This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 05/19/2008
A - Angels. Anaheim (or whatever they are supposed to be called) should be relieved and thrilled to have John Lackey back in the fold. After all, getting a guy who was 19-9 last year back in the rotation can never be a bad thing. The Angels picked an odd way to show their joy, though. He allowed just one run in seven innings in his season debut against the White Sox, but didn't get a decision after Scot Shields entered in relief and promptly gave up a grand slam without recording an out.
B - Big Brown. Wow. I have been a huge horse racing fan most of my life, and I would call horse racing my favorite sport with little prompting. I have never seen a horse win a race as easily as Big Brown won the Preakness. Smarty Jones won by a margin twice as big in 2004, but he had to exert at least a little effort taking the lead around the final turn. Big Brown was held back for much of the race and he showed an explosive acceleration which was jaw dropping and completely without the urging of the whip. If Desormeaux hadn't been saving him for the Belmont, the horse could have won that race by any margin he chose to.
C - Clay Buchholz. The young Boston pitcher may already have a no-hitter to his credit, but that won't help him from being bugged mercilessly about his latest injury. Buchholz ended up on the 15-day DL this week because of a broken nail. It's obvious why a broken nail on his right middle finger would be a serious problem for a pitcher, but that doesn't make it sound any less funny. The Red Sox will survive just fine without him - he's only 2-3 with an ERA of 5.53.
D - Darrell Arthur. Another day, another story about a high-profile college basketball player with potential eligibility problems. Unlike most, though, this one doesn't involve questionable gifts, but rather it occurred in high school. According to a high school math teacher, the Kansas star was given a passing grade in math even though he failed the course. In the worst case scenario, Kansas could be forced to forfeit every game he played in, including the national championship, because he shouldn't have been eligible for college. That's obviously won't happen, though. If proven true, however, the backlash from this situation could be enough to make Bill Self wish he had taken Oklahoma State's cash.
E - Eight Belles. There is no positive side to what happened to this impressive filly right after her second place finish in the Kentucky Derby, but at least the incident wasn't caused by anything sinister or irresponsible. The results of the necropsy came back this week and showed that she had no pre-existing condition that led to the injury, and that she was not on steroids.
F - Foyt IV, A.J. Depending on your perspective, the grandson of four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt either had a great day or a rough one Sunday. The good news was that he took of advantage of the last possible opportunity to claim a spot in next weekend's Indy 500. The bad news is that soon after doing so he was in a fiery crash. The cover of his fuel tank blew off, and gas poured out and ignited on his hot engine. I'm no mechanic, but that shouldn't happen. Foyt suffered burns on his neck and lost some hair, but he has been cleared to keep racing.
G - Gayego. Twice this horse has drawn some serious attention, and twice he has been a major disappointment. Many horseplayers were willing to discount his 17th place finish in the Derby - anything can happen in a race that big and crazy. A second finish near the back of the pack in the Preakness, though, and it is now clear that this Arkansas Derby winner is not in the same class as the last four - Curlin, Lawyer Ron, Afleet Alex, and Smarty Jones.
H - Henin, Justine. It's not every day that someone retires suddenly and at the top of their game. Henin had struggled this year, but she was still the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world when she packed it in this week. It's sad to see a classy player go, but especially now - we are just a couple of weeks from the French Open, and as a three-time defending champ she was an incredibly easy, if not particularly lucrative, early-round pick.
I - Indians. It took until May 14, but C.C. Sabathia, the Cleveland ace and defending CY Young winner, finally looked like C.C. Sabathia. The giant lefty threw a true gem on Wednesday - a complete game, five-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and just two walks. It was by far the best game of the year for him, and a sign that he is moving past the form that saw him lose five of his first six decisions.
J - Jake Peavy. Like the Padres needed more bad news. San Diego already has the worst record in baseball, and now they may have to make due without their ace for a while. Peavy's 4-3 record and 2.91 ERA is impressive given the struggles of the team, but a sore elbow is going to keep him out of his next start on Monday, and it could keep him out longer if it doesn't quickly respond to treatment.
K - Kazmir, Scott. The list of good moves by the Tampa Bay Rays just got longer. Kazmir, the 24-year-old strikeout machine, signed a three-year extension with the Rays with an option for a fourth. It's, of course, way too early to judge, but in his first start the investment seemed sound - he hurled a three-hit shutout over six innings the day after signing the deal. He's only had three starts this year after an early injury, but he has won the last two without allowing a run.
L - Lee, Cliff. It was a frustrating week for the surprising stud of the Cleveland pitching staff. On Monday he threw nine shutout innings against Toronto, but he didn't get a decision because reliever Rafael Betancourt blew up in the 10th and allowed three runs. Then, on Sunday, he finally looked mortal. He allowed 10 hits and five earned runs in less than six innings to record his first loss of the year against the Reds. There's no need to panic, though - his ERA is only 1.37 even after this game.
M - Mike Pelfrey. The Mets' pitcher has had a rough month, and his teammates didn't help him out on Thursday. He had three losses and a no decision in his last four heading into the game, but he found a groove and had a no-hitter going through seven innings against the Nationals. He finally gave up three hits and just one run, but that was too much - his overpaid team was shut out and he lost again.
