This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 03/03/2008
A - Absolutely Cindy. Look out Rags to Riches, there's a new filly on the Triple Crown scene. Absolutely Cindy wasn't well regarded in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway on Saturday - she went off at 20-1. It will be a long time until she sees a price like that again. She was dead last at the top of the stretch before making one of the more breathtaking moves to beat the field full of boys. Her next move isn't clear, but it seems likely that she will be given another chance to prove herself against the boys.
B - Brad Richards. The former Tampa Bay Lightning star who had struggled to find his form this year was one of the biggest names to get a new address at the NHL trading deadline when he was traded to Dallas. The Stars are looking ahead to what will be a ridiculously tough playoff run in the Western Conference, and the added scoring will help. The trade paid off handsomely in Richards' first start - he erupted for five assists.
C - Colonel John. While Absolutely Cindy was owning the East Coast on the road to the Derby, Colonel John staked his claim to the West. He won the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, holding off a late charge by the previously undefeated El Gato Malo. It was the first start of the year for the colt, and his next start will be in the Santa Anita Derby. That means that the Kentucky Derby, if he makes it, will be just his third start of the year, and his first on anything besides the ridiculous new surface at Santa Anita.
D - David Carr. I've given this guy the benefit of the doubt for a long time, but I may finally have to call the former No. 1 pick a bust. After a disastrous season in Carolina, Carr was cut loose by the Panthers last week. Carr was terrible when called on to start in Carolina, but the league is starved for quarterbacking talent, so it will be very interesting to see if he finds a new team.
E - Edwards, Carl. NASCAR's back-flipper is off to an impressive start to the season. He won at Las Vegas this weekend. It was the second time in six days that he had grabbed the checkered flag. It's the kind of start that is great for Roush, and it must be driving Hendrick crazy. There is a dark cloud on the horizon, though - Edwards failed the post-race inspection. Inspectors found that the lid was off his oil tank box. That's typically worth a penalty of 25 points, and that would cost Edwards his first-ever lead in the standings.
F - Fielder, Prince. What a shock - a star athlete feels that he is underpaid. For once, though, I agree. Fielder isn't arbitration-eligible yet, so he is pretty much at the mercy of his team. Because of that, the Brewers were able to renew his contract for just $670,000. That's a ridiculous bargain for a guy who had 50 homers and 119 RBI last year. Hopefully Fielder's discontent doesn't spill onto the field - the Brew Crew badly need his bat if they want to improve on last year.
G - Geezers. NBA teams looking for a little extra push down the stretch are looking at old guys to make the difference. 36-year-old Brent Barry was the subject of an unlikely bidding war between Phoenix and the eventual winners, San Antonio. The Spurs traded him to the Sonics 10 days later, so he will have to wait 30 days before he can re-sign. Another old guy playing a waiting game is 38-year-old Sam Cassell. He was bought out by the Clippers and has to clear waivers before reportedly signing with the Celtics.
H - Hossa, Marian. The Pittsburgh Penguins can't catch a break. Sidney Crosby has been out of action for well over a month, so the Pens made a deadline deal to add some scoring. They picked up Marian Hossa from Atlanta, but the cost was very high - several young prospects. Murphy's Law was in full effect in Hossa's first game - he strained his MCL in a collision and will be out of action for a while. The only good news is that they are in very good shape to make the playoffs, so there is time for everyone to heal.
I - Islanders. New York had some terrible luck on Sunday. They played well against Florida and got a great showing from their backup goalie, but they couldn't solve Panthers' backup Craig Anderson and lost 1-0. The game was noteworthy because of Anderson. He faced 53 shots, including a franchise record 29 in the second period, and he stopped them all. It was just Anderson's fourth win of the year.
J - Josh Beckett. The reigning ALCS MVP returned to action with a bang this year. Beckett threw 18 strikes in 25 pitches over two scoreless innings in his first appearance of the spring. There are a couple of reasons to ease up on the excitement a bit, though. First, he wasn't at all happy with his curve ball. More significantly, though, the game was only against Boston College, and the 24-0 score is an indicator of how tough the outing was for Beckett.
K - Kazmir, Scott. I'm one of those people who is thinking the unthinkable - that the Rays might finally be competitive after years of being truly terrible. You can imagine, then, the sinking feeling in my stomach when I read that Kazmir needed an MRI on a sore elbow. The test turned up nothing, but it's still bad news. The team would struggle to be their best without Kazmir, so this is far from the ideal start to a big year.
L - Louisville. The Cardinals are on fire. Wins over Notre Dame and Villanova this week put them in control of their own destiny - a win at Georgetown on Saturday and they are the champs of the Big East. They have won nine straight conference games, and they have covered in all but one of those games. I don't know how Rick Pitino does it, but he always seems to get his team going right around this time of year.
M - Mavericks. Though it is too early to say for sure, this week gave us a good indication that the addition of Jason Kidd isn't enough to put Dallas over the top. They played the Lakers and San Antonio this week, and weren't good enough to beat either of them. It would be virtually impossible for Dallas to win it all without beating at least one of those teams, and the Mavs definitely look like they are a step behind.
