This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 04/13/2009
A - Adenhart, Nick. It's almost never a good thing when the real world infringes upon the sports world, but this takes that to a whole new level. Adenhart, a rookie starter for the Angels, had just pitched six scoreless innings in his first start of the season and the fourth start of his career. He was out celebrating with friends when a drunk driver with a suspended license struck the vehicle Adenhart was in and killed him. He was just 22. Tragic is an understatement.
B - Byron Leftwich. Leftwich proved he still had some gas in the tank with the Steelers last year, and that helped him land in a spot where he could become a starter again. Leftwich signed a two-year deal with the Buccaneers this week. The Bucs have lots of QB bodies already - Griese, McCown, Johnson - but Leftwich is certainly good enough to take the starting gig if he is serious about being prepared and ready. My guess is that he will.
C - Curse? At this rate the Cy Young winners this year might want to give back their awards. Both Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum have had two starts since picking up their hardware, and neither has looked even remotely award winning. Lincecum got yanked after three innings in his first start and gave up a career-high 10 hits in the second. Lee has allowed 17 hits in 10 innings and has a gaudy 9.90 ERA. Both the Indians and the Giants will be hoping that this is just a passing phase.
D - Deng, Luol. The Bulls have locked up a playoff spot, and they are flirting with .500 on the season. They'll have to face the immediate future without a key piece of their puzzle, though. Deng, who was averaging 14.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, has been out since Feb. 28, and it was announced this week that he will miss the rest of the season and the playoffs. It would seem, on the surface, that this would be a big blow. The team doesn't seem to mind, though - they are 13-7 since Deng went down.
E - Exodus. Typical for this time of year, several prominent college underclassmen have thrown their name into the NBA Draft. At the front of the line, of course, was Player of the Year Blake Griffin, the likely No. 1 pick. He's joined by big names like DeJuan Blair, Earl Clark, Tyreke Evans, James Harden, and groups from Arizona and Syracuse. One noteworthy player that has yet to enter the mix is Davidson's Stephen Curry.
F - Florida Marlins. The Marlins were a pick by some to be an upstart squad this year, and in the first week of the season, at least, they are living up to the expectations. They have the best winning percentage in baseball through the first week. The crowning accomplishment was overcoming a 13-strikeout performance by Johan Santana to beat the Mets on the strength of a complete game gem by Josh Johnson. It's an impressive start, but reasonably meaningless when you consider some of the other teams leading their divisions - Toronto, Seattle, and San Diego.
G - Griffey. The Kid returned to the Seattle lineup with a bang, hitting a homer in his first game back. Unfortunately, the momentum hasn't carried forward - he has just two hits in 15 tries for a .133 average. Griffey has yet to find his stride, but the Mariners are rolling, winning the last four and five of the last seven. The team goes home for the first time Tuesday, and Griffey should provide another boost for the team then.
H - Huskies. It's really a shame that women's college basketball doesn't get more attention than it does, because everyone associated with the UConn Huskies should be household names. They rolled over Louisville this week to win the national championship and to cap an undefeated season. Not only did they not lose in 39 games, but they didn't have a single game that was suspenseful in the last few minutes. Amazing. They won their six tournament games by a combined 151 points, or 25 per game.
I - Injured. Brandon Webb needs to have a very good year if the Diamondbacks are going to be competitive. Things have gotten off to a bumpy start, though. Webb was disastrous in his first start, allowing six earned runs in just four innings. Even worse, he came out of that game with tightness in his shoulder. That tightness didn't diminish, and Webb has headed to the 15-day disabled list to try to get past the setback.
J - Jones, Andruw. Jones probably isn't happy with the lack of playing time with the Rangers, but he made the most of his one opportunity to shine this week. Jones had three hits in five at-bats against Cleveland, scoring two runs and driving in a third. Texas' other rehab project hasn't fared quite as well - Kris Benson allowed seven earned runs in five innings against Detroit for an ugly 12.60 ERA.
K - Kenny Perry. What was almost a very, very good weekend for Perry became one he'll wish he could forget. Perry was cruising late in Sunday's round at the Masters, opening up a two-stroke lead and on the verge of becoming the oldest green jacket winner ever. But then disaster struck. Bogies on the final two holes led to a three-way playoff with Angel Cabrera and Chad Campbell, and an errant shot on the second playoff hole let Cabrera win the title.
L - Lance Armstrong. It wouldn't be hard to conclude that the French just don't like Armstrong much. He's trying to make a return to the Tour de France, but French authorities don't seem to be open to the idea. Armstrong is in hot water because of a drug test, but not because he failed it. A tester showed up at his house for yet another test. Armstrong's entourage delayed the test until the tester's credential could be verified. That seems reasonable, and the tester didn't object, but the French see it as part of a conspiracy and are looking at the possibility of a suspension.
M - Mickelson, Phil. Lefty came up short in the end, but not before he made one heck of a charge at the Masters. He looked like he was going to miss the cut after the first round, but he fought back and was at four-under, seven strokes off the lead, as Sunday started. Mickelson needed a miracle to win, and he almost got one. His six-under 30 on the front nine was a tie for the best nine ever at Augusta. He was a stroke back at the turn, but a shot in the water and a few other hiccups dropped him out of contention. He still got a small victory - he was paired with Tiger Woods on Sunday and he beat him.
