The defending Olympic gold medalists are, somehow, a relative sleeper to win gold this time around in Vancouver. Everyone is talking about Russia and Canada (for good reason), but the betting value is definitely an educated pick on one or more of the other teams involved in the greatest hockey tournament of all time.
At Sports Interaction, Canada is listed as the favorites at a staggering -143 and the Russians are next in line at +200. Next, is where we see a massive value jump. Sweden is the third favorite at +650...that's right 13/2 on the defending champions who are bringing, arguably, a better roster to this year's event.
Olympic hockey always comes down to goaltending. The Swedes will have an experienced Lundquist who has been there before and is back to playing at the top of his game right now...he had an awesome final start with the Rangers on Sunday and looks to be peaking at the right time.
Team Sweden will be led offensively by Henrik and Daniel Sedin who are 1000x better players than they were four years ago. The twins will be playing in their home arena and will ensure that Team Sweden will have the crowd support advantage in all games other than a matchup against Canada. The Swedes will also lean on other stars like Forsberg, Alfredsson, and Backstrom to add some support scoring. Sweden caught a tough break when Red Wings' star Tomas Holmstrom was ruled out of the Olympics...but the pipeline of Swedish stars in Detroit lead directly to Johan Franzen who was named as his replacement late last week.
The Swedish blue-line is, once again, one of the top defensive groups in the event and will be led by one of the greatest defensemen in the history of the sport, Nicklas Lidstrom. His support cast will include Kronwall, Ohlund, Enstrom, Tallinder, and (my pick as the break-out player of the tournament) Johnny Oduya of the Atlanta Thrashers.
Yes, I'm Canadian. Yes, I want Canada to win gold. But, I'm betting with my head instead of my heart in this case and taking the value of Team Sweden at +650.
If you want an even longer long-shot take a close look at Finland at +2000. Miika Kiprusoff is having a fantastic season and is certainly used to the hostile environment at Vancouver's GM Place as a member of the hated Calgary Flames. A roster that includes Saku and Mikko Koivu, Kapanen, Jokinen, Ruutu, Filppula, Lehtinen, Selanne, Timonen, Peltonen, and Hagman could very well be a factor when the gold medal match rolls around on February 28th.
Happy wagering, and enjoy the show.
On Saturday night at Angel Stadium, for the first time since the epic Benes brothers matchup in 2002, a pair of brothers will matchup against each other in a major league baseball game. Jered and Jeff Weaver will be the eighth set of brothers to battle on opposite sides of the rubber with Phil and Joe Niekro leading the way with 20 career matchups.
This brotherly matchup is made more intriguing by the fact that the game features a cross-city interleague rivalry involving two of the strongest teams in baseball.
Jered and Jeff are, obviously, at different points in their career. The younger Jered (26) has continued to emerge as a craftsman on the mound, and appears well on his way to an all-star appearance in 2009. Jeff (32) is trying to find a consistant spot in the Dodgers' starting rotation and tonight will be only his fourth start of the season to go along with seven appearances out of the pen.
Jered's number thus far are terrific with a 7-2 record, an ERA of 2.08, and an Opponents Batting Average of only .258. Jeff, on the other hand, has a deceptive 4-1 record with and ERA of 3.72...it gets sketchy when you notice that his Opponents Batting Average is a brutal .357.
Everything about this matchup favors the Angels and younger brother Jered:
- The Angels have won four of the last five meetings.
- The Angels have won seven in a row overall, and five in a row at home.
- The Angels have won Jered's last five starts, and four of his last five starts vs. the Dodgers.
- Jeff's team (includes Seattle) has lost his last five starts vs. the Angels.
Despite the fact that all of the stats and trends are favoring Jered Weaver and the LA Angels tonight...I'm going with the value and picking the underdog Jeff Weaver and the LA Dodgers to pull the upset. Jeff is six years older, he used to bully his brother growing up, and he owes Jered and the Angels some payback for taking his job away in 2006. Older brother is pissed.
Tonight's pick with absolutely no stats to back it up...LA Dodgers +155 (at SportsInteraction).
According to all published indications, John Smoltz is done with his AAA Pawtucket starts and will be activated by the Red Sox at some point in the middle of this week. This will leave the Red Sox with seven above-average major league arms to compete for the five available spots in their starting rotation. Having good rotation depth is one thing...but having too many solid arms is another matter entirely. BTW...I've included Clay Buchholz in the list of seven arms, although in all senarios he will remain in AAA as depth and trade bait (must be nice).
I'm going to list out some of their options and give my opinion on what they will do. Please pass along your opinions or ideas. When I list guys as "trade" I do realize that trades are difficult to pull off, but we at least have to put these guys in some sort of category.
Option 1 - Rotation: Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Penny. Smoltz is recalled and assigned to the bullpen as a middle/long releiver. Buchholz remains in AAA.
Option 2 - Rotation: Beckett, Lester, Wakefield, Penny, Smoltz. Dice-K is placed on the 15-day DL with some sort of strain in his back to buy time to pull off a trade of either Penny or Smoltz. Buchholz remains in AAA.
Option 3 - Rotation: Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny, Smoltz. Wakefield is shipped to the bullpen as a long-relief arm and Buchholz remains in AAA.
Option 4 - Rotation: Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny, Wakefield, Smoltz. The Sox temporarily go with a six-man rotation and keep Buchholz in AAA.
Option 5 - Rotation: Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny, Wakefield, Smoltz, Buchholz. The Sox go with an unprecedented seven-man starting rotation.
