This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 04/09/2007
A - Atlanta Braves. What year is this? The Braves were supposed to be past their prime, but they're the hottest team of this very young season. Not only are they 5-1, but they have done it against the Mets and the Phillies. It's way too early to get too excited, but it's definitely an intriguing start, especially since Mike Hampton isn't back as expected.
B - Beilein, John. I'm conflicted. As a Michigan fan I couldn't be happier about this hire. He's a great coach that is going to return my frustrating team to national relevance. As a bettor, though, I don't like it one bit. Michigan has been an ATM against good teams - they just don't win or cover. Beilein means that they may finally play to their potential. That means that the games will actually require handicapping. Pity.
C - Cowtown Cat. One of Todd Pletcher's many, many horses seriously elevated his Derby status with a win in the Illinois Derby. The race has only been a Derby prep since 2001. War Emblem won this one and the Derby in 2002, though, and Sweetnorthernsaint was Derby favorite last year after his win in Illinois, so Cowtown Cat has some pretty serious credibility.
D - Dwyane Wade. D-Wade returned to Miami's lineup on Sunday. It wasn't pretty. He shot badly, including 50 percent from the free throw line, and his team lost. The rust isn't surprising. The question is how long the rust will last, and how healed the shoulder is. It's hard to bet them until we get an idea on both fronts.
E - Eric Gagne. Every Texas Rangers fan in the world will be holding their breath later this week. Gagne is due to come off the DL and hit the Texas bullpen. His health and effectiveness will have a major impact on how good this team is this year.
F - Frenzy. It's been awhile since Washington football has been relevant, but the media frenzy around redshirt freshman QB Jake Locker means that that could change. Spring practice hasn't even started yet and Locker has already been named starter for next season. If he starts well there could be some value on the Huskies for a few games.
G - Gone? Rumors are flying that Tampa Bay may pick Adrian Peterson fourth overall and then trade Cadillac Williams. If that happens then someone needs to get their head examined. Peterson is really good, but so is Williams, and the team has way bigger problems than running back.
H - Huggins, Bob. I know college sports is a business now, and that he's a West Virginia alum and all, but Huggins' decision to leave Kansas State for just one year after landing a monster recruiting class is incredibly slimy. This is further proof that Huggins is everything that is wrong with college sports. You can probably decrease your expectations of the Wildcats for next year.
I - Irrelevant. A lot of ink is being spilled over the race for the last playoff spot in the NBA West. The Clippers have the spot, but Golden State and New Orleans want it. Who cares? Talking about this is a total waste of time. None of those teams stands a chance of being even remotely competitive with Dallas. None of the teams are even at .500.
J - Johan Santana. Last year Santana started out with three losses and a no decision before evolving into a Cy Young-winning beast. This year he has started with two straight wins, including an incredibly dominant seven inning one hitter on Sunday. It almost seems unfair to batters. Clearly he's over his problems from the end of last season.
K - Kazmir, Scott. Man, does this guy ever need to get out of Tampa Bay. He's way too good to be wasting away in baseball hell. The Blue Jays have some serious bats, but Kazmir struck out eight of them in the first three innings on Sunday. He lost the game because, well, he plays for the Devil Rays. But it was an impressive performance nonetheless.
L - Listless. The Mavericks have absolutely nothing to play for - they've clinched the best record in the league, and they'll just want to stay healthy heading into the playoffs in a couple of weeks. Likely the only thing to do for the rest of the season is ignore them and get ready for the playoffs. You can't bet on a team when you don't know if they'll bother to show up, especially when they've been so bad against the spread the last month or so.
M - Matt Serra. The UFC has a new welterweight champion, and anyone who saw it coming has significantly more money in their pocket because of it. Serra upset Georges St. Pierre in what UFC president Dana White called one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport.
