This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 05/05/2008
A - Anthony Kim. Kim hasn't been quite the prodigy he was supposed to be since he joined the PGA in 2006, but the 22-year-old earned his first win in style. He ran away from the crowd at the Wachovia Championship this weekend, and ended up winning by five strokes. The victory was tainted somewhat because the defending champion, Tiger Woods, was not in the field. That might not have mattered, though - Kim bested Woods' tournament record score by three strokes.
B - Big Brown. Wow. Not much more to say than that. There were at least a dozen reasons to doubt this horse coming into the Kentucky Derby, but none of them mattered. People in the business had said that the horse was a freak, and that appears to be true. The victory was so dominating and simple that it looks to be quite possible that not a single Derby challenger will face him in the Preakness. Once is enough, apparently.
C - Celtics. I knew it all along - Boston was just playing possum to maximize their home court ticket revenues. Atlanta shocked Boston and the rest of the world by taking the team with the best record in the league to seven games in their first round series. You'd never have guessed that the series was close based on the last game. Boston won it 99-65, and it was only that close because the Celtics took the foot off the gas well before the end.
D - Detroit. The Pistons sleepwalked through the first week of the playoffs, but they finally have their act together and seem to be rolling. They won their last three games against Philadelphia, and won each by an increasing margin. They took a serious step in up class when they moved onto Orlando, but you wouldn't guess it by the result of game 1. Dwight Howard was essentially neutralized and the Pistons won by 19.
E - Eight Belles. Sad, sad story. This filly ran an impressive race in the Derby and was clearly and convincingly the second best horse in the field. As she crossed the finish line she looked happy and healthy. A couple of minutes later she was dead. It was a tragic fluke that overshadows a tremendous winning performance and brings bad press to a sport that certainly doesn't need it. The only good thing you can say about it all is that at least it was over quickly.
F - Fukudome, Kosuke. The Cubs figured they had a decent player on their hands when they brought Fukudome over from Japan this year, and their expectations had to be high because they had paid handsomely for the MVP of the World Baseball Classic. He certainly hasn't disappointed so far. He's hitting .342 through 114 at-bats, and he shows solid discipline with 20 walks in 30 games.
G - Geezers. The Red Wings are incredibly old - two guys over 40, and six more over 35 - but whatever they are doing is working. Detroit took advantage of a Colorado team that was riddled with injuries to cruise into the second round in a four-game sweep. It was pretty clear the old guys felt the need to have the long rest that a sweep can provide - they won the fourth game 8-2.
H - Hornets. New Orleans is new to this business of being an elite power, but you'd never guess it by their play. Chris Paul is playing like he was born to be in the playoffs, and New Orleans is quickly becoming a team to beat. They celebrated the start of the second round on Saturday by cruising by the Spurs by 19. It won't be that easy throughout the series, but San Antonio's experience will only help them so much in this one.
I - Immelman, Trevor. If this current trend keeps up then the South African might want to give back the green jacket. For the second week in a row Immelman had a lousy showing on Thursday and Friday and missed the cut. This week at the Wachovia wasn't quite as ugly as last week - he only finished at five over this time. On the plus side, he has more time for photo shoots and other cash grabs if he isn't playing on the weekend.
J - Julio Franco. So soon? Julio Franco has announced his retirement this week. He was playing in Mexico, but he had been in the majors last year. He's reportedly 49 years old, but after Miguel Tejada's age admission earlier this year we can't really be sure how accurate that age is. Whatever his age, the guy was impressive. He was the oldest non-pitcher in major league history. He hit a grand slam at 47 and a homer at 48. He played for 10 teams, and had more than 4,200 combined hits in all of the leagues he toiled in.
K - Kerry Wood. The Cubs pitcher wasn't durable enough to be a starter, so he became a closer. The only problem is that he isn't a very good closer. He was handed a two run lead on Wednesday against Milwaukee, but that wasn't enough for him. He allowed three runs in a full inning to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He hasn't had a save since April 18.
L - L.A. Dodgers. L.A. had a rough 7-2 loss to the Rockies on Sunday, but it can be forgiven. After all, they had won their previous eight games. The streak featured sweeps of Colorado and Florida and was much needed - it puts them back into the heart of the wild card race, and it at least keeps them within shouting distance of the division-leading Diamondbacks. Now all they need to do is figure out how to beat real teams.
M - Micah Owings. Arizona beat Houston on Wednesday night thanks in large part to a pinch-hit home run that tied it up in the sixth. Big deal, right? Well, the pinch-hitter was a pitcher. Micah Owings is easily the best hitting pitcher in the NL, and he could probably DH for a lot of teams on his off days if he played in the AL. He's hitting .400 so far this year, and finished last year at .333 with four homers. If he weren't such a solid pitcher (4-1 so far this year) then maybe Rick Ankiel would be a role model professionally for him (except for the HGH part).
