This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 07/21/2008
A - Anderson Silva. Dana White couldn't let Donald Trump have all the attention, so he put on a free UFC card the same night as the Affliction pay-per-view backed by Trump, and he had the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world headline the affair. Silva didn't disappoint, as opponent James Irvin only lasted one minute. He tried an ill-advised kick, but Silva caught it, unleashed a fury of punches, and Irvin was asleep.
B - Billy Packer. The CBS college basketball legend isn't my favorite, but the tournament wouldn't be the tournament without him. I'll have to get over that, though, because Packer was unceremoniously dumped by CBS this week after he had called every Final Four since 1975. Clark Kellogg will take his place beside Jim Nantz, so you have about eight months to say goodbye to your brain cells before Kellogg kills them with his inane chatter.
C - Cat fight. It might have seemed that Danica Patrick had turned the corner after finally winning a race earlier this year. Since then, though, she has only been slightly faster than I have, and I drive a Civic. What she has lacked in competitiveness she has more than made up for in hostility, though. She frequently gets in fights, most recently this weekend with fellow female driver Milka Duno. Patrick was mad that Duno had gotten in her way several times during practice. Way to be a role model, Danica.
D - Daric Barton. Baseball players are outstanding at getting hurt in strange and entertaining ways, and the A's Barton is the latest. The first baseman was enjoying a swim during the all-star break. The only problem was that he didn't realize that it was the shallow end of the pool that he was diving into until skull met concrete. Six staples and a strained neck later, Barton found himself on the 15-day DL.
E - EPO. I hope that you are sitting down to prepare for this shocking news - the Tour de France has been struck with a doping scandal. Riccardo Ricco had won two legs of this year's race for his Saunier-Duval team. The only problem is that the only reason he pulled it off was that EPO was coursing through his veins. He and his team have left the race in shame, and the sport has earned yet another major black eye.
F - Fedor Emelianenko. If Anderson Silva is the best MMA fighter in the world then Emelianenko is a close second, and he proved it again on Saturday. The heavyweight has fought sparingly over the last two years, but the rust didn't show when he headlined the Affliction card. Tim Sylvia was the first legitimate, well-matched opponent he had faced in a long while, but the rust didn't show. In just 36 seconds Emelianenko stunned Sylvia with a ferocious uppercut, sent him to the ground with a flurry of punches, and locked on a choke that earned a quick submission.
G - Gio Ponti. The summer racing season heats up soon as Saratoga and Del Mar get into full swing, but for now the Virginia Derby provided some reasonable entertainment. The lightly raced Gio Ponti won a stirring stretch duel over Court Vision, Big Brown's stablemate, who was 13th in the Derby. Kent Desormeaux was on Court Vision, and he was unable to break an incredible slump. He must have sold his soul to win the Derby, because Desormeaux hasn't won a single race in nearly two weeks.
H - Harrington, Padraig. Well, I blew that one. A week or so ago I wrote that Harrington was a lousy bet to repeat at The Open Championship at 15/1. I figured that the scrutiny of being a returning champion would be too much for him. That was before his wrist injury made me even more secure in my opinion. Well, it appears that the alleged injury was just a clever way to get his friends a better price at the betting windows, because Harrington certainly didn't look to be hurting too much as he annihilated the field on the back nine on Sunday to win by four strokes. Goes to show what I know.
I - Injury. The Jaguars correctly identified an area of need in the offseason - receiver - and they did a solid job of addressing it. They've just been dealt some setbacks since. First, Matt Jones did his best impression of a coke fiend last weekend. Now, Jerry Porter will miss time in training camp because of a hamstring injury that won't heal. A healthy receiving corps would have been a big help to the establishment of this offense before the season starts.
J - Josh Hamilton. I think that the Home Run Derby is pretty ridiculous, and yet I was absolutely riveted to my TV for the first round on Monday night. Hamilton is one of the great stories in all of sports this year, and he unleashed an incredible tour de force by launching a record 28 home runs in his first attempt. He wasn't just hitting them, either - he was launching them. Spectacular. The fact that he ended up losing the event even though he hit more home runs in one round than winner Justin Morneau did in three rounds is something that needs to be addressed.
K - K-Rod. The Angels' star closer is putting together a record season with 40 saves by the third week of July. The only problem from the team's perspective is that it could be Francisco Rodriguez' last year in Anaheim. Somewhat unexpectedly, K-Rod used the all-star break to announce that he plans to file for free agency next year. The Angels had this coming, I guess - they tried but failed to come to terms on an extension in the offseason.
L - Lohse, Kyle. When I think of Lohse I think of a decent but not overwhelming journeyman starter. That was fine before this year, but now I need to be thinking of him as an ace. A move to St. Louis this year has treated him very well. He is 12-2 this year. How unexpected is that? His career record is still just 75-76. He has won nine straight decisions, and hasn't recorded a loss since May 8. Bettors seem to be as surprised by the success as I am - he's paid more than the bet in five of his last seven starts.
M - Mike Mussina. The Yankees' hurler is the model of consistency, having won at least 11 games in each of the last 17 years. I'll admit that I though that time had passed the 39 year old by, though. Not so much. He recorded his 12th win this week, and his ERA is down a run and a half from last year. His 12th win was marked by another event that has been ridiculously unfamiliar this season - new Yankee Richie Sexson had a good game at the plate with a hit and an RBI in three at-bats.
