by Trevor Whenham - 6/16/09
A - Arkansas. The College World Series has only been on for a couple of days in Omaha, but there has already been a big upset. Arkansas, the Cinderella story of this tournament, upset second seeded Cal State Fullerton on Saturday. The Razorbacks lost 10 of their last 13 before the tournament began, and finished below .500 in the SEC, but they've been as hot as a team can be since the 64-team field was set. LSU is next up for Arkansas, while Fullerton has a shot at redemption against Virginia.
B - Birds. It was a very bad week to be a bird, and clear proof that birds should not mess with Koreans. First, Shin-Soo Choo of the Indians got a game winning RBI in extra innings against the Royals when his hit was redirected by bouncing off the wing of a seagull. The seagull was obviously dazed, but he bounced back strong and flew away. Next, Korean golfer Ahn Shi-hyun sent a drive at the LPGA Championships straight up a fairway and right into a robin that was flying by. The bird erupted in a puff of feathers. Funeral plans for the robin have not been announced.
C - Cotto, Miguel. Cotto retained his WBO welterweight title on Saturday with a narrow split decision win over Josh Clottey, but it wasn't easy. Cotto bled early thanks to an accidental head butt, and he endured a serious beating throughout the match. Clottey was crushed by the loss and would obviously like a rematch, but Manny Pacquiao was sitting ringside for the fight and Cotto would get a much bigger payday facing the pound-for-pound champ next.
D - Detroit. It was a very rough start to the season for Justin Verlander, but the Tigers' ace has really found his stride recently. His last seven decisions have all been wins, and he has dropped his ERA from 9.00 after four starts to 3.02 now. He had a complete game, one-run effort to beat the White Sox on Wednesday. It was his second complete game of the year, and the seventh time in nine starts that he has allowed one or fewer run. With every outing the disaster of last year becomes a more distant, and more unbelievable memory.
E - Expectations. Wimbledon starts in a week, and expectations couldn't possibly be higher for the great British hope Andy Murray. Murray beat James Blake in the final of the Queen's Club tournament on Sunday. He's the first Brit to win the tourney since 1938, and that was also the last year a British man made the final at Wimbledon. Not to dampen British enthusiasm, but it's important to note that neither Federer nor Nadal played in Queen's Club this week. Murray's accomplishment, then, is like winning a PGA tourney when Tiger and Woods are on vacation - still impressive, but not particularly meaningful.
F - Floyd, Tim. The slimiest coach in college basketball isn't in college basketball anymore. USC's Floyd resigned on Tuesday in the face of a scandal that threatens to grow into even more than it already is. Floyd allegedly paid an associate of O.J. Mayo to ensure that the super freshman chose to play with the Trojans. Floyd's departure is an obvious admission of guilt, and it could lead to much bigger problems for both the basketball team and the football team down the road. The NCAA is already looking hard at the school, and this will only intensify their efforts.
G - Groove. It took longer than the D-Backs management probably hoped it would, but it appears that pitcher Max Scherzer has found his groove. He didn't allow a run while lasting into the eighth against the Giants on Thursday, and that was his second straight shutout outing. He is 3-1 in his last four starts, and should be 4-1 if his team hadn't let him down so badly two starts back. He's certainly a pitcher who is better than his stats right now, and he's worth a look.
H - Halladay, Roy. Friday night was not a good time to be a Blue Jays fan, but it was good for American League pitchers with Cy Young aspirations. Halladay, who is quickly distancing himself from the field in the AL pitching contest, left the game against the Marlins after just three innings with a strained groin. He's day-to-day, and the early news doesn't seem to be particularly negative, but a groin problem is never a good thing for a pitcher.
I - Idiot. Jeremy Mayfield is an absolute moron. He drives a car more than 200 miles an hour for a living. That's dangerous at the very best of times, never mind when you are high as a kite. Mayfield tested positive for drugs a month ago and was suspended from NASCAR. At the time he claimed it was just a big mistake. It turns out, though, that one of the substances he tested positive for was meth. Freaking meth. That's not something you take for an allergy, and definitely not something a racecar driver should be on.
J - Jake Peavy. San Diego management said last week that Peavy's ankle was no longer a problem. They lied. Peavy landed on the 15 day disabled list this week, and reports are that he could be out for as long as 12 weeks thanks to ligament damage. This is obviously terrible news for the Padres. They will struggle on the field without their ace, but more significantly they have lost the chance of getting some serious assets back in return for the player. The White Sox must be thrilled Peavy nixed their trade last month.
K - Kyle Orton. New Broncos coach Josh McDaniels announced this week that Orton will be his starting QB. My response? No freaking kidding. You ruin a relationship with a Pro Bowl QB for no good reason, and then specifically pick out Orton as the target of a trade, so he had better be your starter. McDaniels already has potential credibility issues, so you can only imagine what the perception of him would be if Orton spent his time this September carrying a clipboard.
L - Lakers. L.A. ended an NBA Finals that should have been far more interesting than it was in five games on Friday. It was an impressive performance by Phil Jackson's disciples, and hopefully it will be enough to end all the mind-numbing talk about Kobe's legacy and his ability to win without Shaq. The Lakers proved that they are good enough to win as they are, and with a bit of luck and a tweak or two there is no reason that they can't keep doing it.
M - Macho Again. The Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday featured probably the strongest field of older males we have seen in North America this year. The heavy favorite was Einstein, who would have become the first horse ever to win on all three surfaces in one year. That accomplishment was spoiled by a four year old long shot named Macho Again. The pluck gray, my favorite horse in training right now, borrowed a page from Mine That Bird's playbook - he trailed the field by a distance for much of the race before unleashing a monster move and emerging out of a vicious five horse stretch duel to win his first Grade 1 race.