N - New York Yankees. As I write this it's May 18, and the Yankees are in last place in the AL East. Even better, they are four games under .500, and they have the third worst record in the AL. I don't have a real point other than to say that nothing in baseball could make me happier than this. They have one win in their last six. That smoke you see on the horizon is Mount Steinbrenner getting ready to explode.
O - Ortiz, David. Big Papi didn't have much of a season, but he is turning things around now. He would have been back to his normal self sooner if he didn't have to wait until now to play Milwaukee. Ortiz was unstoppable against the Brewers - 5-for-10 with three home runs and eight RBI in three games. His two homers on Sunday led his team to a win in an 11-7 slugfest. His resurgence couldn't come at a better time as the Red Sox need all the wins they can get to stay ahead of, strangely enough, the upstart Rays.
P - Pittsburgh Penguins. Given the fact that the Pens have a stunning collection of young talent - Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury - it was inevitable that they would make an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals sooner or later. This is just sooner than most expected. The Penguins have looked very impressive all spring. After a rough game in Game 4 when their inexperience and nerves prevented them from sweeping the Flyers, Pittsburgh bounced back with a vengeance in game five. They won 6-0, and the game wasn't that close. Now all they have to do is wait for an opponent - Dallas or Detroit. You have to believe that this isn't the last time we will be watching this team in June.
Q - Quietly. The Big Unit isn't getting a lot of attention these days, but the tall, ancient one has already matched last year's win total of four, and he is inching closer to win number 300. Number 288 came in fine style on Sunday - seven shutout innings against the Tigers. It was his best start since last May, and it was the first time that I felt that he just might make it to the magic win mark sooner or later.
R - Ryan Perrilloux. Given the choice, would you rather be the starting quarterback of the LSU Tigers, the defending national champions, or the Jacksonville State Gamecocks, a 6-5 finisher in the 1-AA Ohio Valley Conference? Perrilloux had that choice to make, and the moron inexplicably chose the latter. I guess it sort of makes sense - playing in 15,000 seat Paul Snow Stadium is probably way more exciting than toiling in front of 92,400 in Tiger Stadium.
S - Serena Williams. With Justine Henin out of the picture, the younger Williams sister is suddenly looking pretty good for the French Open. Or at least she would have been before this week. Now we need to get a sense of how her back is before we can trust her and back her. Williams pulled out of the quarterfinals of the Italian Open with a sore back. She says she will be fine with time, but then what would we expect her to say?
T - Tennis. The result was probably expected, but there was some good news in it. Rafael beat Roger Federer in three sets in a best-of-three in the Hamburg final on Sunday. Given that the tourney was on clay it's not a big surprise. The good news, though, was that Federer looked much better than he has the last few months. He gave Nadal a very good test, and looked as unstoppable as he often does through the rest of the tournament.
U - Utah Jazz. The Jazz deserve tremendous credit for an impressive season and a solid playoff run, but in the end Kobe and the Lakers were just too much for them. Utah couldn't keep the home winning streak of the second round of the playoffs alive as they lost the series in six games. Now the challenge for handicappers is to figure out just how worried we should be about Bryant's back as he and his team face their biggest challenge yet in the next round.
V - Versatile. I watch almost no college baseball, but stories like this make me think that I should. Florida State's Buster Posey had a pretty big game this week. He played all nine positions one game, and he hit a grand slam to boot. Starting at his normal position of catcher he went to first, second, short, third, then left and center. He took the mound in the seventh and struck out both batters he faced before finishing it off in right. Posey is hitting an ACC-best .469, and he will be a high draft pick this year.
W - Webb, Brandon. Nine starts for the Arizona Diamondback's ace has led to nine wins. 34-0? Of course not, but he could put up some impressive numbers by September. What is notable about his accomplishments this year is that they aren't unrealistically flashy - they seem sustainable. He is averaging seven innings per start, has an ERA of 2.56, and has a K/BB ratio of almost 3/1. Of course, it's pretty easy to win when you get run support - Arizona has scored 26 runs in his last three starts.
X - eXit. LeBron and the Cavaliers are going home, but they did some damage in the process. They lost to Boston in seven games, but not before they exposed the team with the best record in the NBA as one with some serious issues that could very well get in the way of an NBA title for them. Given that they still haven't won a road game, and they have played two-straight seventh games, it's hard to like their chances.
Y - Yikes. Don't look now, but Cincinnati just can't lose. In fact, the Reds are red hot. The team has won six straight, and in doing so has swept two teams - Florida and Cleveland - that have been playing solid ball lately. It's too early to get too excited - the team is still two games below .500. Still, they have some intriguing young talent and some old guys who can hit, and they could keep doing some real damage if they could keep averaging 5.7 runs per game as they have over this current streak.
Z - Zzzzz. Spoiled athletes bore me to tears. Kellen Winslow skipped his organized team activities this week because he wants the Browns to renegotiate his contract. He's rehabbing from offseason knee injury so he wouldn't have participated on the field, and the activities aren't mandatory, but it's essentially expected that a player like Winslow would be there. Needless to say, this could be a big distraction for a promising team if he doesn't get over himself soon.