N - North Carolina. The Tar Heels keep winning, but they aren't inspiring a lot of confidence as they do it. They got a 10-point win against Boston College on Saturday, but it wasn't pretty. They were down by 18 early in the second half before rallying. They will keep getting better as Ty Lawson gets healthier and more comfortable, but they need to tighten up on defense - Tyrese Rice scored 34 points in the first half.
O - Oscar De La Hoya. The Golden Boy announced last week that he will be finished after three more fights. After crushing former reality TV star Steve Forbes, De La Hoya will likely fight new wrestling icon Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September, followed by a career finale. I understand why he would want to pursue the money and the limelight, but you could make a pretty good argument that he looked like he was done three fights ago.
P - PGA. This week's winner was very familiar, but he hadn't won in a while. Ernie Els earned his first PGA victory since 2004 at the Honda Classic. Though Els hasn't been winning as much as he used to, this win still moves him up to No. 3 in the world rankings. There is the standard asterisk beside the win, of course - Tiger decided to stay home and give the rest of the golfers in the world a chance.
Q - Quit. It seems like coaches and players retire soon after they reach a major milestone. It seems like too much to hope for, though, that Mike Krzyzewski would pack it in now that he has reached 800 wins. As a Duke hater, nothing would make me happier than the departure of Coach K, but I strongly suspect that we are going to be stuck with him for a couple 100 more wins.
R - Rob McKiver. You might not recognize the name of the guard for the Houston Cougars, but you wouldn't forget him once you saw him play - the guy is a scoring machine. He exploded for a Division I season-high 52 points on Wednesday against Southern Mississippi. Unfortunately, his 29 on Sunday weren't enough to avoid a big upset at East Carolina that is a huge blow to the Cougars' tournament hopes.
S - Spartans. Michigan State continues to be one of the more perplexing teams in the country. They looked terrible on Thursday when they lost to Wisconsin by 15. That lackluster performance made what happened on Sunday seem truly unlikely. They were very uncharitable hosts to Indiana, beating them by 29. The 103 points they scored was by far the most they have scored all year, and a stunning 61 points more than they had against Wisconsin.
T - Texas Tech. Turns out that the Red Raiders don't miss Coach Knight at all. The new Coach Knight is doing a heck of a job with his new team. Texas Tech has won three of four, capped by a huge upset of Texas on the weekend. That win has to give people a ton of hope for the future, but there is still work to do - the one loss was a stunningly ugly 44-point loss to Texas A&M. Still, the fact that they bounced back the next game to beat Texas is a great sign.
U - UFC 82. Anderson Silva yet again showed the world just how nasty he is on Saturday in Columbus. He had a chance to be UFC's first unified champion when he put his UFC middleweight title on the line against Dan Henderson, the Pride middleweight champ, and he made the most of it. Silva dominated throughout before getting a submission late in the second round. Silva is unquestionably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world in my mind.
V - Volunteers. Tennessee. Some teams really come into themselves and grow and bloom after a big accomplishment like hitting No. 1 in the rankings. Tennessee is apparently not one of those teams. They were only at No. 1 for one day before they lost to Vanderbilt by three. If that wasn't bad enough, they came out against a Kentucky team crippled by the loss of Patrick Patterson and almost lost again. Either this is a serious wake-up call, or this team is going to be a serious disappointment.
W - What? I know that NFL free agency is supposed to be crazy, but there were some truly bizarre moves this year. Everything Oakland did was insane, and I think the Eagles overpaid for Asante Samuel. The one I really don't get, though, is Michael Turner to Atlanta. The Falcons paid him $35 million over six years. I don't get why they would pay that much for a guy who is unproven as a starter and who has amassed his admittedly impressive stats behind a ridiculously good offensive line in San Diego. He may work out, but the Falcons have lots of needs, they have a decent back in Jerious Norwood, and they could easily add a decent second back from the very deep draft, so I don't see why they overstretched for Turner.
X - Xavier. The mascots of this column are a ridiculously easy team to write about this year. They just keep winning and winning. Their lone game this week was a win over George Washington, That was their 11th-straight conference win, and their 17th victory in 18 games. They have totally run away from the conference, and are a very legitimate contender heading into the tournament.
Y - Yao Ming. The incredibly hot Houston Rockets suffered a major blow this week when they lost their star center for the rest of the season. The cause of the giant's absence was a stress fracture in his left foot. Dikembe Mutumbo has stepped into the starting lineup in Yao's place, and so far they have not missed a beat - they have won three times to stretch their winning streak to 15, and they covered each time. The team is now 12-1 ATS in their last 13.
Z - Zito, Barry. After a rough initial season in San Francisco, the highly paid pitcher says that he is ready to turn it around this year. That may be true, but the first game of the year didn't give us much confidence that he will pull it off. He gave up eight runs and seven hits against Oakland, and he only managed two outs before getting the hook. Ouch.