This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 07/31/2007
A - ArenaBowl. A lot of people won't have realized that the ArenaBowl was played in New Orleans this weekend, and fewer probably realize that the San Jose SaberCats are building a dynasty. The win was San Jose's third in six years. It was a case of the class of the league (The SaberCats haven't lost in 3 1/2 months) beating the upstarts from Columbus (they were just 10-10, and had to beat a first, second and third seed to make the final).
B - Buehrle, Mark. Apparently karma isn't thrilled with the huge new contract the White Sox ace signed to keep him in Chicago. He returned to action at home for the first time since the ink dried this week. His first pitch was a juicy mistake that went deep. That was the start of a disastrous outing in which he gave up seven runs on 14 hits while lasting into the seventh. Buehrle has a sick grandmother and a very pregnant wife, so his mind clearly, and understandably, wasn't on his job despite the buckets full of cash.
C - Chicago. Da Bears had a very good week to start training camp. First, they signed Lance Briggs for a year, ensuring that perhaps the biggest piece of their defense would be in place from the start. The team still needs to secure him long-term, but this is a start. Next, the Bears replaced Tank Johnson very well by bringing in holdout Darwin Walker from Buffalo for a conditional second day draft pick. Walker is a step down from Johnson, but not nearly as big of one as they may otherwise have had.
D - DEI. You would think that Dale Earnhardt Inc. would suffer from the loss of Dale Earnhardt, but it appears the opposite is true. The team's immediate merger with Ginn Racing this week is a masterful move. DEI gets a four-car team, they benefit from the outstanding facilities and nearly bottomless wallet of Bobby Ginn, and they have a lineup of drivers rich with potential. NASCAR got what it really needed over the long term - it should be more competitive with another powerful team to compete with Hendricks, Rouch and Gibbs.
E - Ensberg, Morgan. The Astros' third baseman has been cut loose after the team acquired Ty Wigginton from Tampa Bay. Ensberg has struggled this year after an injury last season, but he showed in 2005 that he is talented, and he has been forced to split time with two players this year. He's the type of player that could experience a huge resurgence with a new team that can let him play every day and find his groove again. It will be interesting to see where he lands. For a team needing depth he could be a bargain because Houston is on the line for all of his contract this year.
F - Finally. The older horse ranks have been devoid of stars since Invasor was retired due to injury, but a runner may finally have emerged as a legitimate talent in the Woodward at Saratoga on Saturday. Lawyer Ron, who has been largely disappointing since coming into the 2006 Kentucky Derby highly touted, was a commanding winner over a large, solid field and is, for now at least, at the head of the class.
G - Gambler. Kenny Rogers is heading to the DL for just the third time in his career. Since returning to action just six starts ago, Rogers has been decent but not great. Now he will miss at least 15 days with elbow inflammation. Detroit would surely love to have him in the rotation down the stretch in a very tight divisional race - in his place they are forced to give minor leaguer Jordan Tata his first career start.
H - Harang, Aaron. This poor guy had the toughest luck of any pitcher of the week. The Reds' starter had a brilliant outing on Monday, and had nothing to show for it. He became the first pitcher this year to go 10 innings, using only 123 pitches to strike out 10, allow seven hits and only one earned run. The problem is that he plays for the Reds, so they obviously are too pathetic to give him the run support he needed, and he left without a decision. The work may have hurt the ace - he left his next start after the first inning with back soreness.
I - Impressive. You can decide for yourself if Dice-K has been worth the hype and the money (I vote for mostly yes), but there is no debating that he hooked up for a gem against C.C. Sabathia this week. The Japanese sensation won by allowing just four hits in seven scoreless innings. Sabathia lost, but was only slightly worse, with one run in his seven innings. There appears to have been a bit of a hangover from the showdown, though - both pitchers were hard-luck losers on Sunday.
J - Jim Dandy. The elite summer three year old thoroughbred season got underway on Sunday with the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, a race won easily by Bernardini last year. This year's victory was no less impressive. Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense toyed with the field before pulling away down the stretch. Next up is the Haskell at Monmouth with Curlin and others, and then the big event of the summer, the Travers at Saratoga, which should bring together Street Sense, Curlin, and everyone else that matters. Impressive in defeat in the Dandy was CP West, a Nick Zito horse that has been disappointing, but who was a game second here.
K - Kansas City. There is an intriguing drama playing out in Chiefs' camp at the running back position. Larry Johnson seems determined to hold out until he gets the money he wants, and likely deserves. It could a long time before Johnson is back in uniform. At the same time, Priest Holmes surprised virtually everyone by announcing that he was attempting a comeback with the team. You have to imagine that Holmes' timing in regards to Johnson's contract status wasn't coincidental.
L - Lester, Jon. It was great to see the Red Sox' sophomore pitcher return to action after his rookie year was cut short by cancer. In his first two starts, Lester has looked decent, but not spectacular. It doesn't matter though. The key is that he is back, healthy, and he's ultimately talented. His strikeout-to-walk ratio - 9-4 - is a promising sign that he will be a fine addition to a rotation that needed a bit of a boost.
