This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 08/06/2007
A - Any Given Saturday. The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, home of the Breeders' Cup this fall, was supposed to be all about Preakness winner Curlin, but someone forget to mention that to Todd Pletcher trained Any Given Saturday. The horse, a major disappointment in the Kentucky Derby, crushed the field of top three year olds to show that he was finally worthy of the praise he was getting in April. Curlin failed to fire down the stretch and finished third.
B - Barry Bonds. Asterisk.
C - Celtics. Somewhere out there, Red Auerbach is smiling. Boston has gone from NBA footnote to serious contender this offseason, and have done so by perhaps changing the look of their team more in one summer than any team in recent NBA history. Landing Garnett was a serious coup, and it should pay off for the team. Minnesota deserves some credit for getting a decent bounty back given the unwinnable circumstance they were placed in.
D - Davydenko, Nikolay. It's not just the NBA that has betting scandals. An investigation is underway after mysterious action was placed on a match between Davydenko, ranked fourth in the world, and the 87th ranked Argentinian Martin Vassallo Arguello. There was unusually heavy action placed on the underdog, then Davydenko withdrew mid-match with an injury. Davydenko claims he did nothing wrong, but British bookmaker Betfair was so suspicious that they took the unprecedented step of returning all bets.
E - Eric Gagne. As a Canadian, Gagne is one of those guys, along with Steve Nash and half of the NHL, that I am genetically wired to cheer for. Though I hate the Red Sox, then, I am happy to see him head somewhere where he stands a decent shot at postseason success. I don't know how well he will handle a non-closing role over the long term, but I doubt that there is a scarier bullpen trio in the league than Okajima, Gagne and Papelbon.
F - Freddy Adu. This American soccer phenom has been painted as a bit of a disappointment by his domestic media, which proves more than anything that the American media knows little about soccer. Adu officially left the MLS this week to play in Portugal. Anyone who is a fan of watching, or betting on, the American side in international soccer should be very happy about the move and what it will do for his development. He's already a special talent, and the experience of this league will only accentuate what he offers.
G - Gore, Frank. It's hard to imagine many things that would be much scarier for the 49ers than potentially losing their star running back for a significant chunk of the season. The bad news is that Gore broke his hand and will miss most of the preseason. The good news is that he should be fine for the regular season. He's experienced enough that this should be a positive - less wear and tear now leaves more gas in the tank down the stretch.
H - Holyfield, Evander. The washed up has-been and former Dancing with the Stars participant has signed on for a heavyweight title fight against WBA champ Ruslan Chagaev in October. In related news, heavyweight boxing is totally, absolutely, and ridiculously irrelevant.
I - Injury. That sound you can hear is the noise made when 3 million Cubs' fans cry simultaneously. The team has made a monstrous charge to nearly catch the Brewers, and much of the credit for the resurgence after an ugly start has to go to Alfonso Soriano. Now Soriano is out two to four weeks with a strained quad. On the plus side, this stretch of Soriano-less games should give us a good sense as to whether the team is for real.
J - Johan Santana. I would think that being the general manager of the Minnesota Twins would be easy - just keep Johan Santana, perhaps the biggest freak in the majors, happy. That is apparently easier said than done. After the Twins did absolutely nothing to improve at the deadline, Santana lashed out at his team's pathetic front office. You have to decide for yourself whether the fact that his next start after voicing his disgust was a poor one is a coincidence or a trend.
K - Kansas City Royals. Buddy Bell, the manager of the eternally pathetic Royals, has announced that he will be stepping down at the end of the season. Though I don't blame him, it seems a bit odd to announce it so soon and end the year as a lame duck. I would say that it could have a serious impact on the team's motivation and therefore the betting prospects, but who's betting on the Royals regularly anyway?
L - Lions. Detroit players, and especially Jon Kitna, breathed a sigh of relief when news broke that Calvin Johnson had ended his holdout and signed to join the team. Though there is a real danger that this guy is over-hyped given the fact that he has seemingly been reported to be able to walk on water, it will be very interesting to see how good he can be, and if the Lions can finally make a highly drafted wide receiver pay off.
M - Matt Morris. I've watched sports for a long time, so I've seen a lot of trades. Few have been as bizarre as the Matt Morris deadline deal. I understand why the Giants wanted to get rid of him - though he's solid, he is expensive, he isn't interesting enough to sell tickets, and they aren't going anywhere in a hurry. What I don't get is why Pittsburgh, the Bermuda Triangle of the National League, would think it was a good idea to tie up a big chunk of their payroll in him. This is further proof that the Pirates are determined to be terrible forever.
