This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 06/09/2008
A - Alves, Thiago. The main event of Saturday's UFC 85 ended in an upset. Matt Hughes is a UFC legend, and he was favored against the younger and less experienced Alves, but that wasn't enough. Hughes was cut in the first round, and he was beat up badly in round two before a flying knee ended the match. Alves moves to 15-3 on his career and climbs the wleterweight ranks closer to a title shot, though he continues to struggle to make the weight. For Hughes this might be the end of a long, impressive career.
B - Big Brown. I have absolutely no idea what happened in the Belmont, and I probably never will, but I feel completely gutted. It was hard enough to see Real Quiet miss the Triple Crown by a nose, or Silver Charm by a neck, but this is much, much worse. The horse came out of the race healthy, but ran as badly as a horse can possibly run. He was in fine position coming around the final turn, and he made the same explosive move we have become accustomed to, only this time it was backwards. Blaming Kent Desormeaux doesn't seem fair, but for now it's the best I've got. I just desperately hope this isn't the last we see of this horse.
C - Chamberlain, Joba. This was the week that the Yankees stud reliever became a starter. It didn't start well, but the second outing showed that there's hope. Chamberlain was bounced with one out in the third his first time out, and he just wasn't that good. He got a break in his second start by facing the Royals, and he improved, lasting into the fifth and striking out more than he walked this time. The Yankees need him to figure it out quickly.
D - Da' Tara. As much as it pains me to do it, I have to acknowledge the Belmont winner. It was a truly bizarre race. Da' Tara was almost certainly entered in the race as a rabbit. He went to the lead early, set a decent but not impossible pace, and somehow ran away unchallenged for the victory at odds of 39/1. This victory by a Nick Zito trainee was like some sort of bizarre flashback - in 2004 Birdstone came from nowhere to end Smarty Jones' Triple Crown bid at odds of 36/1.
E - Euro 2008. The second biggest soccer tournament in the world after the World Cup got underway on Saturday. Over the next month the 16 best teams in Europe will play until just one is left standing. The Czech Republic was the first team to earn a win, beating co-hosts Switzerland. The last version of this tournament in 2004 was packed with upsets, but the first two days this year have so far gone pretty much completely to form.
F - Flip Saunders. The Pistons fired coach Saunders this week because he couldn't get the team to win in the playoffs despite consistently impressive regular seasons. He certainly deserved his fate, but I want to know why they ever thought he could win in the playoffs in the first place? This is the same guy who coached the Timberwolves for nine full seasons, won 50 or more games four times, yet only made it out of the first round once. By making it to the conference finals three-straight times with the Pistons the guy was overachieving.
G - Georgia. How many guys with the last name Beckham do you think there are in Georgia? More than I would have guessed, apparently, and they all must play shortstop. Tim Beckham, a high schooler, was the first pick in the MLB draft by the Rays. Gordon Beckham, from the University of Georgia, went eighth to the White Sox. The rest of the top 10 featured a lot of power hitters, three catchers, and, unlike recent years, just two pitchers. The Giants may have pulled off the biggest coup of all - they picked fifth, but somehow Buster Posey, the best catcher and probably most pro-ready player in the draft, was still available for them. He was expected by many to go first overall to Tampa Bay.
H - Henry, Travis. Here's yet more proof of how cruel football can be. A year ago Henry was signed as the salvation for a Denver Broncos team that had an unfamiliar problem - questions about their running game. Henry led the league in yards early in the season, but injuries and personal issues derailed the promising start. The offseason was no better, and now Henry is jobless after his employers questioned his commitment.
I - Ivanovic, Ana. Women's tennis has a new star, and it comes just when it needed one after the sudden retirement of Justine Henin. Ivanovic didn't exactly come from nowhere - she was in the French final last year and the Australian final in January. She moved to a new level here, though. The win moves the Serbian to No. 1 in the world rankings, and she is more than cute enough to occupy the dreams of guys all over the world.
J - Jozy Altidore. The young American star of the MLS isn't yet a household name, but chances are pretty good he will be after the next World Cup. American soccer fans won't get a chance to see him much before then, though. Altidore is leaving the New York Red Bulls to join Villareal of the Spanish first division. The Spaniards will pay MLS $10 million for the rights to the 18 year old as soon as they reach a contract agreement with him. Losing him hurts the MLS, but in the long run it is a great move for U.S. soccer as he can develop in Europe far better than he can here.
K - Kelly Pavlik. The pride of Youngstown, Ohio is probably the best active welterweight in the world, but the boxer didn't need to be to win on Saturday night. He knocked out Welsh journeyman Gary Lockett in the third round to defend his WBC and WBO titles, and he had beat Lockett soundly before delivering the final blow. Up next for the undefeated champion could be a dream fight against Joe Calzhege, the man who beat Bernard Hopkins last time out.
L - Lee, Cliff. The big surprise in the Cleveland rotation won this week to move to 9-1, but he got darned lucky to do it. He was pretty awful against the Rangers, allowing six earned runs and requiring 112 pitches to get through five innings. Thankfully for the sake of his record Sidney Ponson was pretty rough for the Rangers, and reliever Elizardo Ramirez self-destructed, allowing nine earned runs in less than three innings.
M - Mark Prior. Quite possibly the least shocking news in history - Prior is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. That follows up shoulder injuries that completely wiped out last season and most of the prior one. What an incredible waste of talent this is. In his first four seasons, Prior was 41-23 with an ERA below 3.50. Since then he is 1-6 with an ERA over seven. It seems increasingly unlikely that he will ever return to full action.