N - Nationals. Washington fans may actually have a reason for optimism after cheering for the most pathetic and poorly managed team in the league. Their poor play landed them the number one pick in the draft, and that allowed them to land Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State, the most hyped pitcher of our lifetimes. Scouts seem to suggest that Strasburg is a can't miss future star, but if any team can mess him up it's Washington. They'll be hoping that the powerful righty is more Nolan Ryan than Mark Prior.
O - Obrigado. It's very rare in North America to see a race as long as the Round Table, run at Hollywood Park on Saturday. At 1 3/4 miles, or 14 furlongs, it's a true endurance test well beyond most American bred horses. It's no surprise, then that the winner, Obrigado, is European bred. What's more surprising is that he finally won a race - he came in have failed to win in 15 straight starts. Strangely, despite the long bout of futility he was the favorite in the five-horse field.
P - Phil Mickelson. Lefty made his unexpectedly early return to the PGA Tour at St. Jude after his wife's cancer diagnosis, but it wasn't the fairy tale story it might have been. He wound up at +1, tied at 19 strokes off the lead with John Daly, the other comeback story of the week. The winner was the red hot Brian Gay. He went wire-to-wire for his second win and fourth top ten of the season so far. Gay is 37 and has been a pro since 1994, but he really seems to have found his stride now.
Q - Quite expensive. Real Madrid is doing their best impression of the Yankees. A week after spending $92 million to acquire Kaka, the team shelled out a record amount - $131 million - to pick up Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United. Those fees don't include contracts, either - just the acquisition costs. It's a mind-boggling amount of money, and it's a real gamble - they'll look brilliant if they win, and they should, but they'd be badly mocked if they don't. Either way, it seems like the recession doesn't affect the highest levels of Italian soccer.
R - Rockies. As with every year, we have seen a lot of unexpected things in sports this year. Few, though, can rival what the Colorado Rockies are doing right now. By beating up on Seattle on Sunday the Rockies extended their winning streak to 11 games. The team looks offensively challenged on paper, yet they have scored almost seven runs per game on the streak, and the first eight wins came on the road. The streak started less than a week after Jim Tracy took over as manager, so apparently a change really was needed.
S - Stanley Cup. I'm sure that the NHL couldn't possibly be happier than they are now that their most marketable star has a Cup of his own. Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins dug themselves into a deep hole after losing the first two games against Detroit, and three of the first five. They showed incredible resilience in fighting back, though, and they became the first team in a major sports league to win a championship in game seven on the road since the Pittsburgh Pirates did it in 1979. That seventh game was as good as hockey can possibly be.
T - Torii Hunter. Hunter had a career night on Saturday against the Padres. After lining out in his first at-bat, Hunter went deep in each of his next three at-bats. He became the first Angel since 2003 to hit three homers in a game, and he might have hit another if he wasn't stranded in the on-deck circle when the eighth inning ended. The performance was impressive, and had just one big downside - there was no one on base when Hunter hit any of his bombs.
U - UFC 99. The UFC went to Germany for the first time on Saturday, and they put on a solid if not particularly thrilling event. Rich Franklin came out on top in the main event, handing the struggling Wanderlei Silva his fifth loss in six fights. The highlight of the night was Mike Swick's impressive knockout of Ben Saunders to move him back up the ladder in the hotly contested welterweight division. Cro Cop also made his anticipated return to the UFC, and was successful, albeit against an outmatched opponent.
V - Vick. To the shock of no one, the Atlanta Falcons officially released Michael Vick this week. He's not yet eligible to play this year, but it seems likely that he'll be available for at least part of the season. One destination that keeps popping up strongly in rumors is surprising, but makes sense when you think about it - New England. Vick obviously wouldn't get to start there, but if he behaved well under Bill Belichick he'd have more credibility than he could get almost anywhere else, and he'd be in a position to look for a potential starting job next year.
W - World Cup. As of this past week we are now just one year away from the start of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. For a long while it looked like they may struggle to have all of the facilities ready in time, and there was talk of relocation of the event more than once, but things now seem to be on track. Qualifying is well underway, and there are a few potential surprises bubbling - especially in Europe, where a number of traditional powers aren't playing as well as they should.
X - eXplosion. Bobby Valentine's Japanese team, the Chiba Lotte Marine, had one heck of an inning on Thursday as they broke out of a hitting slump in grand style. They sent 20 hitters to the plate in the bottom of the sixth and scored 15 runs. That was the most a Japanese team has ever scored in an inning. Valentine, though wildly popular in Japan, may not get his contract renewed next year in a cost cutting measure. With more performances like this, Valentine may find it easy to return to the major leagues if he chooses to.
Y - Yankees. It was a strange week for the Yankees. They started things out by getting humiliated by the Red Sox. Again and again. The Yankees have yet to beat Boston in eight tries this year. You can imagine how well that is sitting with the front office. Some of that pain was eased on Sunday, when they made a joke of their game against the Mets. The final was 15-0, and that's even more impressive when you consider that Johan Santana started. Santana was chased in the fourth after having given up nine earned runs. The brutal showing bumped his ERA all the way from 2.00 to 3.29.
Z - Zen Master. You can say that Phil Jackson has been lucky to have the biggest stars of two different eras on his team, or that he has been surrounded by strong assistants who do more work than assistants in other systems do, but one fact remains - winning 10 championships in the NBA is a stunning achievement. It's hard to believe that this record will ever be broken, and there is no real reason to believe that he won't add to his total.