This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 06/02/2008
A - Andruw Jones. We won't have Jones and his oddly spelled first name to kick around for a month or more. Jones had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee on Tuesday and will miss four to six weeks. You'd never guess it if you just look at their payroll, but this is pretty much the best thing that could have happened to the struggling Dodgers. Jones, who signed a two-year, $36.2 million deal in the offseason, is hitting just .165 so far this year.
B - Busch, Kyle. NASCAR is a game of streaks, and right now Busch is riding a pretty hot one. He won a crash-filled race at Dover on Sunday to rack up his fourth win of the season in the Sprint Cup, and 10th overall in all levels of NASCAR. Busch may not be very easy to like, but you have to respect the way he has taken the lead in the series - he has finished in the top three the last five races, and hasn't been out of the top 10 in seven outings.
C - Cubs. It turns out Lou Piniella is a pretty good manager after all. He has Chicago firing on all cylinders. They've won seven-straight to earn the best record in the league, and they are a league-best 26-8 at home. They'd be even better if they could play on the road - they are three games under .500 when not sleeping in their own beds. They have been winning in style on their current streak - they were down 9-1 to the Rockies before rallying to take the lead for good in the seventh. That's impressive even if it was against Colorado.
D - Doug Collins. There have been conflicting stories recently, but it still seems as if Collins will be the next coach of the Chicago Bulls. For the sake of the team I hope this isn't true. He's had a previous, unsuccessful run as their coach, he didn't improve much in two subsequent coaching gigs, he has a yell-first-ask-questions-later approach that is too similar to Scott Skiles and the Skiles era was mostly a failure, and he horribly botched the handling of Kwame Brown as a rookie, so it doesn't make much sense to trust him with another top choice.
E - EliteXC. MMA was featured in primetime for the first time on Saturday night, and Internet sensation Kimbo Slice was the main attraction on the EliteXC card. The only problem was that Slice just isn't a very good fighter. He won, but he didn't get the early knockout that many expected, and he struggled through an underwhelming match against James Thompson. Slice ultimately won by TKO, but the call by the ref seemed a bit premature because Thompson was still standing and fighting at the time. Slice was the biggest draw, but he wasn't the best entertainment.
F - Finals. It's a blast from the past in the NBA - the Lakers and the Celtics playing for the title. It's also a wet dream for the league and their marketers. Boston finally closed out a series in fewer than seven games, and Kobe and the Lakers have continued to dominate (and get a few breaks from the referees along the way). Boston has made a remarkable turn-around this year, but it's hard to argue that they are being disrespected considering the fact that the Lakers are heavily favored.
G - Gina Carano. A lot of people don't think about women when they think of mixed martial arts, but that probably changed for many people after the EliteXC primetime card on Saturday night. Carano, otherwise known as Crush on American Gladiators was truly dominating in her victory over Kaitlin Young. She is generally viewed as the best female fighter in the world, and she showed why as she beat up Young so badly that the ringside doctor stopped the fight after two rounds.
H - Homer number 500. Manny Ramirez might not live on this planet most of the time, but there is no denying he can hit. The Red Sox slugger joined a relatively elite (though somewhat soiled in recent years) club this week with his 500th home run. He was the 24th major leaguer to hit that mark, and he celebrated the next day by hitting number 501. Ramirez is only 36, and he seems eager to play for at least a couple more years, so there's no telling how high he could boost his total. 600 could be achievable.
I - Indians. Cleveland hasn't shown much of a propensity for winning games this year, but the Indians do keep pulling off bizarre plays. First it was an unassisted triple play. Now they have pulled off a triple steal. Rest assured, though, that this one certainly wasn't planned. The bases were loaded (obviously) when Jamey Carroll got caught off first by a pickoff throw. As he was in a rundown David Dellucci stole home and Grady Sizemore grabbed third when a toss to home went wide. Not pretty, but effective and rare - it was the first triple steal since October 1, 1987.
J - Jay Bruce. The Reds felt their outfield needed a shakeup because the veterans in place weren't hitting. They certainly got one when they called up uber-prospect Jay Bruce from Triple-A. Bruce has played six games, and he's been ridiculously good - 15-for-24 with 5 RBI. The 21 year old has been a good luck charm for the time - they've won five of his six games. Just imagine how good the Reds' outfield would be right now if they had kept Josh Hamilton around.
K - Kenny Perry. Only two guys have ever won Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament three times. Tiger Woods is the obvious and correct choice. Perry would be the less likely choice. No one other than Perry seemed to want to win on Sunday - he played strong golf while everyone around him was making mistakes. The 47 year old won here 17 years after his first Memorial win, which was also his first of 10 career wins and his first since 2005.
L - Luc Bourdon. This Vancouver Canucks defenseman had yet to become a household name, but he just might be now. He was a top-10 draft pick, and he had twice starred on Canada's gold medal winning world junior team. We won't get to see what he can become - Bourdon was killed in a motorcycle accident this week. Horrifically, the 21 year old had only had his motorcycle license for less than two weeks when the accident occurred.
M - Marco Andretti. Michael's 21 year old son set an Indy car record this weekend when he was the fastest qualifier at Milwaukee to become the youngest pole sitter in history. In a blast from the past, joining him in the front row was Bobby Rahal's 19-year-old son, Graham. It didn't do either of them any good, though. Ryan Briscoe caught and passed Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon and then held off a late charge for the win. Andretti started strong but lost his speed and was irrelevant in the final result, while Rahal ran into the wall and was eliminated.
