This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 08/25/2008
A - Arizona Cardinals. The Cards beat the Raiders, 24-0, this week, but it wasn't nearly as promising as it might sound. Matt Leinart is supposed to be emerging as a star by now, but he was truly terrible in his half of play - four completed passes and three interceptions. Kurt Warner was much better in the second half. So much better, in fact, that the ageless former grocery boy has been named starter to begin the season. I like Warner quite a bit, but I can't help but feel that this season is setting up to be yet another underwhelming disappointment in the desert.
B - Bolt, Usain. Wow. What more can you say about this guy - he's ridiculously fast, even more entertaining, and he's the best thing to happen to track and field in a long, long time. At least I think so. And so does, it seems, everyone else in the world who isn't the President of the IOC. Jacques Rogge made the most bizarre and poorly thought out decision in Olympic history this week when he criticized the biggest star of the week for showboating while ignoring many other actual problems.
C - Colonel John. This California-based three year old has made a habit of being disappointing - he struggled in the Derby as the second choice, and got beat in his next race by a horse, Tres Borrachos, that he should have beaten in his sleep. That made him pretty easy to discount in the Travers on Saturday. Oops. He overcame a tough 12-horse field to win the biggest race of the summer in a photo. The time was so slow it was almost glacial, though, so it remains to be seen if Colonel John will be relevant in the big races of the fall. I am skeptical.
D - Darius Miles. After a lot of talk, the Celtics have finally taken action by signing Miles. The defending champions have obviously decided that the dizzying potential the player has outweighs the obvious concerns about the knee problem that kept him out of basketball for two years and the attitude that has branded him a trouble maker. I like the move - it didn't cost much, so if it doesn't work they can just forget the whole thing every happened. It just might work, though.
E - Explosive. The Blue Jays are showing signs of life, and Cito Gaston is showing just how much of a joke it was that he couldn't get a managing job for more than a decade. When Gaston took over this team completely lacked heart and couldn't score a run if their lives depended on it. In their last four games they have scored 34 runs. Though that's obviously beyond average, it's not at all uncommon anymore to see this team explode at the plate.
F - Finally. It took four years longer than it should have, but order has been restored in world basketball. The Redeem Team was charged with the task of showing that the Americans were still kings of the court, and they found their redemption. They were never truly challenged through the tournament, and they took turns being the stars. My only regret about this whole thing is that it will make Coach K even more unbearable than I already find him to be.
G - Greg Maddux. The Dodgers aren't done with their wheeling and dealing just yet. In an attempt to gain an advantage in a tight division race they have brought Greg Maddux back into town. After his first start, though, the Dodgers probably wish that they hadn't bothered. Maddux was terrible. He allowed seven earned runs in less than six innings, and his team lost 8-1 to the Phillies in a game they needed to keep pace with the D-Backs.
H - Hawaii. Those crazy kids have been at it all week at the Little League World Series in Williamsport. I don't think of Hawaii as a baseball hotbed, but it was the Hawaiians who were left standing when the dust settled. They dismantled Mexico in the final game. The kids look amazingly good for their age, and they certainly don't have any work to do to get their strutting and preening up to major league levels.
I - Inspiration. The American volleyball team played like they were possessed in Beijing, but they obviously would have rather have done so without the motivation they had. They were fueled to succeed because their coach's father in law was murdered in Beijing at the start of the games. The team was playing for him and it showed - they overachieved and made a win that was at best a decent possibility seem inevitable.
J - Jose Calderon. The Toronto Raptors almost certainly aren't big Olympics fan these days. They made the bold move this offseason to trust Calderon as their sole real choice at point guard. He's the real deal, so it's not a bad move if he's healthy. Calderon suffered an injury in the Olympic semifinals. It's unclear as of yet how serious the injury is, but Toronto will obviously be hoping for the best. Chicago and every other team with a point guard to get rid of will be hoping for the worst.
K - K-Rod. The Anaheim closer set a ridiculous pace for saves before the All-Star break, and he doesn't seem like he is done yet. Anaheim rallied in the eighth against the Twins, and then Francisco Rodriguez shut down Minnesota for his 50th save. The closer is now within seven saves of the all-time record, and you can bet he'll be going for it. It's hard to be too excited about it or anything else the Angels are doing now, though, considering that they are 17 games up in the most ridiculous division in baseball.
L - Lee, Cliff. I'll admit that I gave the Indians' latest ace virtually no chance of maintaining his hot start this far into the year. Goes to show what I know. Lee moved to 18-2 on the season with a dominating win over the Royals on Thursday. He's 7-0 in his last eight starts, and his ERA is a microscopic 2.43. There are still several games to play, but the Cy Young certainly seems like it is Lee's to lose. Think of the money you could have made if you had predicted that at this time last year.
M - Mom. As soon as you are done reading this, pick up the phone and call your mom. I don't care how crazy she is - just do it. I lost mine a couple weeks ago, so believe me when I tell you that you are better off with a mother than without one. Mom liked her sports, but she was a hopeless sucker for an underdog so she never could have been a winner in the long term as a bettor.
