This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 1/25/2010
A - Angels. The Angels have had a lousy, bizarre offseason, and it didn't get any better this week. They made two deals, and both are head scratchers. First, they committed $16 million over two years to add Joel Pineiro to their rotation. Pineiro theoretically replaces John Lackey in the rotation, but he's a significant step down. Second, the team was so desperate to get rid of Gary Matthews Jr. and his contract that they not only traded him to the Mets, but they agreed to pay $21.5 million of the $23 million remaining. That means that the Mets got the biggest bargain of the year.
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B - Bowling. I have never written about bowling, and it's quite possible that I never will again. This is interesting, though - Kelly Kulick became the first woman to ever win on the men's PBA Tour this weekend. She won the PBA Women's World Championship last year, and that earned her a spot in the PBA Tournament of Champions - the tourney she won this weekend. Now Kulick has a two-year exemption on the PBA Tour, so she has a real chance to make women's athletic history (if you consider bowlers athletes).
C - Capitals. The NHL's premier matchup these days happens when Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby meet up as they did on Thursday night. The Penguins knocked the Capitals out of the playoffs the last time the two teams met. This time Washington got some revenge with a 6-3 win. Crosby had a goal in the loss, but he was trumped by Ovechkin who had two goals and an assist. Evgeni Malkin had been struggling in recent weeks, but this was his second straight three point game.
D - Duke. The Blue Devils have been stronger than many expected so far this year. On Wednesday, though, they suffered their biggest and most frustrating loss. NC State pulled off the upset when they beat Duke by 14 at home. It's only the second time in 21 tries that Duke has lost to an unranked team. The bigger concern for Coach K and his boys, though, is that it was the sixth time in the last eight tries that they have lost a road conference contest.
E - Edwards, Braylon. Edwards has had a tumultuous year, but early in the second quarter on Sunday he showed why he is so valuable. Edwards made a stunning move to create an opportunity, and he capitalized on it to score an 80-yard TD that captured the momentum and keyed a potent quarter for the Jets. Unfortunately, the Jets lost every ounce of that momentum at the half and limped to a underwhelming loss.
F - Friesan Fire. It's been a long while, but last year's Kentucky Derby favorite finally found the winner's circle again. His last win came in the Louisiana Derby, a key Kentucky Derby prep. In the Derby he was a lukewarm first choice and finished a terrible 18th. This time out he won the Louisiana Handicap. He was clearly being held back until the top of the stretch when he exploded to the lead and then held off a challenge from General Quarters, another Triple Crown competitor from last year.
G - Garnett, Kevin. The Celtics' star was welcomed back on Friday after missing 10 games due to injury, and the team was clearly happy to have him. He only scored 13 points, but his presence was a boost to the team as they broke a three-game skid and beat the Trail Blazers. Garnett's health is going to be a key story over the rest of the year - the team is 23-7 when he plays, and just 5-6 when he isn't dressed.
H - Haiti. Like everyone, NBA players have been struck hard by the tragedy in Haiti, and several have done their part to do what they can do. Philadelphia's Samuel Dalembert, a Haitian, made a quick trip home between games last week, and has been a vocal advocate and generous supporter. On Friday, 10 players led by Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol donated $1000 for each point they scored. That effort led to $135,000 in support.
I - Indianapolis. It took the Colts a long time to look like a top team on Sunday, but in the end their class clearly shone through and it wasn't much of a contest. The Colts' run defense was under attack before the game, but it was remarkable effective during the game - especially once Shonn Greene was injured. Not surprisingly, the ultimate key to success was the play of Peyton Manning. It's not that hard to win a game when your QB throws for 277 yards and three TDs while avoiding any mistakes.
J - Jason Spezza. The Ottawa Senators have had impossibly bad luck with injuries this year. They have to be very relieved that their two best players - Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson - are finally healthy and back in action. Spezza returned on Saturday and made an immediate impact, scoring a second period goal as the Sens beat Boston 2-1. It was the sixth straight win for the team. With the top line back in place this will continue to be a team to watch.
K - Kobe. It was a week with a few good notes and a boatload of frustration for Kobe Bryant. First, the good - Bryant scored 31 on Thursday to become the youngest player ever to score 25,000 in a career. The bad news is that that wasn't enough to win the game, and Kobe has to hate losing to the Cavs with LeBron and Shaq. Then, on Sunday the Lakers were upset by the Raptors and Kobe couldn't stop it. He had a chance to win it at the buzzer with an open three, but he couldn't find the bucket.
L - Losers. The Knicks are, without question, pathetic losers. On Sunday afternoon they found the ultimate way to show it by setting two dubious records. By losing by 50(!) points at home to the Mavs they established the record for the worst loss in Madison Square Garden history, and the record for the biggest margin of victory in Dallas history. Dallas had wide open shots all day, and they capitalized on it - they shot 58 percent from the field, and almost 55 percent from three-point range.
M - Memphis. The Tigers have owned Conference USA for years. They are still the best team in the conference, but they showed their first sign of vulnerability in years - after 64 consecutive conference wins, Memphis finally lost when they fell at home to UTEP on Wednesday. The Tigers were tied with the 1945-50 Kentucky Wildcats for the most wins ever, so they fell one game away from the record. Incredibly, this is the first time that anyone on the team - including the seniors - has ever felt the sting of a conference loss.
