This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 05/26/2008
A - A-Rod. After almost a month out of action, last year's MVP is back and in solid form. He's not lighting the world on fire, but he's not slumping either. What is more notable is that his team, the biggest disappointment in the league after the Tigers, has got their act together since his return, winning five of six. Of course, those six games have been against Baltimore and Seattle, so they hardly count. It doesn't get much harder now - three of their next four series are against Baltimore, Minnesota and Kansas City. If they plan another miracle comeback this year it has to start now.
B - Big Brown. We may be on the road to a Triple Crown winner, but it isn't without bumps. The Derby and Preakness winner has missed two days of training because of a crack in his hoof, and he could miss three more. He has the best possible care and the injury isn't serious so he should be fine. It provides another layer of intrigue in the Belmont, though. So does the bizarre rumor floating around that Kent Desormeaux's agent is trying to secure the ride on Casino Drive for the Belmont despite the fact that Desormeaux rides Big Brown.
C - Chicago Bulls. Maybe Mike D'Antoni would like to take the Bulls job after all. The Bulls landed in the driver's seat when they won the NBA Draft Lottery. That means they get to choose between Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose. That also probably means that their coaching search got much easier, and that they will be playoff contenders next year. Miami has the second pick, and either one of those guys, especially Rose, would look pretty good alongside Marion and Wade.
D - Doug Davis. The Diamondbacks got a huge boost on Friday when Doug Davis returned to action. He'd been out since the beginning of April receiving treatment for cancer. He's cancer-free and healthy in a remarkably short time, and he pitched like he had never left. He allowed just one run in seven innings, and his team erupted for 11 runs in support to give him an easy win. Arizona needs the help from him - They are still tied with the best record in baseball (with Tampa Bay!?!), but they have lost five of their last eight.
E - Exodus. The major migration of players out of the NBA Draft hasn't started yet, but there is the first sign that it might. Antonio Anderson returned to Memphis after being given a second round grade. There are a ton of other players that will likely make the same decision soon - this is a deep draft and the first round seems pretty packed. I would imagine another year of classes would be far more attractive for a lot of guys than the uncertainty and insecurity of a second round pick.
F - Fausto Carmona. This half of Cleveland's dynamic duo hasn't been as good as he was last year, but he still has been the team's most consistent starter behind Cliff Lee. That means that he will definitely be missed while he is on the DL. He strained his hip running to cover first on Friday night as Cleveland got beat up by Texas. He' on the 15-day list for now, but there are fears that the injury could be more serious than that.
G - Granato, Tony. The Colorado Avalanche made a bizarre coaching move this week. They promoted assistant Tony Granato to the head job. They had a vacancy because Joel Quenneville had been fired. Quenneville was brought in because the previous coach couldn't win in the playoffs. That coach was - here's where it gets weird - Tony Granato. I'm all for second chances in theory, but this sure doesn't signify an inspiring move forward for the franchise.
H - Holliday, Matt. The Rockies are truly terrible, but last year's NL MVP runner-up isn't just sitting by and letting it happen. Holliday pretty much single-handedly beat the Mets on Friday. He homered in the ninth inning to tie the game, and then he drove in the winning run in the 13th inning. Of course, beating the Mets isn't much of an accomplishment these days - they have just one win in their last seven. It is just as surprising that Willie Randolph is still employed as it was that Isiah Thomas lasted as long as he did - there is something about New York, I guess.
I - Indy 500. There was finally a serious buzz surrounding the Indy again this year after the two open wheel racing leagues got over themselves and reunified. Scott Dixon made the most of the occasion. The Kiwi had had the fastest car all month in preparations, and he became the third pole-sitter in five years to drink the milk at race's end. Media darling Danica Patrick got into a collision in the pit lane and was knocked out in 22nd spot.
J - Josh Hamilton. One of the great stories of the MLB season so far is Josh Hamilton, and the way he is going he could have some nice hardware to remember this season by. The young Texas slugger was claimed off the scrap heap by the Reds last year. He was highly touted when he was picked by Tampa Bay in the draft, but looked to have thrown his career away thanks to drug use. Now his 53 RBI are seven more than anyone else in baseball, and he's hitting .333 with 12 home runs. He's even in the Triple Crown mix - second in average and home runs. The Reds miss him, but not too much - they got Edinson Volquez in return, and he's been virtually unhittable en route to a 7-2 record.
K - Kershaw, Clayton. We have another phenom sighting. The Dodgers rushed their 20-year-old stud, who they picked right out of high school in the first round of the 2006 draft, into action on Sunday. He was only in Double-A, but they didn't have a worthy fifth arm and they have 17 games without a day off, so they needed someone. Kershaw has a mid-90s fastball, a filthy curveball, and a changeup that is rapidly improving. It worked for him in his debut. He didn't get a decision, but he allowed just five hits and two runs in six innings against the Cards, with seven strikeouts and just one walk.
L - Lester, Jon. I guess Boston is pretty happy right about now that they didn't trade Lester away for Johan Santana. He's been very solid over the last several weeks, and he capped it with a no-hitter on Monday. It only came against Kansas City, but it still counts. It was the first no-no of the year, and the second consecutive one for the Red Sox and for Jason Varitek behind the plate. Unlike a lot of guys with recent no-hitters, though, Lester did not bounce back well. He lasted five undistinguished innings in a loss to Oakland on Sunday. It's not a wonder that he wasn't at his best on Sunday, though - the cancer survivor announced that his father has been diagnosed with cancer.
