This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 07/17/2007
A - Anaheim. The Stanley Cup champs and the Los Angeles Kings will start the NHL season with two games in London. You probably don't care about hockey (unless you are a Canadian and it is a condition of citizenship), but two games on foreign soil will create an interesting handicapping challenge. It will certainly make the first weekend of the season more interesting.
B - Big Papi. Boston can't be feeling very good about the news that David Ortiz has a bum knee that will need surgery at the end of the year. The Red Sox can probably cruise right into the playoffs, but they need Ortiz and his bat if they want to do some postseason damage. If the knee can't hold up for the rest of the year then the American League would be even more wide open than it already is.
C - Chauncey Billups. Detroit did a very good thing by extending their point guard for five years, and they have to be happy with the price they paid. With Billups in place at a reasonable price, the team should be able to afford to stay competitive in the lame East for years to come.
D - Dwight Freeney. The Colts made Freeney the highest paid defensive player in the league this week, but I'm not sure how positive it will be for the champs in the long run. He's locked up, but a good portion of the rest of the defense has left town. They weren't the best defensive unit in the world, but losing so many players and committing so much to one player won't improve them.
E - Extension. Travis Hafner signed on with the Indians for four more years and $57 million. In the long run Cleveland did the right thing, but Hafner must be thanking his lucky stars that he was able to cash in despite having a pretty uninspiring first half. Maybe the new contract will ignite his offense. A Cleveland team that is already pretty good could be dynamite if that happens.
F - Franchise, Stevey. In a sign that the Trail Blazers' future is bright, management made the right decision - they bought out Steve Francis. That gets him off their books, and it keeps jim out of their young and very promising dressing room. Francis is a decent player, but he showed what kind of a man he was as soon as he refused to join Vancouver when he was drafted. Good riddance.
G - Gatti, Arturo. The king is dead. In a stunning and sad turn of events, Arturo Gatti, one of the most exciting fighters of our lifetime, retired on Saturday after getting beaten to a bloody pulp by Alfonso Gomez, a product of The Contender. Gatti's fights with Micky Ward were as good as boxing can be, and a warrior like Gatti deserves to go out in better fashion than this.
H - Henderson, Rickey. Nothing that happened this week makes me happier than the news that Rickey Henderson is back in the majors. Sure, he's just the batting coach for the Mets, but it's only a hop, skip and a jump from there to the active roster. Rickey is a national treasure, and baseball is better when he is in the majors somewhere.
I - Ichiro Suzuki. He's not only probably the best pure hitter in the major leagues, but he is now a very rich man that is destined to stay in Seattle for years to come. Mariners' management did exactly what they should have done, but that wouldn't have made it any easier for them to watch him get hurt with a Justin Verlander pitch to the knee.
J - Jesse Litsch. This Toronto rookie pitcher is intriguing. He came up from Double-A and threw an absolute gem, but then he went into the tank and was demoted. He's been back in the bigs for two games now. First time out he was solid against Oakland. On Sunday he went into Fenway and threw a beauty, out-pitching Josh Beckett for an upset win. The Jays have always had pitching depth issues, but Litsch may soon be a long-term solution in the third or fourth starter spot.
K - Kansas City Royals. The lowly Royals are a remarkably solid 18-14 in their last 32. That's not great, but for this franchise it's worthy of celebration. The biggest single reason for this surprising turn-around is the bullpen. A relief squad that was as bad as a unit can be to start the season has suddenly found themselves and have turned into one of the top bullpens.
L - Lundqvist, Henrik. The young Rangers goalie became the latest member of the team to cash in with a big contract. Between this and the addition of big-ticket players like Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, this team is locking themselves into a tight spot financially. It will be fine as long as they are a good team, but it could be ugly in Manhattan if the team struggles, because it won't be an easy problem to fix.
M - Marc Bulger. The Rams quarterback wants a new contract, and he is threatening to hold out of training camp if he doesn't get one. That's probably an empty threat, but it is worth watching. The Rams strike me as fairly fragile anyway, and they could be in real trouble if they don't have the chance to develop their offense with their QB in camp.
