential effectiveness.
O - Orlando. There was only one sweep in the first round of the NBA playoffs and, somewhat surprisingly, it came from Orlando against Charlotte. The Magic didn't look like a serious contender for much of the season, but they were red hot down the stretch, and they carried that momentum into the playoffs. There were several striking things about the series win, but perhaps the most impressive was the play of Vince Carter - he led the team in scoring in two of the four games, and looks like a man who knows that this could be his last best chance of getting a title.
P - Parity. Parity is an overused word in sports, but it's hard not to think it applies to the Eastern Conference in the NHL right now. The top three seeds in the conference were all eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, and two of the three fell without much of a fight. It would have made much more sense for this to happen in the West where the teams were much more tightly packed in the standings - the East was much more spread out, and looked to be more clear-cut heading int the playoffs.
Q - Quail Hollow. Tiger did not have the weekend he was hoping to have in his second post-scandal tournament. More accurately, he didn't have the Thursday and Friday he was hoping to have, so he didn't even get a shot to play on the weekend. Ugly. Rory McIlroy ran away with a five-stroke victory. Phil Mickelson showed that the Masters was no fluke with a second-place finish. He could move into No. 1 in the world for the first time if he were to win The Players Championship with Tiger finishing outside of the top five.
R - Ryo Ishikawa. Ishikawa, the Japanese 18 year old, has been talked about as the next big thing for a while in golf. On Sunday he showed again why people believe that. Ishikawa carded a 58 - the lowest score ever recorded on a major tour anywhere in the world - to win his seventh career Japanese Tour title. He still has some work to do make the big time, though - he missed the cut by a stroke at the Masters last month.
S - Super Saver. I give mountains of credit to any horse that can overcome all of the challenges and win the Kentucky Derby. That being said, I've been far more impressed with a lot of winners in the past than I was with Super Saver. He won in a time that was almost impossibly slow, and he benefited from a near-perfect trip. Ice Box was flying at the finish line and would have passed him in no time - and that was after that horse had overcome a lousy trip down the stretch. I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't see this horse as a serious Triple Crown threat.
T - Tampa Bay. They don't have the payroll or the star power to match the heavy hitters in their division, but the Rays have made it through April with the best record in baseball. It's not hard to figure out why - no team has scored more runs, and only three teams have allowed fewer runs. When you score almost 2.7 more runs per game than your opponents then you are going to win more than your share. The only real knock on their performance so far is that they are 1-2 against the Yankees.
U - Utah. Technically, Utah's series win over Denver was an upset - Denver was the higher seeded team with the home court advantage. It wasn't your typical upset, though - the teams had identical regular season records, and Denver was forced to play without Nene at center or George Karl behind the bench. Whatever the reason, Denver just never looked sharp in the series. Now Utah plays the Lakers for the fifth time. The winner of each of the first four series has gone on to reach the Finals.
V - Virginity. I did something I never thought I would do on Sunday - I went to a MLS game. I wasn't planning to, but while wandering around Seattle I came across a pre-game celebration so frenzied that I couldn't help but buy a ticket to the Sounders game. I'm glad I did. I've never cared about the league, and still won't, but it was a heck of a show. There were 37,000 screaming fans in Qwest Field, and they never sat down the whole game. There was screaming and singing, a big band, and a whole lot of fun. If you haven't checked out a game and you are nearby then I recommend it.
W - Wings. Detroit got to play the role of dream killer in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Phoenix had captured the hearts of fans with their unexpected play throughout the season, but in the end they just weren't quite good enough to get past the more experienced, more skilled Red Wings. Detroit looks like they paid a price for that tough win, though - they lost the first two games to San Jose in the second round, and return home in a deep hole.
X - eXposed. The Washington Capitals became the second consecutive President's Trophy winner - awarded to team with the most points in the regular season - to lose in the first round. How it happened this time is incomprehensible. Washington was, by far, the more talented team in the series against Montreal. They just never really seemed to be mentally into the games, though, and Alexander Ovechkin and coach Bruce Boudreau never seemed to be on the first page. Back to the drawing board, I guess. On the plus side, at least this spared them the embarrassment of getting eliminated by the Penguins yet again.
Y - Yikes. The Twins are atop the AL Central, but they got the worst news possible over the weekend - Joe Mauer is injured. What we do know is that he has a heel injury. What we don't know, though, is how long he'll be out of action. The official word seems to be that it could only be a few days, but in a radio interview manager Ron Gardenhire hinted that it could be a much more serious injury that could keep him out of action for a few weeks.
Z - Zito, Barry. I don't want to speak too soon, but it certainly seems possible that the San Francisco Giants finally have the type of pitcher that they paid so much for. Zito was brilliant again for the Giants on Friday against the Rockies to move to 4-0 in five starts with an ERA of just 1.53. He's pitching with a confidence and swagger that he has lacked since Oakland, and his once pinpoint control is back in strong form.