This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 07/06/2009
A - Aroldis Chapman. Let the hype begin. Chapman is a Cuban left-hander with a 100+ mph fastball who just defected and is looking to join the majors. I've seen him called the left-handed Stephen Strasburg several times, and he is sure to incite a Matsuzaka-esque bidding war. There are some strange issues around this one, though - he is reported as being 21, yet when he was at the World Baseball Classic in the spring he was reportedly 26. Seems that the Fountain of Youth is in Havana.
B - Borel, Calvin. What a freaking idiot. Borel was fired as the jockey of Derby winner Mine That Bird after he wouldn't commit to riding the horse in his next race, the West Virginia Derby. He had an easy choice - the Kentucky Derby champ or a second-rate stakes horse in a race with a smaller purse - but he tried to leave the champ's connections hanging again. Borel might be a lot of things, but smart doesn't seem to be one of them. Mike Smith, who rode the horse in the Preakness, has now committed to the next two races, and he'll hopefully bring stability to a very odd situation.
C - Curry, Michael. It seemed to me for a while that the NBA coaching revolving door had slowed down a bit, but Curry is proof that I am probably wrong. I suppose it's not that surprising that he was replaced - the team was 39-43 in his one year at the helm, and was never particularly competitive. Still, you have to really hope that Detroit has a plan here - they'll be paying him $2.5 million for each of the next two years, so they need an upgrade and not just a change for the sake of change.
D - Dodgers. Manny Ramirez is back in action - he has been since Friday. I wasn't sure how I was going to react to his return, but now it has become clear - I find it very, very hard to care. I'm beyond caring about him, and really about drugs and baseball at all. The whole thing is a total farce, and one that I just don't find very funny anymore. There was one thing I did have to laugh about, though - Manny took the day off on Sunday to rest. What the heck is he resting for? He just had 50 freaking games off to rest, and he's only been back two games. It's not like he tires himself out playing top-notch defense, either.
E - Explosion. Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun just couldn't contain his frustration anymore. He didn't like what he was seeing from his teammates, and he didn't care who heard him say so. After getting blown out by the Cubs on Sunday, Braun laid the blame squarely on Milwaukee's starting pitchers. He said that they hadn't been pitching well enough lately, and that it was hard for the team to win games when they were always playing from behind. My guess is that Braun won't want to venture out to the bullpen alone any time soon.
F - France, Tour de. The Tour is underway, though when it started it wasn't in France at all, but rather in Monaco. There is obviously only one story that most casual fans care about - the return of Lance Armstrong. Through two stages of the race, Armstrong is doing fine, but he is nowhere near the lead. He rarely was at this point in the past when he was winning the race seven straight times, though, so it's hard to really judge just how competitive he is yet.
G - Gomez, Scott. It appears that the Montreal Canadiens have lost their minds. Gomez was a serious disappointment with a massive contract for the Rangers last year. The Rangers looked like they were stuck with an albatross, but they somehow managed to convince the Habs to take him in a trade. It's a strange move for the Canadiens - a team that needs a serious overhaul. At least they have a bit of a plan, though - they also signed Brian Gionta as a free agent. When Gomez and Gionta were linemates in New Jersey they both enjoyed a career year. Still, it seems hard to imagine them getting full value from Gomez.
H - Hedo Turkoglu. This is a very surprising story. The Trail Blazers are one of the teams on the rise in the NBA - packed with young talent and optimism. The Raptors are just the Raptors, and there is no reason to believe that things are going to get any better in the near future. It's mystifying, then, that a player would choose the latter over the former, but that's just what Turkoglu did. He had a verbal agreement with Portland, but backed out of it to agree with Toronto instead.
I - Idiot. Different people have reacted to the death of Michael Jackson in different ways, but Toronto Argonauts' receiver Arland Bruce III chose a particularly unique way to salute the King of Pop. The CFL wasn't impressed. After scoring a touchdown, Bruce stripped off his jersey and his pads, and laid perfectly still on the field. He was, you see, imitating Jackson in his coffin. Needless to say he was both fined and called an idiot in the Canadian media.
J - Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester was the top free agent defenseman in the NHL this summer, and he was expected to be at the center of a serious bidding war when free agency began. The Calgary Flames found a way to avoid that process. After trading for the negotiation rights to the d-man with Florida, the Flames negotiated hard and signed Bouwmeester to a five-year deal the day before free agency began. The Flames now have one of the best defenses in the league, but they also have very little salary cap flexibility, so this pretty much has to work.
K - Kim, Anthony. Kim had a chance to show that he had really arrived on golf's highest levels on Sunday, but he wasn't quite able to take advantage of it. He found himself in the final paring with Tiger Woods, but he was unable to finish the king off. Tiger was the better golfer on Sunday to win the tournament he hosts. Kim wound up third, being passed by Hunter Mahan who shot a course record 62 - tying the mark set by Kim earlier in the week. This is the third time this year that Tiger has won in his last outing before a Grand Slam.
L - Lakers. L.A. decided that they needed to take a big gamble to stay on top - a good gamble given how much so many of their competitors have improved this offseason. If he can focus on playing and keep his nose clean then Ron Artest unquestionably makes this team better. If he loses his mind and provides any ridiculous distractions, though, then all could be lost. At least the Lakers got some good news to help improve the chances of success - Phil Jackson has finally committed to returning for another season.
M - McNair, Steve. What a sad end for a remarkable athlete. The former MVP had a illustrious career - finishing third in Heisman voting despite playing for an obscure 1-AA program, going third overall in the draft at a time when black quarterbacks just didn't do that, and then going on to tear up the NFL with both his legs and his arm. Just think of how different things could have been for the Bengals over the years if they had taken McNair instead of Ki-Jana Carter first overall in 1995. We don't yet know the details of his death, and we may never know all of them, but I'm certain that a classy leader like this didn't deserve this end.
