This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 06/23/2008
A - Arnold, Benedict. If you aren't a hockey fan or a Canadian then you can't really understand the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are usually terrible and they haven't won a Cup since 1967, yet in the eyes of the team and their fans they are the only team that matters. Leafs fans are like really annoying Red Sox fans circa 1999. You can imagine, then, how thrilled fans were with the news that Mats Sundin, their captain, has asked for and received permission to negotiate a new contract with the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal is a hated Original Six rival, and it would probably cause riots if Sundin made the traitorous move to the enemy. He's quite likely to do it, though - after all, he'd be leaving a hopeless loser for an elite contender.
B - Boston. I'll deal with the Celtics in a second, but first I want to acknowledge how Boston is making every other city in the country their bitches. That's now six major titles since 2002 - three for the Patriots, two for the Sox and now the Celtics. The Bruins aren't doing their part just yet, but they are getting better, and the Celtics showed that a turnaround can happen in a real hurry. If you thought that guy you know from Boston was obnoxious six years ago, just imagine what he'll be like now.
C - Celtics. Wow. I will be a man and admit that I didn't think that the Celtics would win the NBA Finals. I certainly didn't think that they would do it in six games, or that they would humiliate the Lakers so badly in the process. I didn't think that they could keep up on the scoresheet with the Lakers, but they didn't have to. Their defense was stifling, they rattled Kobe badly, and they scored as much as they needed to. An impressive performance. Even more impressive - they covered all six games.
D - Daryl Thompson. Homer Bailey was having a lousy year, so the Reds tried out another young pitcher on Saturday. It went well. Thompson made his first career start in Yankees Stadium, and though the 22 year old didn't get a win, he threw five shutout innings to allow the Reds to come out ahead. The win was a little easier than normal because the Yanks' had a first-time starter, too - Dan Giese made the move from the bullpen to replace the injured Chien-Ming Wang. Thompson almost didn't get to enjoy the start - he took the wrong subway to the stadium, ended up in Brooklyn, and was late.
E - Edmonds, Jim. The Padres obviously thought Edmonds was near the end when they released him earlier this year. They seem to be mostly right, but there are still glimpses of his past greatness to be had. Edmonds managed the unlikely feat of hitting two home runs in one inning for the Cubs on Saturday to help his new team win a slugfest with the White Sox. Edmonds seems to have found a comfortable spot with the Cubs, and he is rewarding them for the risk they took in signing him.
F - France. It's either feast or famine for the French soccer team. They won the World Cup in 1998 and were finalists in 2006, but they didn't get out of the first round in 2002. They won Euro as recently as 2000, yet this year they looked totally uninterested in being there. Things started poorly with a draw against Romania, and then got worse with lifeless blowout losses against Italy and the Netherlands. They were supposed to be in the group of death, but their play didn't make survival very scary for Italy and the Dutch.
G - Good-bye? After trying to return to action, Curt Schilling confirmed this week that he will miss the rest of the season. He also said that it's possible that he could be done entirely. I'm torn on this one. On one hand, I can't stand the guy, and he's way past his prime, so I'd be happy to see him go. On the other hand, he's very easy to hate, and hating guys is part of what makes sports such fun, so maybe I want him to stick around for a while.
H - Halladay, Roy. There was a very scary moment Saturday for the best pitcher from a crappy team in the AL. Halladay was in his seventh scoreless inning for the Jays when he took a line drive off his temple. He obviously left the game, but tests thankfully showed that there were no broken bones, long-term damage, or even lasting effects. That's good news for Toronto because they already lost Shaun Marcum, second in the AL in ERA, to the 15-day DL with a sore elbow.
I - Irish. Notre Dame has been pretty much unwatchable for the last couple of seasons of the Charlie Weis era. Lucky for us, we get to keep watching it. NBC must hate the public because they have extended their exclusive deal with the Irish for several more years. On the plus side this deal runs to 2015, and that could be long enough for the team to come to their senses and get a real coach so we can actually watch some decent football on the peacock network on Saturdays.
J - Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain still doesn't have a decision as a starter, and he's not yet nearly as scary as a starter as he was out of the pen, but he did put up his best game of his career in his new role on Thursday. He struck out nine in five and a third, and he allowed just one earned run. That's twice in a row that he has only given up one run, so he is clearly figuring things out, and his record would be much better than it is if the band of overpaid losers behind him could do their jobs and give him some run support.
K - Kessler, Mikkel. Kessler lost his perfect record and was stripped of his titles when he lost to Joe Calzaghe in November. In his return to action on Saturday he bounced back nicely. Kessler regained his WBA super middleweight title by thoroughly dominating the previously unbeaten Dimitri Sartison. Kessler toyed with Sartison for 10 rounds before knocking him down in the 11th and out in the 12th. Kessler faces a mandatory defense next, but you have to figure that another shot at Calzaghe is what he really longs for.
L - Lose? It was one of the biggest locks in sports - if Stewart Cink had a lead going into the final day of a tournament he was going to find a way to blow it. He'd done that eight times in nine career opportunities, including once in March. That trend didn't hold Sunday, though - Cink shot a 67 in the final round of the Travelers Championship to win by one stroke. It's his fifth career win, but his first since 2004. Defending champ Hunter Mahan made a late charge but came up short.
M - Mariners. Last week I wrote that the Mariners had fired their general manager. It took the new GM less than a week to realize that things were hopeless, so he fired manager John McLaren this week. Bench coach Jim Riggleman now becomes the team's fifth manager in six seasons. With a revolving door at the top it's not a wonder that this team has struggled to live up to the expectations put upon them by a roster that looks pretty good on paper.