N - No effort. The older Williams' sister, Venus, played perhaps the worst game in recent memory when she got knocked out in the third round of the French Open at the hands of a 26th-ranked Italian. She looked listless and lost. The only player who looked almost as bad was the younger sister, Serena. She lost to the 27th-ranked player, and didn't smile once during the match. The sisters have 14 Grand Slam titles between them, yet it's depressing to think of the number they could have won if their attitudes were even somewhat in the realm of their talent.
O - Ohio Derby. The current class of three year olds, outside of Big Brown, has come under criticism from some quarters for being weak. Smooth Air did his part this weekend to prove that isn't the case. Smooth Air finished second to Big Brown in the Florida Derby, but had a rough trip in the Kentucky Derby. He bounced back to win in impressive fashion in Ohio. Another Kentucky Derby runner, Z Fortune, was third. The more successful horses are when they run back from the Derby, the better the class will look in retrospect.
P - Phillies. Philadelphia is finally in first place like they should be given the number of MVPs and potential MVPs they have in their lineup, and they have their recently explosive offense to thank for it. They have scored at least 12 points in four of their last 11 games, capped by a 15-run performance against Houston and a 20-run follow-up against Colorado. Chase Utley led the way with nine RBI in the two games.
Q - Quit. Jason Taylor needs to quit assuming that we care about him. Maybe it would be different if he had won "Dancing with the Stars," but he was just runner-up so his 15 minutes must be almost up. He doesn't think so - he seems to believe that he is too good to practice with his team, yet he called a press conference on Sunday to tell the world that he hadn't asked to be traded. The guy's a good player, but he's not good enough to be this much of a prima donna.
R - Rotator cuff. A pitcher isn't much good without a healthy rotator cuff - even if he had previously been undefeated. Daisuke Matsuzaka was forced to leave Boston's game against the Mariners on Tuesday with what first looked like a back injury, but turned out to be a strained rotator cuff. It reportedly doesn't appear to be too serious, but the Red Sox didn't want to risk it, so they gave their star import his first stint on the 15 day DL.
S - Scott Kazmir. A lot of guys seem to go into the tank after they sign a fat new contract. That's not the case for the Tampa Bay ace, though. Fresh off signing an extension, Kazmir has won five in a row. He's not just scraping by either - just two earned runs have been scored in 33 innings over the stretch. He's lowered his season ERA to a microscopic 1.22, and is sporting a very solid 2.9/1 k/BB ratio. Of course, it's not that hard to win a game for the Rays with the way they have been playing recently. They have won 10 of 13, and only the Cubs have a better record.
T - Tim Lincecum. This Giants' star isn't getting nearly enough attention because, well, he plays for the Giants. He deserves better. His team is just 24-33 and are only out of the NL West cellar because the rest of the division is so lousy. Despite that, Lincecum is at 7-1 in 11 starts this year, and he hasn't lost since April. His ERA is at 2.33, and he hasn't beaten up on lousy teams, either - he has wins over good teams like Arizona, Houston, Philadelphia, and St. Louis twice.
U - Usain Bolt. Track and field isn't the biggest betting sport out there, but that doesn't make a world record any less impressive. Bolt set a new mark in the 100-meter dash at 9.72 seconds in New York on Sunday, bettering the 9.74 seconds run by fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell. The best part of this story is that Bolt doesn't consider the 100 his best event - he only uses it to tune up for his specialty, the 200. My guess is that that will change now.
V - Vanderjagt, Mike. Depending on your perspective, you either think of Vanderjagt as one of the more consistent kickers of the last decade, or as Peyton Manning branded him - as an idiot kicker. Either way, unless you are a CFL fan (and why would you be?), you don't have to worry about watching Vanderjagt anymore. The guy must love playing, because he has chosen to sign with the Toronto Argonauts instead of waiting until NFL training camps start to see where he could land. He's a Canadian so it makes some sense, but it's still a fall from grace.
W - Webb, Brandon. For a while there it looked like Webb may have been in a slump. After winning nine in a row, he lost two straight and allowed seven runs in just over 11 innings over that stretch. Webb obviously got sick of hearing he was in trouble, though, because he righted the ship with authority on Saturday with a complete game shutout against Washington. He struck out eight without a walk. The D-Backs went off at -228 in the game, so the mini-losing streak didn't do much to bring Webb's prices down to earth.
X - eXperience. There's always a debate over which is better in sports - youth or experience. In the NHL it seems that experience is better. For now, at least. Pittsburgh is young and ridiculously talented, but they have been schooled by the older, more experienced Red Wings. Detroit has won three of the first four games in the Stanley Cup finals, and the relative ease with which they have done it makes it hard to believe that their eventual series win is anything other than inevitable. Pittsburgh will win at least one Cup, and likely more, but they'll have to be patient.
Y - Yikes. The Royals are not in a good place right now. They have won two in a row, but that's almost certainly not enough to erase the bitter taste of the 12-straight that they lost before that. The lowlight of that skid had to be on Wednesday. They had a five-run lead on the Twins with two outs in the ninth, but they let Minnesota tie it up and then win it in extra innings. The guy you have to feel sorry for there is Zack Greinke. The Royals hurler threw eight solid innings and left with a big lead but has nothing but a sore arm to show for it. Greinke deserves to play for a better team - he could be a star.
Z - Zzzz. I wish I could figure out why the NBA and the NHL figure we need so much time to prepare for the finals. The Penguins had almost a week to get ready for Detroit, and now the Celtics and the Lakers have a week to get ready their matchup. Hopefully the excessive rest works better for them than it did for the Penguins.