N - Norman, Greg. Well, the old guy couldn't quite hold it together in the end, but that shouldn't take anything at all away from what the living legend accomplished this weekend. It was a story when he was in the picture after one, unlikely after the second round, and truly incredible after three rounds. The best part of watching him was his total lack of fear of his driver. When a lot of guys were taking a safer option, Norman gripped it and ripped it, and it usually worked out okay. If you saw this performance coming then you are either a golf savant or a liar.
O - Orioles. Baseball has some strange stats, but few are stranger than this one. Baltimore lost on Sunday. It was the 15th-consecutive Sunday that they have lost. They aren't exactly a great team, but they are hovering around .500, so they just shouldn't be this bad on one particular day of the week. This bizarre anomaly can lead us to only one possible conclusion - God hates the Orioles.
P - Peyton Manning. That guy up on the roof looking like he might jump is probably a Colts fan. He probably just heard that the indestructible Manning needed knee surgery. The bursa sac in his left knee was infected and needed to be removed. It's not a major situation, but he'll be out for four to six weeks, and he's at risk of missing the season opener. Colts' ownership probably isn't thrilled at the prospect of opening a new stadium with Jim Sorgi under center, but that would certainly make for an interesting betting scenario.
Q - Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson. It was not a good week for the former champ. Rampage was arrested on Tuesday after crashing his truck into several cars and then running from the cops. He might have gotten away from it if his name and picture wasn't on the doors of the vehicle. The worst part - that wasn't the only arrest of the week. He was picked up again on Wednesday and taken in for a psych evaluation after friends were concerned about his behavior. Some guys have certainly handled the loss of a belt with more grace.
R - Ryan Newman. The last couple of years it has been impossible to keep up with all the driver movement in NASCAR. The revolving doors didn't stop this week. Ryan Newman is out at Penske at the end of the year after a nine-year run. Both driver and team were frustrated with recent results, so it's a good time for a change. Newman reportedly has lots of options for next year, though Stewart-Haas is the one that makes the most sense and holds the most intrigue.
S - Somebeachsomewhere. I never write about harness racing, but then we never see races like the Meadowlands Pace. Somebeachsomewhere is a Canadian-based three year old who was thought to be virtually unbeatable. He was beaten by Art Official in a ridiculously dramatic stretch duel, but it took a world record time for a three year old to do it. Harness racing might not make the front pages, but there is certainly money available - the purse here was $1.1 million.
T - Ted Nolan. The former Islanders' coach just doesn't get it. He was fired from the Sabres years ago despite winning Coach of the Year because he fought with his GM and feuded with his star goalie. This week he was booted from his post with the Islanders despite winning more games in two years than he should have with that lineup. The reason? Reportedly he fought with his GM and feuded with his star goalie. It will be interesting to see if another team takes a shot with the obviously talented but flawed coach.
U - Unexpected. The A's aren't out of the playoff picture yet. Teams in that situation typically don't jettison their pitching staff, but that's exactly what Oakland has done. A week after sending Rich Harden to Chicago the team sent Joe Blanton to Philadelphia for a group of three prospects. Blanton had underachieved this year, but it still seems odd to give up a starter for three guys who are in Double-A or lower when your pitching staff already has holes.
V - Verlander, Justin. It was a truly terrible start for the Tigers and their young ace, but both the team and the pitcher have gotten their act together recently. At first glance it still isn't much of a year for Verlander - he's at 8-9 after going 35-15 the last two years. He's like a new pitcher since the beginning of June, though. He's 6-0 in his last seven starts, and he hasn't allowed more than two runs in a game over that stretch. The sad part is that the public has caught on - he was favored in all seven games, and just once at a price better than -138.
W - Washington Redskins. If you believe in omens then I hope you aren't a Redskins fan. Washington had a rough first day of training camp. They lost starting DE Phillip Daniels for the year with a knee injury, and reserve DE Alex Buzbee to an achilles injury in the second session. Fred Smoot was hurt, too, but his ankle should heal in a week. To fill the gap in the D-line the team acquired Jason Taylor, the finest dancer in the league, for a second and sixth round pick. That'll prove to be a bargain if Taylor's head has left Hollywood.
X - eXit. After a 12-year run with two no-hitters as high points, Hideo Nomo has officially packed it in. Japan's first major league pitcher was out of baseball after failing to stick with the lowly Royals this year, and he hadn't pitched regularly since 2005, so the move comes as no surprise. Still, he did more than enough to deserve a little attention. He won 123 games, was rookie of the year, and I could never get tired of watching his delivery or his forkball.
Y - Yao Ming. The Chinese giant is back in action, though I'm sure that the Rockets would be happier if he weren't. After missing much of last year with a stress fracture in his foot, Yao joined the Chinese National Team for an exhibition game against Serbia. He only played 12 minutes, and he looked rusty, yet he still managed to score 11 points. Olympic organizers must be very relieved that their star is back.
Z - Zzzzz. The good news is that a basketball game was played in Arthur Ashe stadium this week. The bad news is that it was the WNBA. David Stern's pet league doesn't exactly entertain, and Indiana's 71-55 win over New York was hardly a barn-burner, but at least it was proof of a concept - it's pretty neat to see an outdoor game, and the NBA needs to give it a try. The stadium probably wouldn't have four thousand empty seats for that game.