This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 07/13/2009
A - Amy Mickelson. If any of you have had your lives touched by cancer like I have then you can feel for this story. Phil Mickelson has taken an indefinite leave from the PGA Tour because his wife, Amy, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The golf community has been predictably supportive already, and will continue to be. All we can hope is that Phil is back soon, because tournaments are almost always more interesting when he is in them.
B - Big Papi. David Ortiz must feel like an enormous weight has been lifted from his shoulders. Big Papi responded to being benched by finally hitting a home run. It was his first in 149 at-bats - not exactly the pace you expect from a slugger like him. It hasn't exactly unleashed a hitting frenzy, but at least the home run eliminates one question that the slugger will be asked as everyone tries to figure out what has happened to all of his power.
C - Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals have been without their potential ace in a meaningful way for more than two seasons, so they must be cautiously optimistic about having him back. After an injury sidelined him for a month after just two starts this year, Carpenter returned with a start on Wednesday. The outing went well - he allowed just three hits in five scoreless innings. It's either the first step on the road back, or a tease before the next injury.
D - Dontrelle Willis. Willis has the potential to be an extremely good pitcher. For the first time in a Tigers' uniform he showed it this week. Coming back from dealing with an anxiety disorder, Willis earned his first win in his two seasons in Detroit by allowing just one hit and no runs in six and a third innings. His next outing on Sunday wasn't quite as dominant, but it still gave all sorts of reasons to be optimistic - he allowed three runs in six and two-thirds innings.
E - Eight. NHL coach Mike Keenan is obviously very good at job interviews. It's actually doing the job where he has the problem. Keenan was fired as coach of the Calgary Flames this week after two seasons. It was the eighth time an NHL team has fired him. You might think that his two-year stint in Calgary was short, but actually that's as long or longer than he has lasted in four gigs. The guy has become a bit of a joke, but you have to imagine that he'll find someone else stupid enough to hire him. And fire him.
F - Formula 1. I have never seen a sport be so popular while at the same time being so ridiculously uncompetitive. Each year one driver seems to be clearly faster than everyone else, and he makes a mockery of the sport. This year that driver is Jenson Button. He won his fifth race of the year this weekend at Monaco. There have only been six races. To make it worse, four of those five wins have been wire-to-wire. Why even bother having the races anymore?
G - Giambi, Jason. Giambi joined a select group of just 44 players this week when he hit the 400th home run of his career against the Diamondbacks. The mark is impressive, but would be so much more impressive if we didn't know that a large number of those round-trippers were juice-aided. The home run didn't help his team much - they lost the game just like they have lost so many of their games all year.
H - Hit for the cycle. Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer had a big day on Friday - he hit for the cycle in just four plate appearances. He became the 10th Twin to hit for the cycle, including two this year - Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. Only one other team in the last decade has had two cycles in the same year, and the Twins still have 114 more games to try and add to that impressive total. Cuddyer's effort led to five RBI and an easy 11-3 win.
I - Indy 500. Hopefully Helio Castroneves remembers to pay taxes on his prize money. The tax cheat bounced back from his legal problems to win his third Indy 500, and his first in seven years. It was a virtually perfect run, and he managed to avoid the crashes that knocked out so many other top contenders. He won decisively, with Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick chasing him but never really challenging him in the final laps. The question now is which win means more to the driver - this Indy 500, or "Dancing With The Stars"?
J - Jake Peavy. This is why teams don't like to give no-trade clauses to their players. The Padres, having given up on the season and looking to build for the future, dealt their ace to the White Sox. Or so they thought. Peavy vetoed the trade - he doesn't like the America League, and the White Sox aren't any better than the Padres this year. San Diego had secured a nice price for Peavy. Now they have to try again, only this time the market for Peavy has been depressed by the smaller number of potential trading partners.
K - K-Rod. At the core of the Mets' plan to end their late-season struggles of the least two years was a major investment in the bullpen. So far it has worked reasonably well, so team management must have been seriously concerned when their new, expensive closer, Francisco Rodriguez, wound up in the hospital on Saturday with serious back spasms. He was released after treatment and seems to be okay, but this is a story that we probably haven't heard the last of.
L - L.A. Dodgers. You might think that a team would struggle after losing the best hitter in the league in a very high-profile manner. Not so much. After losing three of their first four without Manny Ramirez the Dodgers have been one of the hottest teams in the league. They've now opened up such a big gap in their weak division that they probably don't really care if Manny ever comes back. It's almost as if the team's bitterness and frustration is fueling it.
M - Matsuzaka, Daisuke. Dice-K came off the DL to pitch for the first time in more than a month on Friday and, well, he looked like a guy who hadn't pitched in more than a month. He allowed five hits in five innings and four earned runs to drop to 0-2 on the season. If you need a bright side, it's that he dropped his ERA to 10.32 on the season. The Sox lost to John Santana and the Mets. It seems quite odd that the team would choose to bring Dice-K back against Santana - a guy who is hard enough to beat when your pitcher is at his very best.