N - Nobiz Like Shobiz. This horse is like a yoyo. He looked very promising in the Holy Bull, was a disaster in the Fountain of Youth, and now this weekend he won the Wood Memorial in impressive fashion. The race was odd - there was no pace at all, and Nobiz was put in a choke hold early to keep him off the lead. Despite that he looked strong in the stretch and held off a hard charge from Sightseeing. A lot of people are going to like this horse in Kentucky.
O - Optimistic. David Carr is a Carolina Panther. I think that they will be very happy with him. He'll finally be protected in the pocket, he'll enjoy having more than one passing option and he's out of a bad situation in Houston. The Panthers have perhaps the best quarterbacking 1-2 punch in the league. Neither Carr nor Delhomme is a superstar, but the team won't miss a beat if they suffer an injury.
P - Panic? The Giants are 1-5. Barry Bonds seems to have forgotten how to bat. The very expensive Barry Zito has been a disaster - two losses and an 8.18 ERA. They are on the road for eight games. Things are not looking good at all.
Q - Question. Which is more interesting - that the Washington Nationals seem to be at least as bad as it looked like they could be, or that oddsmakers seem to be providing bargains on their opponents so far? Until one or both things change, a blind bet against the Nationals may not be a bad idea.
R - Raptors. Maybe it's because I'm a Canadian, but I love how Toronto is playing these days. It would be understandable if they were to collapse after the loss of Jorge Garbajosa for the season, but they are thriving. They've clinched a playoff spot, and now they want more. Chris Bosh got his eighth straight double-double on Sunday, Joey Graham and the very underrated Anthony Parker got career highs in points and Juan Dixon is playing like he's back in Maryland. They've won eight of 10, and they could make some noise in the playoffs.
S - Stanley Cup. The long, grueling road to the Cup starts this week. It's wide open, especially in the East. I don't have a good sense of a lot that is going to happen, but I am confident about two things - The Calgary Flames, my hometown team, are going to get crushed by Detroit, and Pittsburgh is going to be exciting to watch.
T - Tiago. Get used to hearing this name. Not only did he win the Santa Anita Derby, but his half-brother is Giacomo, the 2005 Derby winner. He's an intriguing horse, but his chances aren't good. Winning the Santa Anita is like a Derby curse recently, and Tiago, a 29/1 winner, will have to find a reserve of class to be competitive in Louisville.
U - Unit, Big. Randy Johnson moved a step closer to the majors with another class-A rehab start this weekend. He isn't quite ready yet, but Arizona hopes he gets ready soon because they sure need him. Despite his quirks, I'm pretty sure the Yankees would love to have him back, too.
V - Verlander, Justin. At times this spring it looked like the rookie phenom was headed for a sophomore slump. His first start told another story. Six innings, two hits, no earned runs. Too many walks (5), but still impressive. He didn't win, but only because his team was totally incompetent offensively.
W - Woods, Tiger. Given that Tiger had the lead on Sunday and let it slip away, and that he looked decidedly mortal as he hit it into trees, the water and all sorts of other spots that I'm very familiar with, it will be tempting for some to suggest that there may be a crack in the Tiger Myth. Don't buy it. My bet is that he regroups and eats the field alive in the U.S. Open. He may have looked human, but that doesn't mean that he actually is.
X - X marks the ballot. My MVP vote (not that I have one) is clearly for Steve Nash. He has two more assists per game than any other player in the league. That's astounding. He has 50 double-doubles. His team has been impressive all year - except for when he missed action with a sore shoulder. No player means more to his team than Nash. Not even Dirk.
Y - Yikes. Caron Butler's injury was bad luck for the Washington Wizards. Gilbert Arenas' injury is fatal. I don't know what this team did to deserve this, but they are clearly cursed. This changes the Eastern Conference playoffs fundamentally.
Z - Zach Johnson. If you say you picked Johnson to win the Masters, I say you're lying. He may have come from nowhere, and he doesn't have a ton of practice winning tournaments, but he sure was impressive on Sunday. With Tiger chasing him, Johnson was cool as ice despite unprecedented pressure and tricky conditions. Very impressive.