N - NHL. The NHL enjoyed one of their deepest drafts in years this weekend. Tampa Bay had the first choice, and they choice center Steven Stamkos. That was no surprise - Stamkos, who gets compared frequently to Joe Sakic, has been pegged as the top choice for years. The rest of the first round was packed with the selection of several strong defensemen and some trades that will change the look of teams in Phoenix, Florida, L.A., Montreal and Calgary.
O - Out. Chipper Jones is having a heck of a year at the plate, but it could all be threatened if he can't get his leg healthy. Jones is out of action again thanks to a quad that has been hurt several times this season. He originally hurt the leg at the start of April, and it has never come back, forcing him to miss a couple of games here and there. Needless to say, legs are pretty important both in hitting the ball and getting on base once you do so, so this could be a real problem for the pursuit of Ted Williams if this continues. That chase is already in serious peril as Jones has slipped to .393.
P - Piniella, Lou. The Cubs' manager made his first return to Tampa Bay, and he probably wishes he hadn't. The still-surprising Rays swept the Cubs, who boast the best record in major league baseball. As impressive as the sweep was for Tampa is how they did it. They found themselves in a hole in the deciding game after allowing three runs in the seventh. Instead of panicking, which you might expect them to do given their age and inexperience, they bounced right back and scored seven in their half of the inning to put it away for good.
Q - Queen's Plate. The Triple Crown didn't end as most fans hoped, but hardcore racing fans have another shot at racing glory now that the Canadian Triple Crown is underway. The 149th running of the race went pretty much exactly to form - the favorite won it, and the two other top choices filled out the triactor. That favorite was Not Bourbon, a horse with two stakes wins under his belt already this year. He is trained by Roger Attfield, and the win was a record eighth in the race for the superstar conditioner.
R - Rays. It was a good week for Tampa Bay. Not only did thy pile up some wins against the National League, but they also got their shortstop of the future into the fold. With surprisingly little difficulty the Rays signed Tim Beckham, their No. 1 choice in the recent MLB draft. The high schooler pocketed a $6.15 million signing bonus, though his total deal is smaller than the one the Rays gave pitcher David Price last year. Beckham reported to the Rays' rookie ball affiliate on Sunday where he will play with his brother Jeremy who the Rays also drafted this year.
S - Sabathia, C.C. The Cleveland ace may not be in Ohio much longer, and he made a heck of an advertisement that a National League team might want to look hard at him. He hit a home run in his first at-bat of the year against the Dodgers on Saturday. To make it even more impressive, he had gloated that he was going to go deep before he did. He struck out 10 and only allowed one run in seven innings, too, but his one run was the only one while he was in, so he got no decision in the Cleveland win.
T - Toronto. Not much has gone right for the Toronto Blue Jays since their back-to-back World Series victories in 1992 and 1993. They must be looking to recapture that past glory, because they fired manager John Gibbons and his staff this week and replaced him with Cito Gaston, the man at the helm for those championships. Gaston hasn't managed since he left the Jays, but he is incredibly popular in the city for obvious reasons, and he will be a PR boost if nothing else. He also has a background as a hitting coach, so maybe he can wake up the pathetic Jays' bats.
U - Upset. Euro 2008 has been filled with upsets, but none as remarkable as Turkey's win over Croatia in quarterfinal action. The game was tied through regulation time and most of two overtime periods, so penalty kicks seemed inevitable. With just minutes left, though, Croatia scored what looked to be the clincher. They celebrated wildly, then promptly fell asleep. Turkey scored the tying goal in the dying seconds and then won in penalty kicks when the deflated Croats missed the net twice.
V - Volquez, Edinson. I know I write about this Reds' pitcher a lot, but I can't stop it because he keeps doing things worth mentioning. The Yankees had strung together seven in a row and were finally playing like they should. Then they met Volquez. He had yet another solid outing, allowing two runs in seven innings. The win moves him to 10-2 on the year, and his ERA is still at a microscopic 1.71.
W - Weird. As you would expect, there are some strange stories coming out of Dallas Cowboys camp this week. That's to be expected given the collection of characters there from the owner on down. Terry Glenn asked to be released one day, and then said he wanted to stay the next. He's offended because the team wants to protect themselves against his potential injury, despite the fact that he missed 15 games last year. You could ask Pacman Jones what he thinks about the situation, but he wouldn't answer because he now insists on being called Adam. Apparently it must have been the nickname that caused him to make such irredeemably poor decisions.
X - eXplosion. Mark Teixera probably hasn't been the offensive super-force they hoped he would be when the Braves signed him last year, but he found his stride on Sunday. Teixera went deep three times on Sunday as the Braves beat up on the pathetic Seattle Mariners. He was due - he hadn't hit a homer in 11 games, and was falling well behind his typical pace.
Y - Yankees. Think the Yanks are desperate about their pitching situation after losing Chien-Ming Wang to injury? All you need to know to answer that question is that they signed Sidney Ponson this week. Ponson was available because the Rangers had cut him for generally being a drunken idiot. He had numerous off-field incidents, but his performance on the field was solid enough that the Yankees were willing to pick up Texas' scraps. Making the story odder, you might remember that Ponson had a brief, disastrous stint with the Yankees in 2006 in which he was quickly demoted to the bullpen before being released just over a month after signing.
Z - Zambrano, Carlos. It's not often that a team is relieved when they lose a stud pitcher to the DL, but that's probably the case with the Cubs and Zambrano. The team loses Zambrano for 15 days with a mild shoulder strain, but it was originally feared that it was much worse, so 15 days seems like a bargain. Zambrano won a career best 18 games last year, and he has been very solid at 8-3 so far this year.