N - Never-ending. The Dallas Stars finally knocked the San Jose Sharks out of the playoffs, but it wasn't easy. After winning the first three games of the series, Dallas lost two in a row. That meant that game six on Sunday in Dallas was a crucial game. The Stars did win it to finish out the series, but not before the game went through regulation time and three overtime periods. Brenden Morrow mercifully ended it on a powerplay halfway through the fourth overtime.
O - Oscar De La Hoya. So, the fight that nobody cared about is over, and it sets up the fight that no one needs to see. De La Hoya predictably had little trouble dispensing with former reality TV star Steve Forbes on Saturday. That sets him up for the last fight of his career - a massive payday for losing again to Floyd Mayweather. Maybe I'm just being nostalgic, but I think boxers used to fight the most interesting fights, not the ones that would pay them the most.
P - Pletcher, Todd. He may be the most consistently successful trainer in the country, but wow, is he ever lousy at getting horses ready for the Kentucky Derby. Last year he entered five horses and finished no better than sixth. This year Cowboy Cal finished ninth and Monba was last. Unlike last year, though, at least he has an excuse this year - Monba had displayed mostly synthetic form this year, and Cowboy Cal was definitely a second-tier contender.
Q - Quit. Mark Cuban needs to quit blaming the wrong people for the problems with his team. Avery Johnson was fired this week, even though no coach had ever won 100 or 150 games faster. Johnson got a lot out of a team with all sorts of problems with heart and effort, and had to deal with Cuban's interference every step of the way, yet he had to be the fall guy. It seems like Rick Carlisle will be the next coach, but he won't have any more luck winning until he gets players who care about winning.
R - Ryan Perrilloux. I don't like calling college players morons, but this guy is a moron. He had it all handed to him on a plate - a starting gig with the defending national champions followed by a pro career if he can harness even some of his impressive talent. All he had to do was bask in the glory of being the biggest man on campus. Too much to ask, apparently. He got booted from the Tigers this week after his umpteenth violation of team rules. LSU might be in trouble in the short term, but in the long run having this guy out of town has to be a good thing.
S - Smoltz, John. There is an interesting battle brewing in Atlanta. Smoltz is on the DL now, but when he returns he says he is going to go back to the bullpen. Manager Bobby Cox wants him to stay in the rotation. It will be interesting to see which of those legends has the final say. It's hard to know who is right - the Braves need rotation help, but Smoltz will rarely make it past the fifth so maybe he is more valuable appearing more often from the pen.
T - Tulowitzki, Troy. The Rockies have been a disaster this year (three wins in their last 14), and getting better isn't getting any easier. The team will be without their star shortstop until at least the all-star break thanks to a leg injury suffered this week. At his loss doesn't create an immediate hole in the batting order - Tulowitzki was slumping badly, hitting just .152 on the season through his first 105 at-bats.
U - Unearned runs. They can happen. Sometimes a team can have a bad night and allow a few. You have to really work hard, though, to pull off what the Mets did on Wednesday night. They lost 13-1 thanks to nine unearned runs. To make matters worse, they did it against the lowly Pirates. Starter Oliver Perez set the tone for the night early. He left in the second inning, but not before he had allowed two earned runs and five more unearned.
V - Volunteers. Anyone who criticized Vols star Chris Lofton for playing badly for much of the regular season - and that includes me - is going to hell. News broke this week that the Tennessee star struggled quietly with testicular cancer. It was caught in a drug test in the tournament last year, and he kept the news and all that he went through mostly to himself out of fear of the backlash he would face.
W - Webb, Brandon. It's way too early to be even thinking about the Cy Young awards, but Brandon Webb is the early leader in the NL. He beat the Mets on Saturday to go to 7-0. He's only started seven times, so at this winning rate Denny McLain should be nervous because Webb is coming after him. Not taking anything away from Webb's strong performances, but a couple of things jump out when you look closer - his team has supported him with almost six runs per game which is more than enough to make a lot of pitchers look good, and he hasn't exactly faced the cream of the crop so far with two wins each over Colorado and San Francisco.
X - X-Factor. There were already a lot of reasons not to be confident about the Denver Broncos this season, but the latest twist gives us another thing to figure out. It was revealed this week that quarterback Jay Cutler has Type 1 Diabetes. He'll still be able to play, but it could take him a while to get used to what the disease means. Other guys like Adam Morrison have dealt with this before. I just hope that Cutler doesn't start crying like a sissy when he loses like Morrison did.
Y - Yikes. There are some truly idiotic ways to end up on the DL, but Kansas City pitcher John Bale really found a doozy. Bale was already on the DL with a sore shoulder, but he made sure he stayed there for a long while. He had thrown a simulated game on Friday, and celebrated the fact that it had gone well by punching a door in the team hotel and breaking his hand.
Z- Zzzz. I am bored to tears by all of the criminal activity coming out of the NFL. The latest moron to get himself busted was Cedric Benson. He got a pepper spray shower after he resisted arrest. He had been caught driving his 30-foot boat while intoxicated. If Benson put half as much effort into fighting of tacklers as he did fighting those cops maybe he wouldn't be such a professional disappointment.