N - Nadal, Rafael. I'm not surprised that Nadal beat Roger Federer on Sunday to win his fourth-straight French Open. I wasn't necessarily expecting Nadal to make Federer his bitch at the same time, though. Nadal won 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 to prove without any doubt that he is the best clay court player in the world. The scope of the beating Federer took overshadows a truly remarkable accomplishment - this was the 16th consecutive Grand Slam in which Federer made at least the final four.
O - Out. A couple of valued starters suffered season-ending injuries this week. First, the Tigers, a team that can hardly spare an arm, likely lost Jeremy Bonderman for the year to a blood clot. He was just 3-4, but he had the best ERA of any full tie starter on the roster. That wasn't the only AL Central team with troubles, though. Jake Westbrook is out for the year with an elbow problem. He'd been struggling with injuries all year, having made only five starts.
P - Pacman. His return to the NFL is controversial and not yet guaranteed, but Pacman Jones seems to be settling in nicely in his new surroundings in Dallas. He had an interception in his first practice with his new team, and has generally been playing unlike a guy who hasn't played in a year. This can't be too much of a surprise - No one ever accused the guy of being a genius, but he sure can play. The good news, as well, is that so far he has gone several days with Dallas without "making it rain".
Q - Quit. It didn't take much to figure out that Floyd Mayweather Jr. was a bit of a different guy, but I didn't think he was stupid enough to throw away $20 million instead of fighting a fight he was almost certain to win. That's just what the man they call "Money" did, though. Mayweather shocked the world on Friday by retiring instead of facing Oscar De La Hoya this fall as planned. The loss of the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, and a huge pay-per-view draw to boot, is a major blow for the already struggling sport of boxing. Thankfully, though, the guy is only 31, and most boxing retirements don't last as long as it took to write this sentence.
R -Ridiculous. The worst part of soccer is the injuries. You know the ones - the guy looks like he has been shot, he is carried off the field on a stretcher, and two minutes later he is back in action. Apparently Paul Pierce disagrees with me, though. In Game 1 of the NBA Finals he went down with an injury that looked almost fatal. He was helped off the court, spent some time in a wheelchair, and then returned to lead his team to victory. The injury didn't stick around, either, as Pierce rebounded to lead his team with 28 points in the Game 2 win.
S - Smoltz, John. Braves fans had to be thrilled by word that Smoltz would be returning to the closer role once he returned from injury. After all, he was truly dominant in the role before he returned to starting. Unfortunately, this era of relief lasted just one outing. He blew his first save opportunity, and now he may not get another shot. He'll miss the rest of the season after shoulder surgery, and it seems quite possible that this will force him into retirement.
T - Tiger Woods. Woods will be rusty when he tees off in the U.S. Open this week, but at least he won't be playing entirely without practice. Woods returned to action on Wednesday, playing his first round of golf since his knee surgery two days after the Masters when he hit Torrey Pines. He reportedly hit the ball very well, but he's still obviously not 100 percent - he rode in a cart for the round. The ridiculous thing about the guy, though, is that it will be hard to pick against him even though there are a few good reasons he shouldn't win.
U - Ugly. The Rays are still the best story in baseball, but this certainly wasn't their best week. First, they were swept by the Red Sox to fall out of the lead in their division. Then they got in a brawl during that series when James Shields hit Coco Crisp with a pitch. The fighting must have been fun, because pitcher Matt Garza wanted to do some more. Unfortunately, he chose to fight his own catcher, Dioner Navarro, in the dugout. Is that the sound of the wheels falling off?
V - Volquez, Edinson. You would think that a team would be crushed after trading away Josh Hamilton. After all, he's leading the American League in home runs, and has 13 more RBI than any player in baseball. The Reds probably don't mind that much, though. They got Volquez in exchange, and he just keeps getting better. He threw seven shutout innings against the Phillies on Wednesday to move to 8-2 and lower his league-best ERA to 1.32. He has not allowed more than two earned runs in a game all year, and his team is 10-3 when he starts. Not bad for a guy who had a 3-11 record coming into the year.
W - Wings. It took six games, but the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in 11 years, and they did it in dominating fashion. The road was a bit bumpier than expected. They were up by a goal in the final seconds of game five, and were about to hoist the Cup at home. Pittsburgh tied it up in the final seconds, though, and ultimately won an overtime marathon that lasted almost three full periods. That game was a classic, but losing it just made Detroit mad, and they cruised to the clinching victory next time out. Not bad for a bunch of geezers.
X - eXtremely stupid. The latest nominee to the moron club is North Carolina star Ty Lawson. He's hoping to be an NBA lottery pick, but he needs to impress teams and convince him he is worth the risk of a pick. The best way he could think of to do that, apparently, was to get arrested for DWI. Coach Roy Williams has to be disappointed in his player, but not entirely - part him has to be hoping that this will turn teams off of Lawson so he will have no choice but to return to UNC to get the ball to Tyler Hansbrough for another season.
Y - Yahoo. I'm not a Chicago Bulls fan, but I'm still so excited for them that I have to shout with joy. Things couldn't be going better for them - they'll either make the top pick in the draft, or they'll trade it away for a chest full of treasure. They already have a solid core. The future is very bright. They almost threw that all away, though, by rehiring Doug Collins to coach the team. That would have been a disaster, but thankfully they couldn't get a deal done. It looks like they have now made an offer to Vinny Del Negro for the position. Huh?!
Z - Zzzz. The Miami Dolphins soap opera is getting more and more ridiculous every day. This week added a couple more chapters. First, Jason Taylor called a press conference to assure us that he hadn't requested a trade, but that he would take one. Then Bill Parcells spoke up. He says that he wants the world's second best celebrity dancer back in the fold, and the reason he hadn't spoken to Taylor when the player entered the room in the famous incident a couple months back was because he hadn't heard him because he didn't have his hearing aids in.