N - NASCAR. No sport does a better job of managing their athletes and presenting a fan-friendly product, but sometimes even they can't escape a moron doing something ridiculous. Robby Gordon was suspended for the Nextel Cup event on Sunday after acting like a complete ass at the Busch race in Montreal on Saturday. He intentionally hit another driver, knocking him out of the race, and then refused to leave the track when ordered to by officials.
O - Over? Just a few weeks after he was picked up, Julio Franco was cut by the Braves to make room for their deadline acquisitions. This could be the end of the line for the 25-year pro, just days before his 49th birthday. His career, if it ends here, is one of the more intriguing ones around, with all-star caliber play in the majors joined by stints in Japan, South Korea and Mexico. Most impressive, perhaps, is that he twice hit over .400 for the season in the Mexican league. He has 4,219 professional hits.
P - Padres. I wrote last week that I thought that Morgan Ensberg would be a bargain for some team, and I still do, but I am concerned about the impact that his acquisition by San Diego, on top of the additions of bad boys Milton Bradley, Shea Hillenbrand and Michael Barrett, could have on team chemistry. Trevor Hoffman expressed his doubts about this latest move publicly. When a team's elder statesman speaks out it can be a sign of real problems.
Q - Quite improved. Other NBA teams are getting more headlines for the moves they have made this offseason, but the struggling Memphis Grizzlies have quietly made themselves a much better team. They picked up Mike Conley in the draft and signed Darko Milicic to help Pau Gasol up front. Most recently, they traded for the rights to Juan Carlos Navarro, one of the top guards in Europe and, more significantly, one of Gasol's best friends. A team with a happy superstar is a much-improved squad.
R - Randy Moss. The good news is that Moss has reportedly looked very good in Patriots' camp. The bad news is that a leg injury kept him out of some practices this week. Those with a vested interest in the success of this team will hope that this is just a minor passing problem, and not a sign of fragility for the star.
S - Slump. It wasn't as interminable as the wait for 756 has been, but it was pretty painful watching A-Rod try to hit 500. The fact that he went 0-22 at one point while stuck on 499 is proof that he didn't handle the pressure of the situation well at all. Critics would argue that this is further proof that it's no surprise that he seems to be a better player in April than October.
T - Teixera, Mark. The Braves trade that netted this star from the Rangers may be one of those dream trades that helps both teams into the future. Teixera showed what he can do in his first game when he had a homer and 4 RBI. Texas lost his immediate impact, but built for the future. Kason Gabbard is a pitcher I have talked about here before - he showed some promise for Boston. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a stud, and Texas wasted no time trying the catcher at first base. That kind of versatility could be huge for the team.
U - Unreal. Do you ever watch the CFL? If you like crazy plays then you should. The second half and overtime of the game between the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes this week were truly bizarre. The Al's kicker was frustrated when his punt was nearly returned for a touchdown, so he got in a fight and was tossed from the game. That led to the final play in which Montreal's all-star receiver kicked the winning field goal.
V - Vlad Guerrero. It was great to see the Angels' slugger break his homerless slump and hit two out of the park in consecutive at-bats this week, but I still can't figure out how a guy as good as he is can go 0-125 in homers. At a pace of 4 at-bats per game, it would take 32 games to pile up 125 plate appearances. Vlad should be going deep more than once every five weeks.
W - Woods, Tiger. I am no longer going to bother to try to come up with words to describe how good this guy is. It's not worth my time. Coming into the final round of the WGC event he was down by a stroke. He won by eight. It's a cliche, but it's true - the only guy who can beat Tiger is Tiger. He has won six times at Firestone, and now has 14 wins in 25 WGC events.
X - eXplosion. The details of what happened between Milwaukee manager Ned Yost and a couple of his players in the dugout on Thursday night are unclear. It may have been a discussion fueled by the heat of the moment, or the fight could be a sign of bigger problems. Either way, one can at least hope that the passion and emotion Yost and the players involved showed in the dugout can somehow transfer to the field where the team has recently been terrible.
Y - Young, Vince. I admire the fact that Young, one of the brightest young QB lights in the NFL, had his wide receiver's back when he was the victim of a dirty hit, but someone has to teach the former Texas star that you really shouldn't take a swing at a guy wearing a helmet, and if you do you definitely shouldn't do it with your throwing hand.
Z - Zzzz. The Hall of Fame Game between Pittsburgh and New Orleans proved yet again that it is a complete waste of time to have games this early in training camp. The Steelers won 20-7, but we learned absolutely nothing about either team - Deuce McAllister didn't play, and Reggie Bush had two carries. Why bother?