M - Marc Bulger. Some people may argue that Bulger isn't an elite quarterback, but the numbers of his new contract say he is. The Rams' QB signed up for six years and $65 million, with $27 million guaranteed. St. Louis is a long way from competitive -- and this signing won't change that -- but at least they have the luxury of a reliable long-term starter to build around.
N - No holdouts. With NFL camps opening this week, a lot of rookies made the smart decision to avoid a holdout and sign. Joe Thomas and Adrian Peterson led a long list of first rounders that are now much richer. The two most notable exceptions are two pivots - JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn. It's not surprising that Russell, as the top pick, is a holdout because of the difficulty of establishing a value. More surprising is Quinn. He needs to accept that he won't be paid as a top pick, swallow his pride, and get on the field and earn the starting job that is there for the taking but which he is throwing away by staying on the sidelines.
O - Open, Canadian. It seems that one of the best bets in golf is to back Jim Furyk whenever he tees off in Canada. For the second year in a row Furyk won the Canadian Open. He did it in impressive fashion, coming from three strokes behind Vijay Singh with the help of a hole in one to beat the incredibly consistent star from Fiji by a stroke. The tournament had the tough position of following right after a major, but it was a solid field and a great finish.
P - Pedro Martinez. The Mets could use an arm, and few have been better than Martinez over the last decade. The ace has been out since last October thanks to rotator cuff surgery, but he has been throwing at the Mets' facility in Florida, and will soon make a rehab start. If all goes well, Pedro could be back in the lineup in a month, just in time for the stretch drive.
Q - Quit losing. The Mariners almost threw away a great season with a terrible seven-game losing streak, but they righted the ship before it was too late by taking three in a row from Oakland, including a character comeback on Sunday. The good thing is that the downswing came at as good a time as is possible - the division-leading Angels won just two of nine as the Mariners struggled.
R - Randy Johnson. The Big Unit may have gone out with a whimper. The freak from Kentucky will have season ending back surgery this week. He says that he has no intention of retiring at this point, but with his age and the way his last couple of seasons have gone, you have to think that this could very well be the end of the line. A guy with five Cy Young awards deserves better than that. On the plus side, his absence removes a real handicapping challenge - it was almost impossible to determine the value in his starts this year because of the gap between his performance and his potential.
S - Schilling, Curt. Yet another aging pitcher with injury problems. Schilling looked impressive, striking out eight in five scoreless innings in his second Triple-A rehab start this week. He is scheduled to make one more rehab appearance to ensure that his tendonitis issues are in the past. Now if only someone in the organization could teach him to shut up.
T - Tony Stewart. One of NASCAR's biggest mouths had a lousy start to the season, but he certainly has recaptured his winning ways. Stewart won for the second straight weekend. He dominated much of the race at the Brickyard in Indianapolis, but lost the lead to Kevin Harvick on a restart with 20 laps remaining. That led to a high-speed duel, an impressive pass by Stewart and, ultimately, an easy win. Stewart picked a great time to get hot, with the Chase just around the corner.
U - Utley, Chase. The Phillies just can't seem to get a break this year. They are trying to make a charge, and are playing exceptionally well recently, but now they have to try to catch the Mets without their hottest bat for a month or so. Utley broke his hand when he was hit by a pitch (by a pitcher making his major league debut, no less), and will take time to heal.
V - Vicious. If you need proof that baseball is a cruel game just ask Cliff Lee. Two years ago the lefty won 18 games. This weekend he was unceremoniously shipped off to Triple-A after four straight terrible starts. Suddenly that three year, $14 million contract isn't looking like such a bargain for the Indians. Now they need to find another arm to shore up the rotation and keep them in range of the Tigers.
W - Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons suffered a gigantic loss with the sudden and shocking death of 56-year-old Skip Prosser this week. After some real success, the Deacs had been struggling the last two years, but keen observers know that this is due much more to player losses and natural cycles than to anything Prosser was doing. The program will have to find a way to rebound quickly and replace a very good coach before recruiting is impacted.
X - eXplosion. The Padres and the Astros may have played the ugliest defensive game of the season on Sunday. San Diego opened the game by scoring 11 runs in the top of the first, and then gave up seven in the fourth. By the time the dust settled, San Diego won 18-11, and the teams combined for 33 hits. The most surprising stat may be that the 14 pitchers only allowed a total of eight walks.
Y - Yuck. Barry Bonds is just one homer away from tying the record and two away from having it for himself, but now his team heads on the road for a week. It will be very interesting to watch how he plays away from home and if, as many have speculated, he is truly determined to get the record in the friendly confines of his home park.
Z - Zambrano, Carlos. The Cubs are on a tear, and their ace is a huge part of the reason why. I admit I thought that the team had overpaid when they signed Zambrano to a new contract, but it appears that, so far at least, I was wrong. Zambrano won his league-leading 14th game on Sunday, and helped his own cause with three hits. That's four in a row, and seven wins in his last eight. Given his dominance, the value isn't too bad for the pitcher - he was only -147 in Cincinnati on Sunday.