This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 04/14/2008
A - Arizona Diamondbacks. The team from the desert came into the season with high hopes, and so far they have been living up to them. At 9-3 they have the best record in the majors, and they had strung together eight-straight wins before losing to Colorado.
B - Bill Self. It can't be surprising either that coach Self stayed in Kansas after winning a national championship, or that he used the obscene offer from Oklahoma State to get his pay raised to a new and much higher tax bracket. Kansas really had no choice but to pay him - it would have been immensely embarrassing to lose him over money after he just made millions for your school.
C - Calgary Flames. My hometown hockey team is in the playoffs, but they can be ridiculously frustrating. On Thursday night against San Jose they accomplished a feat that I would have thought impossible - they got outshot 27-3 in the second period. Both of those shot totals should be impossible in the NHL, so the chances of both happening in the same game is very low. Needless to say they lost the game. The season looked dire on Sunday when they fell down 3-0 in the first three minutes of the game, but they fought back to win and take the 2-1 lead in the series. Go Flames Go!
D - Dolphins, Miami. The Fish have the first pick in the draft, and it looks increasingly like they are going to pick a big guy if they keep the pick. Word came out this week that they have started informal negotiations with both offensive lineman Jake Long of Michigan and defensive end Vernon Gholston of Ohio State. This is yet another case where the hated Big Ten rivals have to fight it out with huge stakes on the line. Neither player would be the flashiest pick in the draft, but both, and especially Long, are safe picks.
E - Exodus. It seemed like all of college basketball went pro this week. Unofficial reports are that Kevin Love and Darren Collison are both NBA bound. So is Joe Alexander. And O.J. Mayo. Chase Budinger, Jerryd Bayless, Ryan Anderson, Earl Clark, Eric Gordon, Donte Green, Richard Hendrix, DeAndre Jordan and both Lopez twins, too. That doesn't include all of the obvious players who haven't officially declared as I write this, like Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Brandon Rush and Bill Walker. Plus, North Carolina's big three all have decisions to make. With all of that young talent it's a very bad year to be a senior in the draft.
F - Finally. Hendricks Motorsports won exactly half of the NASCAR races last year, but they hadn't won a single one yet this year despite adding Dale Earnhardt Jr. to a team that was already a virtual NASCAR all-star team. The slump finally ended this weekend in Phoenix when Jimmie Johnson won thanks to a bold gamble that he would have enough gas to make it to the finish line. Johnson led 120 laps of the race including the one that mattered.
G - Glavine, Tom. When a guy who has been pitching at a high caliber for 22 years sets a career record it's either really impressive or really bad. Unfortunately it was the latter on Sunday for the man who is back in Atlanta. He matched the shortest outing of his career when he was knocked out in the first inning without recording an out. He allowed a walk and three hits before a hamstring injury forced him to leave. The Braves, a team that has struggled out of the blocks in a tough division, certainly will hope he isn't gone for long.
H - Harden, Rich. It has been a very badly kept secret that the A's would consider trading Harden close to the deadline if they are out of contention. That will be much harder if he isn't healthy. The Canadian right-hander hit the 15-day DL this week with a muscle problem in his shoulder. He had been pitching very well up to that point, but his durability has to be a big question for any potential suitors - this is his sixth trip to the DL in the last four years.
I - Immelman, Trevor. Be honest - did you know much about this guy before this weekend? There really wasn't much reason to. He was the fourth most successful active player from South Africa, he had missed four of eight cuts this year, his only career win was two years ago in the Western Open (hardly a major), he had just two top 10 finishes in 18 major appearances, and he had finished 55th and missed the cut in his last two starts at Augusta. Everyone will know him now, though. He was rock solid all week, and he didn't collapse under pressure when the opportunity was presented to him.
J - Johnson, Trent. Stanford basketball is going to look very different next year. Their blowout loss to Texas was enough to not only chase the Lopez twins out of college and into the draft, but apparently it was also enough to convince coach Johnson that the grass at LSU was greener. It seems like an odd move - it's basically lateral, the Tigers' program is in rough shape, and Johnson has no ties to LSU, while he was previously an assistant at Stanford before going to Nevada.
K - Kansas. The Jayhawks had a victory parade this week and just a few people showed up. It was estimated that more than 100,000 people lined the streets. According to the census there are only 90,000 people in Lawrence. That means that a thief could have had a pretty great day if he wasn't a basketball fan. Not surprisingly, the loudest chants were of 'one more year!' for Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur.
L - Liriano, Francisco. It was a long wait to see the phenomenal Liriano pitch after he missed all of last year to injury. Maybe the Twin should have waited longer. He made his season debut Sunday night against the Royals and he looked rusty (to be kind). He allowed four earned runs in less than five innings, and for the first time in his career he walked more than he struck out. The Twins will be hoping that he comes out stronger in the near future because they really need his help.
M - Mike Lowell. The Red Sox will be without their World Series MVP for a couple of weeks. Lowell is on the DL after he hurt his thumb diving for a ground ball. Though his absence creates a hole at third, the team won't miss his bat - he has been hitting just .200 so far in nine games. Kevin Youkilis, a third baseman before moving to first, will be filling in at the hot corner, and Sean Casey will be at first.
