This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 07/07/2008
A - A's. Not only was there a ridiculous amount of money spent on a 16-year-old pitcher, but it came from a very unlikely team - Oakland. The A' s signed Michael Inoa to a minor league contract that included a $4.25 million signing bonus. The guy may be young, but he obviously has enough ability to make a team lose their heads - he's 6 foot 7, and he throws in the mid-90s already. They say he is the most impressive young Latin American pitcher since Felix Hernandez, but his signing is such a risk, and he is so far from the pros, that it's a bit laughable. If I hear Oakland complain about money ever again I will puke.
B - Baron Davis. Did you see this one coming? If you did you are in the serious minority. After repeatedly saying that he had no intention of opting out of his contract with Golden State he did just that. Even stranger, he signed with the Clippers. That team has been the laughing stock of the league forever, yet Davis took their money. He will make them better, but it's still hard to see how they will be better than the Warriors were. Davis obviously values his burgeoning career in the movie business at least as much as basketball. Needless to say, the move leaves the Warriors absolutely gutted.
C - C.C. Sabathia. It's not official yet as I write this, but it looks like last year's AL Cy Young winner is moving to Milwaukee. Sabathia is just 6-8 this year, but that record is far from indicative of his effectiveness - he has had ridiculously little run support. The Indians looked to dump him for future pieces as they didn't figure they could re-sign him. They reportedly got four pieces in return, the centerpiece being outfielder Matt LaPorta, a first round pick last year who is having an impressive year at the plate in Double-A.
D - Dario Franchitti. It was a good and bad week for Franchitti. The good news is that he's still married to Ashley Judd, and that can't suck (even if she is a Kentucky fan). The bad news is that he doesn't have a job anymore. He left the open wheel racing world this year after winning the Indy 500 last year, and he joined Chip Ganassi in NASCAR. It went badly. Really badly. Franchitti was stuck in 41st place in the standings, and Ganassi shut down the team effective immediately this week because there was no sponsor and no real hope for the future.
E - Extensions. It was a good week to be a high-profile college coach. A couple of schools shelled out a pile of money to make sure that their coaches stayed happy. Tennessee was the most generous, upping the pay of both Philip Fulmer and Bruce Pearl and locking both up through 2014. UCLA joined the pay raise parade, too, and it was a no-brainer. Ben Howland has done a spectacular job even if he hasn't quite made it all the way yet, and he is now richer than he was just last week.
F - Fisticuffs. The Buccaneers took a couple of calculated risks when they drafted Aqib Talib and Cory Boyd this year. Both are talented players, but they both got into some trouble in college. It's early, but it looks like the moves could backfire. The two players reportedly got in a fight at the NFL Rookie Symposium. That's an odd way for teammates to bond. Even stranger, the incident happened in a budget and finance meeting. It would seem more likely that that would cause the guys to fall asleep, not fight.
G - Georgia. The Bulldogs' football team doesn't have a discipline problem. Just ask coach Mark Richt. With that in mind he would probably struggle to explain how a team without a problem would manage to have seven players arrested in one offseason. They are the college version of the Bengals. The latest was DE Michael Lemon. He assaulted another Georgia student, and has been suspended from the team for his efforts.
H - Hossa, Marian. Of all the moves that have happened since the free agency period opened in the NHL this week, the oddest one was by Hossa. The former Senator and Thrasher had several big long-term offers on the table after joining Pittsburgh at the trade deadline and helping them to the Stanley Cup final. Instead of cashing in, Hossa took a one-year deal with Detroit. On one hand it makes sense - they are the defending champs, they are mostly intact, and with Hossa on board they are the strong favorites to repeat. On the other hand, though, if Hossa has a bad year or is hurt then he just left a pile of money on the table.
I - Injured. Johnny Damon has been in the majors for 14 years, but there is one place he has never been until now - the disabled list. He injured his left shoulder on Friday when he crashed into the outfield fence making a play. It's just a bruise and a sprain, but the swelling increased enough by Sunday that the decision to take an extended break became the logical one. Damon joins Hideki Matsui on DL, meaning that rookie Brett Gardner will be a regular starter. That's not what is supposed to happen on a team with a payroll this big.
J - Jaromir Jagr. After a long, mostly impressive career, Jagr has left the NHL. He had multiple offers on the table, but instead he has chosen to play in Russia. He cried when he announced it and said that it was the toughest decision of his life, but I don't buy it for a second - Jagr had been mailing it in for a couple of years now, and his Russian contract is for much more than the NHL maximum, and it is tax free.
K - Kim, Anthony. This guy is quickly turning winning into a habit. Kim was three strokes behind going into the final round of the AT&T National on Sunday, but he strung together consecutive birdies to take the lead, and he didn't look back. It was his second win of the year, and his career, and he became the first American under 25 to win twice in a year since some guy named Tiger. It was fitting, then, that the win came at the event hosted by Tiger. The win puts Kim firmly into position to make the Ryder Cup team.
L - Lee, Cliff. This story keeps getting more impressive. Last year the journeyman starter spent some time in the minors trying to rediscover his lost stuff. This year he is reportedly going to be the American League starter in the MLB All-Star Game. Though this is a huge honor, it is bad news for Lee in one sense - no all-star starter has won the Cy Young in the AL since Roger Clemens in 2001.
M - Michael Beasley. Welcome to the NBA, rookie. Beasley didn't even make it through his first practice without getting hurt. He took an elbow to his sternum in his first preparation for the summer leagues and had to sit out the rest of the session. It turned out that he slightly fractured his sternum, though he intends to try to play through it. It will be interesting to see how he can play through this first major challenge of his career.
