This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 07/14/2008
A - Andrew Bogut. This one came as a bit of a shock to me. The former top pick has quietly turned into a solid player, but I wasn't sure he was solid enough to get the contract extension the Bucks gave him this week - $72.5 million over five years. That's serious money, and though it was a bit eyebrow-raising it could prove to be a real bargain if he continues to develop like he has been. So far his points and rebounds are on a consistent upward trajectory.
B - Beasley, Michael. The No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the NBA draft played their first ever pro game against each other in summer league action. The second pick came out ahead. Beasley scored 28 points as his Heat team rolled past Derrick Rose and the Bulls. It's not all going to be that easy, though - Beasley was just 1-of-13 from the field in his second game.
C - Curlin. The best horse in the world did something on Saturday that he hasn't done in a long time - he finished second in a race. Curlin was making his debut on turf, and he did it in a tough spot - the Man O' War at Belmont featured two former winners of the Breeders' Cup Turf. Curlin beat Better Talk Now, but wasn't good enough in his first go on the turf to hold off Red Rocks. His next step isn't known, but he certainly didn't embarrass himself, and the Prix De l'Arc de Triomphe is still in the picture.
D - Dominance. It seems as if Kyle Busch has forgotten how to lose. This time things looked bleak - he was passed with 16 laps left and all but conceded. A caution allowed him to get back behind Jimmie Johnson, and he got by him in the last two laps. It was the seventh win of the year for the 23 year old - three more than he had in his first four years. The decision to replace Busch with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendricks this year is shaping up as a truly terrible one.
E - Elton Brand. The L.A. Clippers got a brutal lesson in karma this week. They stole Baron Davis from the Warriors after he unexpectedly opted out of his contract this week. Now the same happened to them - Elton Brand opted out and signed with the Sixers. It's a great deal for Brand - he gets a much needed change of scenery, he joins a team with a stronger core of players that is ready to win, and he doesn't have to toil in the stacked West anymore.
F - Forget Tiger. We don't need Tiger Woods now that we have Kenny Perry. Perry emerged in a three-person playoff to take the John Deere Classic this week. It was his third victory in six weeks - not bad for a guy who previously hadn't won in three years. With Woods out, Perry is the No. 1 active player in the FedEx standings. Don't look to bet on him in the British Open, though - he won't be there. Perry has declined his invitation to that major because he is playing in Milwaukee instead to focus on Ryder Cup Preparation on a course that suits him better.
G - Gibbs. The soap opera continues at Joe Gibbs racing. What we have suspected for a long time became official this week - Tony Stewart is out. Stewart was released from his contract effective the end of the year so that he can join the newly renamed Stewart Haas team as an owner/driver. Losing a big name like Stewart could be rough for a team, but he hasn't had a great year, and the blow is softened significantly because Gibbs has teenage prodigy Joey Logano waiting in the wings to jump in the vacant car.
H - Harden, Rich. The Cubs were probably concerned when division rivals Milwaukee picked up CC Sabathia. It took two days for them to do something about it. Chicago picked up Rich Harden from the A's in a six-player deal. That gives the Cubs a one-two punch at the top of the rotation to pretty much match the Brewers. Harden's debut was an odd one. He pitched well, lasting into the six without allowing a run. He came out early riding a 7-0 lead, but he didn't get a decision because the Cubs needed extra innings to recover from a late collapse.
I - Idiot. Matt Jones was struggling to keep his job as a receiver with the Jaguars, so he did the best possible thing to impress the management - he got busted by the cops cutting lines of cocaine in his car with a credit card, and he had a bunch more cocaine with him. Smooth. Jones has been mostly a bust in Jacksonville, but it's no surprise really - he was a quarterback at Arkansas who had never played receiver until he turned pro, so it was obviously a major gamble to chose him in the first round no matter how athletic he is.
J - Jennings, Brandon. Remember this name - it could be the guy who changes college basketball. Jennings was a top recruit for Arizona, and perhaps the to point guard in the country, but he had trouble qualifying academically. Instead, he has ripped open a Pandora's Box. Jennings will be playing professionally in Europe for a year before entering the draft. He's the first high profile player to do this, but if it works and he still gets drafted well then you can guarantee he won't be the last.
K - K-Rod. No pitcher has ever gone into the All-Star break with 35 saves. Until now. Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels hit that impressive mark on Monday. He obviously liked the idea of establishing a new record because he did it three more times over the weekend. He'll now head into the break with 38 saves. Jonathan Papelbon and George Sherrilll are tied for second with 28 saves, so K-Rod won't have to work to hard in the second half to stay on top of the category for the year.
L - Lecavalier, Vinny. The Tampa Bay Lightning must really like their lineup, because they are locking up big parts of it for a long time. The latest Lightning star to sign up essentially for his whole career, Lecavalier won't have to negotiate another contract until he is 40 thanks to the 11-year, $85 million extension he signed that will start after his current contract ends after this season. Lecavalier is the real deal, and he has been healthy, so the risk is as minimal as it can be in a case like this.
M - Mark Mulder. There are no athletes I feel more sorry for than good pitchers who can't seem to stay healthy. Mulder fits into that category frustratingly well. Mulder made his first start since September, and he was seeking his first win in 25 months. It didn't go well. Mulder lasted just 16 pitches and recorded just one out before having to come out of the game with shoulder soreness. That's bad news for a guy trying to return from two shoulder injuries.