Option 6 - Rotation: Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny, Wakefield, Smoltz. Beckett is traded to acquire a front-line SS to totally fill their line-up for another championship run in October. Buchholz remains in AAA.
Option 7 - Rotation: Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Matsuzaka, Smoltz. Penny is traded for a depth infielder or another bat off the bench in case Papi goes cold again. Wakefield is moved to the bullpen for long-relief.
Option 8 - Rotation: Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Smoltz. Penny is traded and Buchholz remains in AAA.
The possibilities this week are endless. The Sox have to do something with Clay Buchholz...either trade the kid or get his ass in your rotation. The only way they will be able to get him in their rotation is to ship out Brad Penny (who looks like the horse he was two years ago) and ship Wakefield to the bullpen (although he has been, arguably, their 2nd or 3rd most reliable starter this season). They can't invest all of this time and money on Smoltz and have him rot away in long-relief, and although Dice-K has been their worst starter this season there is no way they will trade him and fully lose all of their $86 trillion signing fee they paid to get him. Trading Beckett could definitely be an interesting option, although it may be too high risk in case Smoltz and Penny both get hurt again.
With all of these options, I'm sure the Sox will take the easy way out and go with Option 3. Wakefield has shown that he is willing to do whatever the Sox ask him to do (includuding multiple trips to the bullpen) and Buchholz will keep dominating in AAA. Option 8 of simply trading Penny and sliding Smoltz into his spot in the rotation is also a viable option.
With all of this pitching depth and fresh off another sweep of the Yankees the Sox are still listed behind the Yanks at +400 to win the World Series, +225 to win the American League, and even with the Yanks at +110 to win the AL East. Sports Interaction MLB Futures Page.
Following his 100th career victory on Friday night, Cubs' starter Carlos Zambrano dropped a bombshell during the post-game news conference. He announced that once his current contract expires (following the 2012 season) he is going to retire from baseball.
It's difficult to predict what will happen four years from now, but you gotta figure that this is just "Carlos being Carlos" again. Zambrano will only be 32 when his contract expires, and at a time when many baseball experts are debating if there will ever be another 300 game winner he would be a guy who would have a legitimate shot if he played into his early 40's and stayed healthy. I know Carlos is not the type of guy to care about stats milestones and baseball history, but the money alone will have to be a huge factor. I'm sure in the off-season of 2012 an ace starting pitcher will be worth $25-$30 million per season...tough to walk away from $1 million per start.
The thing about Zambrano is he doesn't think before he opens his mouth (some will argue that he doesn't think period...ever) and he usually has to back-track from his comments a couple of days later. I'm sure his agent and the Cubs' publicist are in his ear right now trying to get him to have another presser this weekend to "clarify" his comments.
I love watching Carlos pitch. He's highly entertaining and he can simply mash at the plate, but shit like this just keeps happening with this guy. It just might be time for the Cubs to deal the Z-Man and get someone to play second base (Roberts?...lol) and some bullpen help. They could then fill his rotation spot by pulling the trigger on the Peavy deal with the Padres. Talk about a massive shake-up.
He genuinely sounds serious about this retirement idea, and I think the Cubbies will be best served to move on and be done with the Zambrano drama for good. JUST SHUT UP AND PITCH!
BTW...the shitty Cubs are available at +1000 to win the World Series, +450 to win the Nation League pennant, and they are still the favorite at +105 to win the NL Central at Sports Interaction.
Clint Hurdle was fired by the Colorado Rockies on Friday and replaced by bench coach Jim Tracy. This was one of the most obvious example of "what have you done for me lately" and the manager being used as the scapegoat in recent memory.
Two seasons ago the Rockies were the talk of the baseball world following a fantastic run to the World Series. A year-and-a-half later the Rox sit 13.5 games behind the Dodgers in the division, with absolutely zero hope of making it back to the playoffs in 2009.
The issue that I have is that the Dodgers are obviously going the win the NL West, so what difference does it make who is managing the team through to long summer of losing. It's not like Hurdle is unpopular with the players or the management. In fact, GM Dan O'Dowd likes Hurdle so much that he is fully prepared to offer him a front office position with the club.
Blame who you want for the dismal performance of the Rockies. Blame the players, blame the coaches, blame the fans, damn...blame the broadcasters if you want. The simple fact is the general manager Jim O'Dowd is to blame for the fall from grace. The Rox have lost most of their key performers from their 2007 run to The Series and they simple have not filled in the gaps...or I should say that O'Dowd hasn't filled in the gaps.
Matt Holliday is gone, Troy Tulowitzki sucks, Kaz Matsui is gone, Willy Taveras is gone, Torrealba is on the bench, Helton is two years older, Jeff Francis and Taylor Buchholz are hurt long-term, Fogg is washed up, Herges is gone, Hawkins is gone, Fuentes is gone, Affeldt is gone.
These are all major holes that were not addressed by management as the club tried to fill these chasms with crack-filler from their minor league system. This plan has failed miserabily and Mr. O'Dowd should be held accountable. If a franchise is going to try to re-build from within...fine...but don't fire a popular, succesful manager along the way because the team isn't winning games. Losing is all a part of the re-building process.
If you're feeling tempted, and you think Jim Tracy can plug the holes in this sinking ship...you can get the Colorado Rockies as high as +10000 to win the NL West and they are favorites at home at -130 tonight vs. San Diego.
Best of luck Rox...you'll need it.