N - Nikolai Khabibulin. The Chicago Blackhawks were in tough against the older, deeper and more experienced Detroit Red Wings anyway, so it certainly didn't help that they lost their starting goaltender in Game 3. The Bulin Wall left after the second period of the game. Chicago pulled out a win in overtime with Cristobal Huet in the nets, but the backup showed real signs of rust in Game 4, allowing two soft goals in the first period to set a bad tone for his team that continued through the game.
O - Orlando. You certainly can't complain that the NBA Playoffs have been boring this year. Take the Magic-Cavs series, for example. Orlando shocked Cleveland and handed them their first loss of the playoffs despite 49 points from LeBron James. Rashad Lewis was the hero, sinking a three pointer with seconds left to secure the one-point win. The second game was no less thrilling - Cleveland blew a 23-point lead before LeBron won it with a buzzer-beating three. They won Game 3 pretty easily but it's not crazy to expect there will be some more buzzer-beaters in this series.
P - Penguins. It took awhile for Pittsburgh to find their stride in these playoffs, but there is now little doubt that they mean business. Through three games of their conference championship against the Carolina Hurricanes they have looked almost unbeatable, and it isn't hard to imagine them hoisting the cup in a few weeks. Teams succeed when their best players play well, and Pittsburgh is lucky enough to have two of the best players on the planet. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have both been scary good against Carolina.
Q - Quit. If I was Blake Griffin I would quit basketball. He's a virtual lock to be the top pick overall in the NBA Draft, and the Clippers won the lottery this week to earn that first pick. Absolutely nothing good can come from playing for the Clippers, and being drafted first overall by them isn't exactly a boost to a career overall. Griffin would be better off just sitting in a rocking chair for the rest of his days talking about his college glory days.
R - Rays. This is another example of why we should never trust anything we hear from a team. Scott Kazmir has struggled badly this season, and his velocity is off from last year. Both he and the team had insisted many times that nothing was wrong, though - that this was something he just had to work through. Seems unlikely - especially since the Rays put Kazmir on the DL this week. That normally doesn't happen to healthy guys. The Rays also put Troy Percival on the DL - a move that could likely end the career of the great closer.
S - Santana, Johan. Santana did his job again on Friday against Boston, moving to 6-2 on the year with a 1.50 ERA to decisively show that he is the best pitcher in the NL right now. He'd be even better, too, if the Mets could manage to take care of their jobs defensively when he is on the mound. New York had three errors on Friday when Santana was pitching, and have now had 12 this season when Santana plays. That has led to a ridiculous stat - Santana has allowed 17 runs, but only 10 have been earned. It's like the team relaxes just a bit too much when their ace is in action.
T - Twins. It's not too often that a team that is below .500 playing in a weak division gets mentioned twice in this column, but the Twins had a particularly noteworthy week. They had a ridiculously easy game on Thursday, beating the White Sox 20-1. It was 8-0 in the second inning, and 20-0 before the White Sox finally managed to score a run. Every Minnesota starter had at least a hit, and Joe Mauer led the way with six RBI.
U - UFC 98. It wasn't the most exciting card UFC has ever put together, but it had some good elements - a couple of big upsets and a new titleholder. Rashad Evans lost his first career fight and his Light Heavyweight title in a decisive setback to the undefeated Lyoto Machida. The Brazilian won the first round handily, and then thoroughly dominated Evans in the second round before putting him to sleep with a deadly shot to the chin.
V - Vick, Michael. The road back to the NFL for the poster child for how not to handle fame is shorter now than it has been for a long time. Vick was released from Leavenworth this week and returned home to Virginia to finish out his sentence. He has two months of home confinement to finish a 23-month sentence. What happens after that is anyone's guess, though one this is for sure - there are lots of teams that would be interested in him if he were allowed to play this year.
W - Wall, John. Think Kentucky is happy about the decision to hire John Calipari? Calipari continued to build a team that could easily contend for a national championship in his first season by securing a commitment from John Wall. Wall is the top point guard in his class, and a guy that was practically born to play in Calipari's dribble-drive offense. Wall draws favorable comparisons to Derrick Rose - similar skills, better athleticism.
X - eXplosive. This is perhaps the most unlikely story of the young baseball season - the San Diego Padres are currently the hottest team in baseball. They have little talent on their roster, and they are trying to get rid of the best of what they do have, yet they have somehow managed to win nine straight games. They looked like they were living up to their potential when they were nine games below .500, so the fact that they are at .500 now seems almost impossible.
Y - Yankees. Stop me if you have heard this story before - after starting the season so slowly that it was tempting to think that they were mortal, the Yankees rode a red-hot streak back into the heart of contention. That's exactly what happened last year, and it's what they are doing again. They won nine in a row before losing to Philadelphia, and are now in a tight three-way battle for the top spot. A-Rod hasn't been playing great since his return, but you can't help but notice that the team's resurgence corresponds with his return.
Z - Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra is getting all of the attention and accolades these days, but it was shown clearly that she's not even the best filly in training right now, never mind the best ever. The incredible Zenyatta made her season debut this weekend. She borrowed a page from Mine That Bird's playbook, running more than half the races way behind the field before unleashing an explosive move and cruising to a win. She's now undefeated in 10 career races. It seems inevitable that she will meet Rachel Alexandra on the track at some point, and that's really going to be something to see.