N - Nuts. I can't figure the AL Central out. It's a two-horse race, but not the two teams that it was supposed to be. Neither the White Sox nor the Twins show any signs of slowing down, and I am forced to respect them more with every passing day. It would be much easier to believe in them, though, if they could win on the road. The Twins have an ugly .459 record away from home, and they are the class of this race.
O - O'Sullivan, J.T. In short order, O'Sullivan has gone from third on the depth chart to the season opening starter for the 49ers. Though the move is as much a sign of how troubled the top two options - Hill and Smith - have been as anything, it's still an impressive ascension for an underappreciated player. He has bounced around eight NFL teams since 2002, but he has starred twice in NFL Europa, and he got familiar with Mike Martz' offense last year with Detroit.
P - Pennington, Chad. The new Dolphins' starter isn't looking that bad. I don't have high hope for this team, but then I wouldn't if Johnny Unitas in his prime was at the helm. Pennington deserves some credit, though. He's come into town and handled things like the pro he is, learning the offense quickly and looking comfortable enough to provide the cushion the team needs to figure out what they have with their youngsters.
Q - Quit the drama. NASCAR is worse than a room full of 13-year-old girls these days. Everywhere you look there is drama - guys fighting, arguing, and finding new friends. The circuit's two hottest drivers - Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch - are locked in a bitter feud that wouldn't be out of place on a playground. Edwards got the upper hand this time at Bristol - Busch led 415 laps, but then Edwards got by him with a bump and drove to his sixth win of the year.
R - Ryan, Matt. It was almost certain that the first quarterback selected was going to play for the Falcons sooner rather than later - it's not like they have a lot of intriguing alternatives. The surprise, though, is that he has come around so quickly. Ryan has looked as good as any quarterback in the preseason, and he was rewarded for his solid play with the starting gig from Game 1. The challenge now will be to see how he does when things inevitably go wrong - it has been a long time since he's had to deal with adversity.
S - Shawne Merriman. A lot of teams with high hopes are dealing with bad starts to the season. For the Chargers, it's that they will have to make due without the heart of their defense for a while - potentially a long while. Merriman has two torn ligaments in his knee and he says that doctors have told him he could end his career if he is injured again before he has surgery. San Diego's window is closing, and this news does nothing to prop it open.
T - Tom Brady. If it was anyone other than Tom Brady then it might be about time to panic. Brady missed another preseason game this week with a foot injury. He has yet to make an appearance this year, and it is looking increasingly unlikely that he will before the season starts. As long as it's not a serious problem, though, it shouldn't take long for Brady to get comfortable again in a familiar offense - not much of significance has changed.
U - Umenyiora, Osi. It was going to be very tough for the Giants to repeat their Super Bowl win this year, anyway, but the task is now much harder. With Michael Strahan out of the picture, Umenyiora was going to be relied on heavily for the pass rush - a big part of their success last year. But now Umenyiora is out for the year thanks to a preseason injury, and opposing quarterbacks can breathe much easier.
V - Vijay Singh. I was thinking that this aging golfer was looking at his best days in the rear view mirror, but it turns out that he was just waiting for the playoffs. Singh won a three-way playoff that included Sergio Garcia to win the Barclay's, the first round of the meaningless and not-at-all-captivating PGA playoffs. This is a sign of just how good Singh is - he has seemed barely relevant this year, yet he is sitting in fifth on the money list.
W - Washington. The Redskins have been around long enough to have some truly terrible games, but their disaster this week doesn't belong too far from the top of the list. Preseason games don't matter unless you get blown out, 47-3. They didn't do a single thing right against the Panthers, and it has to be hard to be optimistic if you like this team. To make matters worse, Jason Taylor, the league's best dancer, left the game with a knee problem, and should be out for a week or two.
X - eXcited. I normally look back and not forward in this column, but I can't help looking forward just a bit when the college football season finally gets underway on Thursday. The beginning of January was a long time ago, so the prospect of having the best sport in the world back in action is almost more than I can handle.
Y - Yikes. Here's a shock. After Cuba beat the Americans in the semifinals of the Olympic baseball tournament it seemed like they would cruise to a gold medal. But then they ran into the South Koreans. The underdog Asians shouldn't have been able to match the Cubans, but they played very well, and anything can happen in a best-of-one showdown. There will be some very unhappy crazy leaders awaiting the team's return to Cuba.
Z - Zzzzz. Why is it that the University of Miami always manages to find trouble? I wanted to believe that the new regime was different, but it seems like it isn't, and frankly the whole thing bores me. QB Robert Marve was leading the race to be the next starter, but he won't get the chance right away. Instead, he'll be watching the first game on TV. Marve has been suspended one game for a discipline issue. He'll be back, but he could have used an easy game against Charleston Southern before he faces Florida on Sept. 6.