N - Nuggets. The race for the last playoff spot in the West is very intense. The Nuggets took the lead over the Warriors when they beat Golden State soundly on Thursday, but then they gave up the lead when they were blown out by the Jazz on Saturday while the Warriors beat the Clippers. Denver rebounded nicely to beat the Rockets on Sunday. They have one game left, and Golden State has two. The Warriors need to win both and hope that the Nuggets lose at home against Memphis or A.I. and the boys will be going on.
O - Ovechkin, Alexander. The scoring machine from the Washington Capitals had never played in a playoff game before this week, but he figured it out quickly. He assisted on the goal that tied his team with the Flyers at four, and then scored the game winner to give the Capitals the lead in the series. He was less successful in game two, though - the Flyers stifled him and won 2-0 to capture home ice advantage in the best of seven series.
P - Pyro. The road to the Kentucky Derby just keeps getting more confusing this year. Pyro looked as good as any horse in the country heading into the Blue Grass Stakes, and he was well seasoned and tested against the best in his class - he was a very attractive pick, in other words. Then he came out in the Blue Grass on Saturday, failed to fire or even show an ounce of life, and was 10th from the beginning to the end. The race was on a synthetic surface (unlike the Derby), so that is a possible excuse for Pyro. Or maybe he is just out of form. Handicapping him will be tough.
Q - Quite rich. Few people saw the huge year that Cleveland pitcher Fausto Carmona had last year coming, but the Indians clearly don't think it was a fluke - they signed him to a seven-year contract this week, and it was the richest ever for a pre-arbitration starting pitcher. They may want their money back after his first post-contract start - he walked eight and allowed three earned runs in three and a third innings against Oakland on Saturday.
R - Ryan, B.J. The Blue Jays thought that they had secured their future in the bullpen when they signed B.J. Ryan. He has been great when he has been healthy, but those times have been few and far between. He returned to action on Sunday after missing most of a year recovering from Tommy John Surgery. It will take a while before we can judge his play, but he was solid in his first appearance - one hit in one inning and a save. If he can stay healthy he would be a big boost for a Blue Jays team that is desperate to be competitive.
S - San Antonio. It's not a happy time to be a Spurs fan, because they aren't exactly heading into the playoffs on a high note. They have played three Western powers in the last 10 days, and they looked pretty lousy in each case. They lost by 26 to Utah last Friday, by 17 to the Suns on Wednesday, and by 21 to the Lakers on Sunday. They have lots of excuses, and some of them are even legitimate, but that doesn't change the fact that this is getting ugly.
T - Tiger. Just how good is Woods? He plays a totally lackluster tournament, looks frustrated and out of sorts the whole week, consistently misses putts that he would make at his best and leaves his shots further away than we are used to, and generally doesn't look like himself - and he still finishes second in the biggest golf tournament in the world. I don't get why he didn't come out stronger, but it's still impressive what he can do.
U - Ugly. Apparently the old ballpark wasn't the problem. The Washington Nationals have a fancy new building to play in, but they are still terrible. If it weren't for the inexplicably pitiful Tigers, Washington would have the worst record in baseball. They opened with promise by winning three straight, but then they lost nine in a row before finally winning on Sunday. They allowed 10 runs three different times in the losing streak, so pitching and defense are not current strengths.
V - Valuable. If Friday night's game between the Lakers and the Hornets was a showdown for the MVP trophy then neither choice is a bad one. Kobe Bryant led his team to a two-point win by scoring 29 and adding 10 rebounds and eight assists. Chris Paul only had just over half the points - 15 - but he added a ridiculous 17 assists, and threw in four steals for good measure. I don't see how Kobe doesn't win it, but Paul will certainly get one before it's all said and done.
W - Welterweights. Floyd Mayweather Jr. seems to be interested in everything other than serious boxing these days, but his weight class is incredibly interesting even if he isn't seriously fighting in it. Two big fights in the class this weekend set up a huge one down the road. Miguel Cotto destroyed Alfonso Gomez, and Antonio Margarito knocked out Kermit Cintron on the same card in Atlantic City on Saturday. Now the two, the best the division has to offer outside of Mayweather, will fight as soon as this July. That should be a war, because both guys pack a punch. Mayweather will have to come up with a good excuse to skip fighting the winner of that match when he is done with his meaningless De La Hoya rematch - that would be a real fight, and Floyd apparently doesn't like those anymore.
X - Xavier. I know that the school didn't do anything relevant this week, but it is my column, and I am not ready to figure out something new for the letter X yet. When you get your own column you can do better if you want.
Y - Yikes. It started terribly for the Tigers, and it just isn't getting any better. They finally won two games to go with their 10 losses, but the pitching situation is just plain ugly. Justin Verlander got rocked on Saturday. Kenny Rogers was even worse on Sunday. Dontrelle Willis left the game in the first inning on Friday and subsequently hit the DL with a knee injury. I'm still trying not to panic, but it's getting to the point where something drastic might have to be done to shake up this talented but clearly messed up team.
Z - Zzzz. Is there anything more annoying and overexposed than the Yankees - Red Sox rivalry? Sure, they are the two best teams in their conference year after year, and they have hated each other since before there were airplanes, but does that mean that the whole world needs to hear every detail of everything that happens every time they meet? The big news this week was that someone tried to bury a Red Sox jersey in the new Yankee Stadium, but thankfully the Yankees found it and removed it before it was too late - you can imagine the potential impact a piece of polyester could have on the Yankees.