N - Nadal, Rafael. Wow. John McEnroe calls Nadal's win over Federer as it got dark at Wimbledon the best tennis match he has ever seen. I haven't watched nearly as much tennis as he has, so who am I to argue? I owe Nadal an apology. I obviously knew he was good, but I didn't think he was that good. People are saying that this was the changing of the guard, but I think it just intensified an already epic rivalry. And one more thing - my money says that Federer cruises to a win at the U.S. Open to shut up his critics a bit.
O - Ouch. There was some surprising news out of Chicago this week regarding No. 1 pick Derrick Rose - it turns out that he has tendonitis in his right knee. He was limping badly after a practice Saturday morning. It's not great news for the Bulls, but it obviously isn't a surprise - the injury dates back to last year at Memphis, sp NBA teams obviously knew about it even if we didn't. The story is that he spent too much time practicing to get ready for the season, and that is what caused the problem.
P - Phelps, Michael. Here's a bold bet - I say that Phelps is going to win a gold medal in Beijing. The freakish American swimmer emerged from the Olympic trials with a spot in eight Olympic races. More impressively, there is a good chance he will be favored in all of them. He has at least a shot at breaking Mark Spitz' record seven gold medal haul. He's undoubtedly in form - he swam in 15 races at the trials including qualifiers, and he won all of them.
Q - Quit. Tony Stewart has been losing a lot recently, but he found a new way to do it this week. He quit. He was coming down with the flu, so he climbed out of his car 72 laps into the 160-lap race at Daytona and was replaced by teammate J.J. Yeley. That's the kind of pansy spirit that has earned Stewart his dismal losing streak. To the surprise of no one, Kyle Busch won. He now has six wins this year, and 12 in all three major levels of NASCAR racing, and he is comfortably in the lead in the Chase.
R - Refund. I'm too young to worry about it, but if you were betting on tennis in 1983 and you bet on the underdog in the women's final at Wimbledon then you might want to ask for a refund. Andrea Jaeger was 18 when she lost to Martina Navratilova. That's no surprise, but she admitted this week that she intentionally lost the match. It turns out that she had had a fight with her dad, and lost to spite him.
S - Seriously? This has to be a joke, doesn't it? I wish Brett Favre was kidding, but I don't think he is. Word came out this week that Favre has the itch to play next year, and that he has told the Packers as much. The guy is a publicity whore. I don't doubt he could play, and I didn't think he should have retired in the first place, but I don't get why he would do this to Aaron Rodgers and a team he supposedly loves. That being said, I would love to see him in another jersey next year, but that won't happen.
T - Tampa Bay. The Rays are for real. So much so that there is really no point in talking about it anymore. They won all seven games they played this week, capping it with a sweep of Boston. The effort puts them five games up in the AL East, and two and a half games better than the next best team in the majors. They have pulled off this Disney-like turnaround despite only being .500 on the road. Of course, that .500 record would be enough to put them in the lead in the NL West right now, so it's not that bad.
U - Unit, Big. Finally - Randy Johnson looked like Randy Johnson on Sunday night. Up until now he had just looked like a huge, ugly, old guy. He entered his start on Sunday riding a six-game losing streak, and he had allowed seven earned runs in three of those six losses. On Sunday, though, he was dominant. He allowed just one earned run in more than six innings, and he struck out 10 without a walk. There is an asterisk, though - the game was against San Diego, and the Padres could make me look like Cy Young. They have just four wins in their last 19 games.
V - Venus Williams. Any doubt who the best female grass player in the world is right now? Venus beat sister Serena on Saturday to win her second-straight Wimbledon title and fifth overall. It was the seventh time the sisters had played in a grand slam final, and only the second time she had won. At the start it looked like she wouldn't as she was truly terrible, but she woke up and ended winning in straight sets. Serena looked frustrated with the loss, but she bounced back nicely as the sisters went out four hours later and cruised to an effortless win in the doubles.
W - Wizards. Washington has their core in place and locked up. Antawn Jamison signed a new contract as soon as he could, and that was all the incentive Gilbert Arenas needed to stick around, too. Agent Zero briefly flirted with other teams, and Golden State threw a stack of cash at him, but the decision never really seemed to be in real doubt. Now the question is whether this is a good move for the team. They did okay with Arenas injured, and better when he returned, but it is hard to see how this team will be anything more than pretty good with this lineup.
X - uneXpected. The UFC has a new light heavyweight champion, and oddsmakers didn't see it coming. Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson was fairly heavily favored to defend his title against fellow "The Ultimate Fighter" coach Forest Griffin, but the challenger won a decision. The title caps quite a rise for Griffin. He not only was a coach on TUF, but he was also the winner of the inaugural season. This win should make him a huge star if he can hold onto the belt for a while.
Y - Yikes. There are often strange injuries in baseball, but few are stranger than the one that put Troy Tulowitzki on the DL this week. The oft-injured shortstop pouted after being replaced, and it ended in injury. He smashed his bat onto the ground, it shattered, and he ended up with a cut on his hand. It was a maple bat, so this will be more artillery for the critics of those controversial but effective weapons.
Z - Zzzzz. My pathetic Seattle Mariners found a new way to bore us on Sunday - they played a game that was tied at one in the 15th inning. It may have been incredibly unmemorable, but at least it ended with a bang. Seattle ran out of pitchers, so they stuck Jamie Burke, a third string catcher, on the mound. He pitched surprisingly well for a catcher, but not well enough - he gave up the losing run. Still, he was probably good enough to be the third best starter on this awful team.