M - Matsuzaka. Dice-K moved to 8-0 this week, but no pitcher has been helped out by luck with their record more than the Japanese sensation. He was pretty average against Kansas City in his last start, but his team bailed him out by hitting two grand slams. He hasn't made it out of the sixth inning in five of his 10 starts, and the Sox have bailed him out of bad outings at least three times, but somehow his record remains unblemished. The better his record gets, the more value their is on his opponents because of the public's love of perfection.
N - Nuts? You might not want to call the Atlanta Falcons organization smart, but you sure can call them desperate. They were so eager to sign their new and dog-fighting-free franchise QB that they overpaid dramatically. Matt Ryan will not only make way more than No. 1 pick Jake long will make. He'll also make eight percent more than last year's top pick, JaMarcus Russell, will bring in. The rest of the owners must be thrilled with Arthur Blank right about now.
O - O.J. Mayo. It looks like there was something to the whole illegal payment story after all. Mayo and his agent have parted ways, and both sides are claiming that they severed the partnership. It's alleged that Mayo received money from a third party in exchange for eventually signing with the agency. It shouldn't have much effect on his draft status, but it could have serious implications for the USC program and coach Tim Floyd.
P - Penn, B.J. There is little doubt who the best lightweight in the world of mixed martial arts is. Penn secured his place at the top of the pile when he beat Sean Sherk at UFC 84. Sherk took such a beating that he was unable to continue by late in the third round. Penn is essentially out of opponents in his weight class, but seems focused on moving up and creating a super fight against welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre.
Q - Quit it! Why can't we all just get along? The NFL owners unanimously opted out of the collective bargaining agreement with the players this week. That means that sports fans are forced yet again to hear endlessly about how millionaires need more millions because their lives are so unfair. Maybe we'll even get a lockout - it's the NFL's turn again, after all. This means little from a betting perspective unless we get to the uncapped year in 2010. That could be a very easy year to handicap as the have teams stock up and annihilate the have-nots.
R - Rodney Stuckey. This guard out of Eastern Washington was one of the true hidden gems in the NCAA during his college career. He'd been mostly quiet in his rookie year for the Pistons, but he gave the world a glimpse of his potential in Game 2 against the Celtics. Stuckey had 13 points and was a handful in 17 impressive minutes to help his team to their lone win in the series. He's averaged 8.5 per game in the playoffs as he matures into a very valuable bench contributor.
S - San Antonio. The Spurs had to sleep on the plane after game seven of their last series because of flight problems. It looked like they hadn't woken up yet for the first two games against the Lakers, as Kobe and crew rolled to consecutive victories. Proving just how hard this team is to figure out, though, they came back in grand style on Sunday and walloped L.A. at home. Every time it seems like they are down and out they find a way to rise up and bore their opponents to death.
T - Taylor. Apparently the Dolphins don't value rhythm. Jason Taylor finished second on Dancing With The Stars, but Miami has made it clear that they have no interest in having him as part of their team. That's a pretty typical Bill Parcells move - Taylor is still playing well and the Dolphins need all the help they can get, but Parcells' ego is so big that he can't let Taylor have a little latitude to do what he wants and still join the team. If Taylor is willing to put his dreams of being a movie star aside for another year or two then he will fit nicely with whichever team lands him. Too bad L.A. doesn't still have a team.
U - United. The most popular soccer team in the world is also the best in Europe. Manchester United beat Chelsea in Moscow on Wednesday to win the Champions League. The game was as drama-filled as a soccer game can be, requiring not only penalty kicks, but extra penalty kicks to decide the outcome. Chelsea captain John Terry had a sure chance to win it all, but he slipped on the rain-soaked turf. Though they were the slight underdogs, Chelsea management clearly was not thrilled with the loss - they fired coach Avram Grant after just one season.
V - Victory. Kasey Kahne got the win in the Coca Cola 600, the longest race of the year in NASCAR, but it should have belonged to Tony Stewart. Stewart had the ace all but won with three laps left, but he bumped the wall and that caused a flat tire that ended his hopes. Kahne took advantage, and Stewart, like only he could, proceeded to inflict some serious damage on the inside of his trailer out of frustration.
W - Webb, Brandon. The dreams of a perfect season, such as they were, have ended. The Arizona ace had won his first nine starts of the year, but he fell back to earth on Wednesday when he lost to Florida. There's no need to push the panic button just yet, though - he pitched fairly well, but just didn't get any run support. He allowed three runs in seven innings, and he walked none while striking out seven.
X - soX. This was not how the AL Central was supposed to turn out - the White Sox are in the lead and in command. They are the only team in the group above .500, and they enjoy leads of 4.5 and 6.5 games over supposed conference powers Cleveland and Detroit. They have climbed to their lofty heights thanks to wins in nine of their last 11 games, including a streak of eight straight, which included a sweep of the Indians.
Y - Yankees. New York fans haven't had a lot to cheer about this year, but they could soon as they get to see a whole lot more of the dominating Joba Chamberlain. Everyone knew that it was inevitable that he would eventually end up in the rotation, and the stretching out process has already begun. He went two innings last time out, and should be ready to go by some time in June. The timing couldn't be better for a team desperate for reliable starters.
Z - Zito, Barry. Hallelujah! It finally happened. Zito actually earned a win. In his 10th start of the year Zito allowed just three hits and one run in six and a third. He beat the Marlins, too, so it wasn't like he beat up on a weakling to finally get one. His next start will likely come against Arizona, so we will get a good chance to see if Zito has finally turned a corner, or if the win was just a fluke.