This Week In Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 05/21/2007
A - Anaheim. The Ducks must be living right, because luck is definitely on their side. They have been soundly outplayed by the Red Wings through most of the five games of their series so far, yet they are just one win away from a Finals showdown with Ottawa. Detroit will have to show character to bounce back from the deflating late loss in game five.
B - Belmont. Even if we don't get a Street Sense - Curlin rematch (and that seems doubtful), the third jewel should be a heck of a race. Several good Derby horses are pointing to the race, Curlin and Hard Spun are possible, and the prospect of seeing the incredible filly Rags to Riches, half-sister to last year's winner Jazil, meet up with the boys is almost enough to make me giddy. You don't need a potential Triple Crown to get excited about this race.
C - Curlin. I've been saying for quite a while that this horse is really, really good. It feels good to be right for once. Sure, he only won the Preakness by a couple of whiskers, but it's how he did it that was phenomenal. He had the lead, was passed by a hard charging Street Sense, and had the heart and the skill to dig in and make another charge. You could count the stakes horses in the country on one hand that could do that. This horse is very special.
D - Disgusted. I can only imagine how Todd Pletcher is feeling about himself right now. Two more shots at his first Triple Crown victory in the Preakness, and two more completely inconsequential and underwhelming performances. I am out of words when it comes to trying to explain how someone so good can be so, so bad when it matters most.
E - Erik Bedard. This guy may be the unluckiest pitcher on the planet right now, and not just because he plays for the lousy Orioles. Over his four May starts he has allowed just six runs in 27 innings, for an ERA of 2.00, and he's leading the AL in strikeouts. What does he have to show for it? Absolutely nothing. Thanks to a lack of run support and a poor bullpen, Bedard has five straight no decisions.
F - Federer, Roger. The rumors of his demise were apparently exaggerated. We know he doesn't like to lose, and he especially couldn't be a fan of losing to Nadal again and again on the clay. After firing his coach last week, he reminded Nadal that he is still the king. He lost the first set in the Hamburg final 2-6, but bounced back to win the last two sets 6-2 and 6-0 to end Nadal's 81 game clay winning streak. Wow, is the French Open ever going to be interesting now.
G - Giambi, Jason. You may have thought this story would go away, but thanks to a bizarre steroids statement by Giambi, it again sounds like the Yankees may try to void his contract if he is shown to have used steroids after the ban (which visual evidence would indicate is very likely). On a normal team the loss of a player of his caliber, even now that he's not at his best, would be huge. The Yankees have a bat or two to make up for him, though.
H - Hard Spun. He's been lost in the shuffle, but this horse deserves a lot of credit. He hasn't been quite good enough in the Derby or the Preakness, but he is an incredibly classy and talented horse that would have at least one and maybe two wins in years where there weren't two freakish talents in the races. He'll make a name for himself, and a ton of money, before he is done.
I - Important. Need proof that pitching matters? Looks no further than Saturday's Atlanta-Boston doubleheader. In the first game, Japanese sensation Dice-K lead Boston to a 13-3 win over the raw Anthony Lerew. Atlanta got a confidence boost in the nightcap with John Smoltz on the mound, and Boston took a serious step back by answering with Devern Hansack. Atlanta won 14-0.
J - Jazz. A lot of people jumped on the Jazz on Sunday, but the result seemed to prove that a clear class advantage trumps exhaustion. Utah was much fresher than San Antonio, but the Spurs are just too deep. One highlight for Utah was Deron Williams. With 34 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, Williams is making it easier for Jazz fans to forget about that John Stockton guy.
K - Karma. I would be hard pressed to care less about collegiate lacrosse, but I was thrilled to see that Duke (a team I hate in every other sport) has advanced to the semifinals in dominating style with a win over North Carolina. After all that program has gone through over the last year, no one could deserve it more.
L - Litsch, Jesse. This young Toronto pitcher was like something out of the movies. He got called up from Double-A to make his major league debut on Tuesday, and he came within one out of a complete game, allowing just four hits and one run. The story veered away from the Disney script in his second start on Sunday, though - four runs on seven hits in four innings. Too bad. The Jays desperately need the pitching help.
