by Trevor Whenham - 04/19/2006
Once again this week, this column looks at three teams or players that are turning heads for their impressive performance on or off the field, and three more that are sinking into a pit of despair.
Greg Maddux - His game against the Dodgers on Monday was truly ridiculous. In 8 innings he allowed just three hits while striking out six. His pitches were dancing around the strike zone like they were sheets of paper in a hurricane. He was as dominant as any pitcher has been this year and he's pitching as well as he has in a few years. Not bad for a guy who just turned 40 and has 321 wins under his belt. The guy is an absolute freak. Last year he won 13 games. That would be good for most pitchers, but it was the first time since 1987 that he hadn't won at least 15. The way he's pitching now, there's no reason to think he won't keep stacking wins up. I'll be giving the Cubs a close look every fifth day when he climbs onto the mound.
The Kentucky Derby - The first Saturday in May is always one of the best sports days of the year. This year's edition of the Run for the Roses is shaping up to be as good as we have seen in a long while. The problem this year isn't finding a legitimate favorite, it's deciding which one of the impressive horses to back. Brother Derek was great in the Santa Anita Derby, Barbaro is the undefeated champ of the Florida Derby, Lawyer Ron looked as good as a horse can in winning the Arkansas Derby, Bob and John cruised in the Wood Memorial. You can make a solid case for each of horses to take it all. Then there's Sinister Minister, who came from nowhere to drop jaws and decimate the field in the Blue Grass. With that many horses poised to win, the real winner is going to be the betting public. We'll get better prices for any of those horses than we would normally have to settle for.
San Francisco Giants - Barry Bonds is the ringmaster in the biggest circus in recent sports history. His name is the punch line to more jokes than a guy could tell in a week. Surprising to no one, his monster home run shots have turned into warning track singles this year and his batting average has fallen as much as his head has grown. Despite all that, the Giants have managed to post an 8-4 record to start the season. The rest of the team deserves a medal. How they are managing to concentrate on the game with Bonds wasting so much oxygen in the clubhouse is beyond me. I suspect that it will all come tumbling down and they will fade into obscurity before the summer ends, but for now I'll be cheering for, and betting on, the Giants. Just to spite Barry.
New York Rangers - Anyone who tells you that they knew the Rangers would get 100 points this season is a liar. They were one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this year. Jaromir Jagr finally remembered that he was Jaromir Jagr again. Henrik Lundqvist went from rookie unknown to Swedish wall. They are poised to make a splash in the playoffs; the playoffs that the team hasn't even made since 1997. So why are they down? They picked an awful time to go into the tank. With a chance to lock up first place in the Atlantic Division and home ice advantage, the team has instead gone on a four game losing streak, and let a slumping Flyers team and the red hot Devils stay in the mix. If the Rangers let this get a way from them they will have no one to blame but themselves. They were once a sure first round bet, but now I'll be staying away from them until they play a game or two so I can see if they are going to show up.
Boxing - How did such a great and noble sport become such a mess? The Zab Judah - Floyd Mayweather fight last weekend got completely ridiculous when Mayweather's uncle tried to attack Judah in the 10th round, causing a brawl. That's just the latest example of how far the sport has fallen from its glory days. Nine out of 10 people on the street couldn't name a current heavyweight champion (despite there being seemingly 200 different ones to choose from). The biggest names in the sport - Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr., Oscar De La Hoya - are all well past their prime. The problem is that young, appealing talent isn't coming along to replace them fast enough. There are good young boxers, but no one that people can care about and those boxers aren't fighting fights worth watching. Unless the sport can fix itself, and do it fast, one of the great gambling sports of all time could become something our grandkids won't believe ever existed.
Ken Griffey, Jr. - For a long time my hometown was home to the AAA farm team for the Mariners. Griffey never played here full time, but the team played an exhibition in town during his rookie season. He was only 19, but his raw talent and potential was like nothing anyone in that little ballpark had ever seen. Even now, 17 years later, I don't think I've ever seen an athlete make his sport look so ridiculously easy. It seems silly to say that a guy with 538 home runs has wasted his talent, but that's exactly what I thought when I saw he was hitting the disabled list for the eighth time in six years this week. His time in Cincinnati has been a complete mess. When he left Seattle in 1999 there wasn't a record that was out of his range. But then the Kid turned into glass, got an attitude and destroyed his legacy in his hometown. If the Reds are ever worth a bet, it is despite him. That's sad.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's sports picks service.