N - Nice. Seattle Sonics fans have to be pretty excited about the future. In the final game of the meaningless Summer League, Kevin Durant finally broke out of his shooting slump and potted 28 points. Teammate Jeff Green had 32 more. Durant struggled, yet he still averaged more than 23 points per game. Needless to say, the kid is pretty darned good.
O - Oklahoma. The Sooners have been punished for their transgressions by being forced to erase the eight wins they had in 2005 from the record books. That's the stupidest punishment in the history of punishments. The 2005 season was a serious disappointment so removing it from existence is a good thing. If you wanted to really punish the team you would force them to watch tape of the season every day. Now, if USC had to forfeit the 2005 season for their Bush problems...
P - Phil Mickelson. This is not how Lefty wanted to get ready for the British Open. He bogied three of the last five holes in the Scottish Open to come from a head to lose in a playoff. Phil hasn't been finishing particularly well this year, and that could weigh heavily on his mind going into a major that has been notorious for cruel late collapses over the years.
Q - Quit. Roy Jones, Jr. used to be the best boxer alive. Then he got old, and his decline was obvious to everyone. Except, obviously, him. After a disgraceful string of losses and a retirement, Jones is making a comeback. He beat Anthony Hanshaw to win the IBC Light Heavyweight title, but Jones lacked the power and explosiveness that once made him great. Please, Roy, just quit and let us live with our happy memories of the past.
R - Ridiculous. The Phillies lost their 10,000th game as a franchise on Sunday, and the media is having a heyday talking about it. This is quite possibly the most meaningless stat ever. All it means is that they are a really old franchise. It certainly isn't worth the attention that it is getting.
S - Slump. Barry Bonds doesn't have a hit in his last 20 at bats, and he melted down on Sunday night when the press asked him about it. I don't often hope for other's misfortune, but this slump is probably the best thing in my life right now.
T - Tiago. It seemed like it wouldn't happen at all this year, but a West Coast three year old may actually be asserting himself. After a somewhat disappointing Triple Crown trail, the horse returned to California to regroup. Tiago returned this weekend in the Swaps, and he won easily. That should be enough to earn him another shot at the elite of the class in on the big east coast late summer stakes.
U - Unlucky. In yet another sign that this is not the Oakland A's year, Rich Harden has gone back onto the disabled list with a shoulder problem. Harden is a great pitcher, and Oakland just doesn't seem to have the depth to overcome his absence. The team has always relied on strong pitching, and their staff just isn't all they need to be.
V - Venus. The Americans lost their Fed Cup match to Russia, but Venus Williams was dynamite. Her solid performance on the heels of her Wimbledon triumph is a hopeful sign that she may have her head together and could play at her potential for a while. That could be fun to watch and profitable to bet on.
W - World Series of Poker. The Main Event is down to the final table of nine players, with the winner taking home more than $8 million on Tuesday. There were all sorts of interesting prop bets available on the field if you wanted some action on the massive event, but that pales in comparison to the crazy action that the players themselves probably had on the game. Those guys throw a hundred grand around like I throw five bucks.
X - eXcitement. Luke Tournier won the Rangeland Derby at the Calgary Stampede on Sunday. For those not in the know, that's the biggest chuckwagon race in the world, and you can bet on it if you look hard enough. My hometown is the world center for chuckwagon racing, and if you have never seen it you really need to. Imagine four big wagons being pulled by four thoroughbreds each, with four more thoroughbreds chasing each wagon around a figure eight and then around the track. 32 horses and four wagons going flat out on a tight 5/8 mile track - bloody brilliant chaos.
Y - Yankees. The soap opera continues. In this week's installment, the team says that they are willing to renegotiate A-Rod's contract during the season. That's a serious departure from their previous stance that they weren't interested in renegotiating at all. Every soap needs a twist, and in this case it's that Rodriguez has no interest in listening to the offers. This whole thing could be another challenge for locker room harmony on a struggling team.
Z - Zzzz. The All-Star Game was as interesting as always. There is nothing better than watching disinterested starting pitchers throwing for one inning of relief. If it weren't for Ichiro Suzuki then the whole game would have been a total waste. I don't know how to make the game any more interesting. Maybe I should just quit watching it.