M - Milwaukee Brewers. I had a sense that the upstart Brewers would fall back to earth at some point, but I'm surprised it has happened so soon. They have won just three of their last 10. They have been outscored 55-38 over that stretch, and 12 of their runs came in one game. Thankfully, though, the combination of the fast start and a lousy division means they still have a cushion on the lead if they can get their act together.
N - Nafzger, Carl. I respect the trainer of Street Sense and Unbridled as much as anyone in the horse business, so it was hard to watch his pain on the weekend. He obviously thought he had won when he turned to his owner at the end of the race, then his face fell. He was obviously bitter and frustrated afterwards, but hopefully he realizes how good the rivalry between his horse and Curlin is and will be. I'd give almost anything to see the two meet up, if not in the Belmont, sometime this summer, and then again at the Breeders' Cup at Monmouth.
O - Ouch. Remember when UMass basketball was relevant? It wasn't that long ago that Marcus Camby took them to the Final Four, and before that Dr. J set all sorts of team records. Well, they're relevant no more. Despite the fact that former Kentucky star Travis Ford is their coach, the Wildcats have chosen to pay $50,000 to buyout the game instead of making the trip to Boston. New Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie is wasting no time making friends.
P - Phoenix Suns. An absolute travesty. That's what happened to my Canadian buddy and his teammates this week. A complete and total joke. I can't even talk about it.
Q - Qualifying, Indy. There is almost nothing in sports as ridiculous as what the Indy 500 qualification process has turned into. Guys who aren't good enough to have a regular ride beg, borrow, or buy their way into a car to try to earn a spot on the grid. And it means nothing. The only impact the inexperienced drivers in second-rate cars have on the race, for the most part, is that they provide more obstacles for the leaders to pass as they lap them.
R - Relentless. The Indians are unbeatable at home. They don't give their opponents a chance. Their 16-4 mark is the best in the history of the team. Unfortunately, the home studs are road duds - they're just 10-11. If they could learn to win while they are sleeping in hotels then they could roll right into the playoffs.
S - Sox. I am all about honesty from sports figures. That's why White Sox GM Kenny Williams is my new hero. His team has been embarrassing, and that's precisely what he said to the press on Sunday morning. The bullpen threw away leads on both Friday and Saturday against cross-town rivals the Cubs. His tantrum won't change anything, but it was still refreshing to hear.
T - Tayshaun Prince. The Detroit defensive specialist could be a hero or a goat in the next two weeks. Guarding LeBron James obviously isn't a one-person job, but Prince is likely to take the lead. If James doesn't perform, or rather is he isn't allowed to perform, then the Pistons win, so this matchup is more important than any other.
U - Unit, Big. For a while at the start of the season, it was tempting to think that maybe time and injuries had caught up with Randy Johnson. Not so much. He was excellent on Tuesday against Colorado, and even better on Sunday against the Pirates. Most impressively on Sunday, he had 10 strikeouts and not a single walk. Arizona desperately needs his help, so the timing couldn't be better.
V - Vick, Michael. This moron keeps digging himself a deeper and deeper hole. I can't see any way that he avoids a suspension at some point this year given the way things are going and the law and order regime of Roger Goodell. I don't have a clue what the Falcons will do if that happens, but I sure know what I'll do - bet against them with relish.
W - WNBA. The new season begun this weekend. That sound you hear is the buzz of no one caring. Several people I respect say that the league is a worthwhile handicapping opportunity. The problem, though, is that to handicap the league you actually have to pay attention to it. I'm not sure if I could possibly make enough profit on the season to make that prospect palatable.
X - Xchanger. I might as well write about this horse one more time while I can, because I doubt we'll see him on the highest national stages again any time soon. On paper he looked outclassed and out of place in the Preakness. He easily lived up to those expectations.
Y - Yankees. The knock on the Yanks is that they have traded away all their young talent for big stars, but they sure have a lot of young arms in the system. Tyler Clippard, who won impressively on Sunday, was, by an approximate count, the 87th different rookie pitcher to start for the Bronx Bombers this year. It's just too bad that so far most have either been underwhelming or they've hit the DL.
Z - Zach Johnson. The Masters champ showed this week he is no one hit wonder by winning the AT&T Classic. Like the Masters, this tourney was in Georgia, so Johnson may never bother playing in any other state again. This win isn't quite as impressive as the last one, though - Johnson was pretty much the biggest name in the field, and that's not saying much.