N - Nadal, Rafael. The major-win-with-a-knee-injury angle worked so well for Tiger that Rafa seems to want to try it out. The day after winning the Wimbledon final in epic fashion Nadal withdrew from the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart citing knee troubles. He says he won't play again until he is healthy. There's a reason, besides his great play, why so many people like this guy - he's classy. He felt bad about having to withdraw from the tourney, so he traveled to Germany to tell organizers in person and make an appearance.
O - Outstanding defense. The Rangers and the White Sox put on a real clinic on how to play defensive baseball on Sunday. The two teams combined to score 23 runs. The Rangers won 12-11, but their 17 hits looked as if they were in a slump compared to the 22 the White Sox had. The win moves the Rangers to four games over .500 at the break - a remarkable feat considering they had the worst record in baseball 23 games into the year.
P - Perfection. The Dodgers didn't have a perfect game this week, but they came close. Twice. First it was Hiroki Kuroda who carried a perfect game all the way into the eighth. Just two days later, Derek Lowe tried again, only this time he couldn't make it out of the seventh. It's a good strategy for L.A. - if the other team never gets on base then it doesn't matter how pathetic the Dodgers' overpaid bats are.
Q - Quit. Note to Brett Favre - please quit making my life miserable. I like you just fine as a player, but as a guy you are just too much. The Favre soap opera took several twists and turns this week. He confirmed he was considering coming back and he asked for his release from Green Bay. To the surprise of no one, the Packers have refused. Generously, they have said he is welcome to return to the team - as a backup. This story is going to get more and more ridiculous before it goes away.
R - Richie Sexson. The casualties are piling up in Seattle thanks to the lousy season for the Mariners. The latest is Richie Sexson, the talented first baseman who has redefined underachievement over the last couple of years. Sexson was stealing $14 million a year from the Mariners. That's way, way too much for a guy who has been hitting .210 since the beginning of last year. Sexson is overpaid and underperforming, so it's no surprise that the Yankees are reportedly interested in picking him up for the rest of the year.
S - Sabathia, CC. So far, so good in the Sabathia experiment in Milwaukee. His first start in his new colors wasn't particularly smooth, but it was good enough. The second one on Sunday was vintage CC. He allowed just two earned runs in a complete game, and his nine strikeouts outshone his single walk. It's exactly this kind of performance, against the power Cincinnati bats, that the Brewers are paying for. Sabathia helped himself out, too, hitting the only home run his team had on the day.
T - Tampa Bay. The Rays need to work on their finishes. They were a week away from cruising into the All-Star break with the best record in baseball and a five-game lead in their conference, but they decided to take the last week off. They dropped seven straight, including a four-game sweep at the hands of the lowly Indians. The Red Sox moved past Tampa, and it will be very interesting to see if the young Rays can get up after they have been knocked down.
U - Ugly. FIFA, the governing body of world soccer doesn't always do things that make sense, and this week was no exception. With the World Cup coming up in 2010 in South Africa, there are concerns about whether they will be ready. It makes sense that FIFA would be investigating backup plans just in case there is a real problem. What doesn't make sense, though, is that FIFA rather publicly announced that three possible sites were in line. Hardly a vote of confidence for South Africa.
V - Vernon Wells. The Toronto outfielder could be a major star in this league, but he just can't stay healthy these days. Wells is about to miss his second big chunk of games of the season. Last time he missed a month with a broken wrist. Now he will be out at least that long with a hamstring problem. That's just another addition to the string of injuries in Toronto. Pitcher Dustin McGowan was also shelved for at least a month this week with a torn rotator cuff.
W - Wladimir Klitschko. No one may care about heavyweight boxing these days, but it still has title fights. Klitschko, the highest profile of the many heavyweight champs out there, defended his IBF, WBO, and IBO titles on Saturday with a knockout of Tony Thompson in the 11th round in Berlin. Thompson hadn't lost since 2000, but he wasn't much of a challenge for his former sparring partner - Klitschko was well ahead on scorecards before the knockout.
X - eXplosion. The Reds have all sorts of problems, and they have had a disappointing year, but they sure don't lack in power. They beat the Cubs on Thursday at Wrigley. They should have - they had seven home runs. The wind was blowing out of the park that day, but that doesn't explain the day - the Cubs only had one round-tripper. The win was part of a solid streak - the team has won seven of nine and 10 of 14 to help both their win total and their pride.
Y - Yikes. I remember back when I was a kid. I worshipped the Bash Brothers. How the mighty have fallen. Now one of them is exiled from baseball despite being one of the all-time great home run hitters in baseball. As sad as that is for McGwire, he's the respectable one of the former slugging siblings. Jose Canseco continues to hit new, unimaginable lows. Not only did he become a celebrity boxer this weekend, but he was knocked out in the first round. By a guy who is seven inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter.
Z - Zoom. The Mets should have fired their manager months ago. They were useless for much of the year, but they are unbeatable now. The Mets finished off the first half by winning nine in a row. That moves them up to 51-44, which is just half a game out of the lead in the NL East behind Philadelphia. This is much more like things were supposed to go at the start of the year when the team committed to spending more on payroll than the GDP of a lot of small to mid-sized countries.