N - New Orleans. The Saints didn't win pretty, and they certainly didn't win handily, but the important thing is that they made the most of their 13-3 start and are headed to the Super Bowl. The stats weren't stunning - Drew Brees could have been much more efficient, and the running game was lousy - but they had the heart to get it done, and they got the luck they needed. Most significantly, the defense did an incredible job of forcing turnovers and capitalizing on opportunities.
O - Open, Australian. The first Grand Slam event of the tennis year is underway, and so far it hasn't offered a pile of surprises. There were some upsets early on the women's side, but things have settled down since, and the best players on both sides are making their way through the draw. Roger Federer looked rough in his opening contest, but proved yet again just how good he is when he destroyed Lleyton Hewitt in three lopsided sets in the fourth round. He's still the one to beat - just like the Williams sisters are.
P - Phillips, Wade. This absolutely stuns me. After the Cowboys not only lost to the Vikings but were humiliated in the process I expected that Jerry Jones would fire Wade Phillips with vicious speed. Jones must be getting soft, because instead of firing his coach he gave him an extension. Phillips is now signed through the 2011 season - a stunning reality for a coach who has been under attack sine he was fired and who doesn't have anything but disappointments and underperformance to show for his time on the job.
Q - Quite ridiculous. NASCAR is seeing declines in public interest, and they have taken an odd step in an effort to try to attract more interest. Knowing that their fans are bloodthirsty, NASCAR has loosened its contact rules significantly for the coming season. We'll first see the new rules in place at Daytona - bump-drafting will be allowed, and the largest restrictor plate they have used in more than 20 years means that drivers will have more power to bump with.
R - Rose, Derrick. Last year's Rookie of the Year didn't jump out of the gate this season, but lately he has proven just how good he is, and how how good he can be. Rose has piled up three of his four career 30+ point games in January, including two in his last five games. He has sunk more than half of his shots this month as well, and is playing with the most poise and determination that he ever has. The Bulls are benefiting from the play. They still aren't great, but they are clearly improving.
S - Shrine Bowl. The lesser of the two major college football all-star games for draft-eligible seniors is now in the books. The East team won the game when Northwestern QB Mike Kafka ran a very solid two minute drill to score the winning TD on a two-yard pass with six seconds left. The heroics earned Kafka the offensive MVP award, with the defensive award going to Van Eskridge of East Carolina. The oddest part of the game was the choice of halftime entertainment - Kenny G and football don't seem like a natural pairing.
T - Tar Heels. North Carolina badly needs to find a way to stop the bleeding. We knew that there was going to be a hangover after losing Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough, but it shouldn't be this bad - they have now lost four of five, including uncharacteristic consecutive home losses. Of the six worst losses in Roy Williams' time at UNC, three have now happened this year, and two of those have come in the last two weeks. The team fell out of the rankings this week - the first time they have done so since January of 2006.
U - UConn. It should have been a rough week for UConn - off of some frustrating losses the team was hit with the news that coach Jim Calhoun was taking an immediate leave to deal with a personal medical issue. It turns out that a little adversity was just what they needed - they got a massive home win over No. 1 Texas, and they did it by dominating the second half by 22 points. Connecticut had fallen out of the rankings for one week, but this win was obviously enough to get them back in the standings.
V - Vikings. They came close, oh so close, but in the end Minnesota just couldn't get it done. The frustrating part for the Vikings' players and fans is that the game was theirs for the taking but they threw it away. Favre threw two interceptions including one that was stunningly bad, and the team put the ball on the ground six times and lost the fumbles three times. If they had managed to hold on to any one of those interceptions - especially the ones in the red zone - then they would be heading to Miami.
W - Winslow Homer. The long, glorious road to the Triple Crown always gets going in earnest in my mind with the Holy Bull Stakes. The winner is the first contender to legitimately prove himself against top competition as a three year old. This year that distinction goes to Winslow Homer. The colt's trainer was concerned that the one mile, one turn distance was too short for the horse, but he made a beautiful move throw traffic around the turn to take the lead and hold on despite intense pressure.
X - Xavier. It wasn't a great week for the mascots of our column. They got a weekend win over Rhode Island, but that was overshadowed by a loss at 17th-ranked Temple on Wednesday that could be very costly. It's the only time the teams play, and the loss gives Temple a big edge in the hunt for the A-10 title. Xavier now drops to 1-2 against ranked opponents this year - a record that could be a challenge in the pursuit of an at-large bid.
Y - Yikes. The Raiders are, very predictably, a total mess. After speculation ran rampant over the last couple of weeks over who would be the next coach of the Raiders, Al Davis has apparently made the decision to keep Tom Cable on the job. Keeping Cable around is a questionable decision at the best of times, and the fact that the indecision about his future has badly hurt his credibility and respect within the organization certainly won't help him next year.
Z - Zzzzz. The Vikings are out, so the most boring melodrama in sports gets to start again. Brett Favre has already indicated that it is highly unlikely that he will return for another season next year. This will soon be followed by a tearful retirement and repeated assurances that this time it is for real. It will be for real, too - at least until late August when he returns to training camp for yet another pre-retirement season. Yawn.