N - Nice comeback. Rodrigo Lopez hadn't pitched in the majors for 23 months before this week because of elbow ligament replacement surgery. His last win had come over the Phillies when he was with the Rockies. In his return to action, Lopez earned a win for those Phillies against the Mets. He looked good, too - he allowed just two runs in 6.1 innings while striking out four with just one walk. Lopez has twice won 15 games in a season, so he could be a useful boost for a Phillies rotation that could use one.
O - Orioles. When a team gets up 10-1 they probably feel pretty good about themselves. The Red Sox did against the Orioles, but it didn't end well for them. Baltimore staged the biggest comeback in the history of their team to earn an incredible 11-10 win over their division rivals. Baltimore scored five in the seventh and five more in the eighth to get the win. John Smoltz must be wondering what he got himself into - he left the game with a 9-1 lead and probably was very confident about earning his first win with the Red Sox.
P - Pujols, Albert. For some guys, hitting a grand slam is a monumental accomplishment. For Pujols, it's just another day at the office. On Friday, Pujols hit his fourth grand slam of this season and 10th of his career. Both marks set Cardinals' records. It was also Pujols' 350th home run. Only A-Rod and Ken Griffey Jr. have been younger than Pujols when they have reached that milestone, so it seems very likely that the Cards' slugger has many more ahead of him.
Q - Quite predictable. Given what has happened this entire season, is there anything even remotely surprising about the news that Chien-Ming Wang finds himself on the DL again? The star Yankee pitcher has had the worst possible year and now he is hurt again. It's his second time on the shelf this year. The way he is playing, though, the Yankees are probably relieved to see him go - he's just 1-6 with a 9.64 ERA on the season, and he has yet to make it out of the sixth inning.
R - Roger Federer. The guy is the king - unquestionably the greatest ever in my eyes. After rolling through Wimbledon with incredible ease he faced a huge challenge in the finals from Andy Roddick, but he was able to come out ahead - even if it required winning the longest final match in grand slam history, Federer showed just how good and how tough he is, and answered any critics that are still out there. Roddick deserves tremendous credit for his play even in the loss - he showed that it's too early to count U.S. men's tennis out just yet.
S - Sedins. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are twins - the creepy kind that look exactly alike and do everything together. They only play together, and they have eerily similar career statistics - one has 462 career points, while the other has 460. It's not surprise, then, that they have signed identical contracts. After flirting with the idea of leaving Vancouver, the two returned to the Canucks, and will be there for the next five years.
T - Tim Lincecum. Who is going to follow Tim Lincecum as NL Cy Young winner? At this rate, probably Tim Lncecum. The mighty mite is in an incredible zone - he hasn't allowed an earned run in 23 innings. He's been at least as dominant as that stat would suggest, as well - he has struck out 29 over the current streak, which has included two complete games, and has walked just four. Interestingly, one of Lincecum's biggest challenges to a repeat at this point in the season come from teammate Matt Cain.
U - Unbelievable. I have said repeatedly over the last few weeks that I am deeply entertained by the ridiculous saga of NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield. Well, the story just keeps getting more and more bizarrely fascinating. Despite the total incompetence of his legal team, Mayfield managed to get his drug suspension overturned. A confirmed meth user is now legally able to drive faster than anyone should without any penalty - that's one heck of a drug policy. Not surprisingly, Mayfield found it hard to find sponsors willing to have him in their cars, so the driver was unable to find a ride at Daytona. He'll be back soon, though, and I'm sure that the story will just keep getting better.
V - Villanueva, Charles. After not getting a contract offer from Milwaukee, Villanueva has more than landed on his feet. He looked destined to land in Cleveland, but has instead landed in Detroit where he'll enjoy a bigger role and more money. The Pistons are coming off a bad year, but adding Villanueva and Ben Gordon to the mix, and saying goodbye to the talented but mercurial Rasheed Wallace should make the disappointing season be nothing but a bad memory.
W - Williams. To the shock of absolutely no one who pays attention to women's tennis, the two Williams sisters met in the finals of Wimbledon this week. Last year Venus beat her younger sister, but this time the outcome was reversed. It was Serena's third Wimbledon win, and 11th Grand Slam title overall. I have to say what I say every time a Williams sister wins a piece of hardware - just imagine what they could have done if they were committed to playing a full schedule.
X - eXcitement. Tony Stewart got his third win in five years in NASCAR's summer stop at Daytona, but he didn't get it in a pretty way. Stewart was in command for much of the race, but a late charge by Kyle Busch led for an exciting finish. Stewart wound up getting the edge over his former teammate in an ugly way - Busch had passed Stewart on the final lap, but Stewart hit Busch's car hard in the subsequent battle, and Busch went spinning out of control in an ugly crash that could have been much, much worse.
Y - Yikes. Don't read this if you are feeling even slightly queasy. Joey Chestnut won his third consecutive Nathan's Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, and he did it in a fashion that was both world-record-breaking and truly disgusting. Chestnut ate 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. 68! That's less than nine seconds per hot dog. I'm not sure that I could eat a single hot dog in nine seconds, never mind doing it 68 times in a row. I'm also quite certain I don't want to do it.
Z - buZZZZ. I've heard a lot of reasons for a game being cancelled, but never this one - bees. The Astros and the Padres game in San Diego was delayed for 52 minutes on Thursday because a swarm of bees had invaded left field. They had to call in a beekeeper to break up the swarm before the game could continue. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing it is probably the first time a beekeeper has gotten an ovation for doing his job.