N - NHL. The regular season seems to go on forever, but it has come to an end and now the fun of the Stanley Cup Playoffs can begin. The games start Wednesday, and the first round features some surprise participants - Columbus makes their first-ever appearance, and Anaheim, St. Louis and Carolina rode strong finishes to playoff spots that seemed unlikely at the mid-point of the season. Philadelphia and Calgary both faltered down the stretch and threw away the home ice advantage that should have been theirs.
O - Ouch. In what could be a playoff preview, the Cavs absolutely crushed the Celtics on Sunday, coming out 31 points ahead. Earlier in the day the Celtics had clinched the second spot in the conference. That meant that this game meant nothing to them, and they played like it. That concerns me a bit heading into the playoffs - this game didn't mean anything to the Cavs either, but they still played with a fire and intensity that Boston really didn't. It's uncertain whether a team can just turn that intensity back on when the playoffs begin.
P - Papa Clem. The Arkansas Derby has produced some very impressive winners in recent years - Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Lawyer Ron, and Curlin. The latest horse hoping to be deemed worthy to be mentioned in the same sentence as those runners is Papa Clem. That horse got his first graded stakes win by out dueling the favorite Old Fashioned in a great stretch battle. Papa Clem is now heading to the Derby, but Old Fashioned won't be joining him - he suffered a knee injury in the race that will require surgery.
Q - Quarters, General. This is a story that the press is going to love. This horse is headed to the Derby after winning the Blue Grass Stakes in an upset. The trainer, Tom McCarthy, is also the horse's owner. He's a 75-year-old retired high school principal that just has the one horse. He claimed General Quarters for just $20,000, and now he is heading to the biggest race in the world. It's like something out of a fairytale.
R - Return. After an extended absence due to an injury that was presumably highlighted by a trip to the Playboy Mansion, Andrew Bynum returned to action with the Lakers on Thursday. In three games back, Bynum has averaged 16 points and six rebounds, and looks like he is finding his form. It's very good timing for the team as they head into the playoffs and a first-round series that will be harder than most first rounders should be for top seeds.
S - St. Louis. Chris Carpenter has all sorts of talent and a big contract to prove it. He's also had a ridiculous stretch of bad luck. Elbow problems limited him to just one start in 2007 and three more last year. It's too early to be optimistic, but early signs are that the Cardinals' pitcher could finally be back. He opened the season with a seven inning, one-hit gem in which he struck out seven with just one walk. It was only against the Pirates, but it was still an excellent sign of progress.
T - Terriers. Boston University emerged from the Frozen Four with the national championship in hockey, but a few minutes before the final game ended it sure didn't look like they would. The Terriers scored two goals in the last minute of the game to tie Miami of Ohio and force overtime, then they scored in the extra period to cap the unlikely result. It was a truly epic result, but one that the Redbirds' fans and players will never forget, and may never get past.
U - Ugly. If there has been one story that has emerged so far in the MLB season it's the number of top starting pitchers that got off to far-from-perfect starts. The list is like an all-star roster - CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels, Brandon Webb, Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Edinson Volquez, Chien-Ming Wang - it goes on and on. Things will change as the season progresses, but right now the best betting strategy there is seems to be betting against any pitcher who came into the season with hype.
V - Violence. The Angels and the Red Sox ended their weekend series with some fireworks. Josh Beckett threw a pitch over Bobby Abreu's head, Abreu didn't like it, and brawl was on. The benches cleared, though both players remained in the game. Beckett still had some anger issues - after the field was cleared from the brawl he tried to get into it with Angels' manager Mike Scioscia. In a fitting conclusion, Abreu hit the go-ahead two-run single off of Beckett later in the game.
W - Williams, Paul. Winky Wright was the name more people knew heading into his fight on Saturday with Williams, but that won't be the case for long if Williams keeps this up. Williams won an incredibly dominating decision over Wright. Wright fought a decent fight, but Williams was close to perfect and was in control for every second of the match. It won't be easy for Williams to find opponents going forward, because he doesn't look much like a guy who is ready to lose.
X - eXposed. Frank Shamrock likes to talk, and he used to be a big force in the MMA game, but it seems that his time is coming to an end. Shamrock is a former UFC champion, but he looked like a raw rookie as he got demolished by Nick Diaz during a Strikeforce event in San Jose. Diaz ended the fight in the second round, but was clearly and totally in control from the halfway point of the first round. Diaz is nothing if not mouthy, and he never stopped taunting and mocking Shamrock throughout the fight.
Y - Yankees. New York is sitting at .500 and looking okay, but for a brief while at the start of the season those who hate the Bronx Bombers were able to dream that their time would be a total, beautiful disaster. They lost their first two games to Baltimore, and they allowed 17 runs while doing it. They've won three of four since, and the offense is going strong. Despite the big money bats in the lineup, though, the offensive power is coming from unlikely sources - Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano have far and away the best numbers.
Z - Zzzzz. North Carolina deserves credit for winning the national championship and doing it in impressive fashion, but their as a downside to their dominance - it led to the most boring Final Four in recent history. Michigan State's win over Connecticut was thrilling, but the two North Carolina games were over well before the game ended and lacked any real drama or intrigue. So, congratulations and all, but please make it more interesting next time around.