May 3, 2007

Kentucky Derby Preview

Just to set things straight, this preview is going to be nowhere near as good as this one from the guys at The Gowanus Rotisserie Baseball Gazette.

But I will give you my derby picks, which have historically been good but not good enough to win money. Right now you're probably thinking "What the fuck are you talking about?" That's a good question. I have a streak of having the derby winner in my exacta, but missing the place horse (no, not Giacomo's year). The streak started the first year I bet on the derby, when J-Red and I had War Emblem (~20/1) at the top of the ticket, but somehow missed Proud Citizen finishing second. For about 3 seconds, I thought I had won $1000. The exacta ended up paying $1300 (see here for payouts). I actually didn't remember the payoff being that high, and it still burns me up a little bit to think about all that lost money.

Anyway, back to this year's derby. Here are the horses along with my thoughts based on their past performances, which can be found at My trick here is to ignore the morning line the first time through the list, then compare my initial analysis to the money and look for value. I hate betting the Derby favorite, and in a 20 horse field, I'm even more wary.

  1. Sedgefield Weakened in his last race, an 8 furlong G3. Automatic disqualification, just cross him off your board right now.

  2. Curlin Undefeated in 3 preps, didn't race as a 2 year old. Won all three easily, but doesn't have a very extensive resume. Circle this one to keep an eye on, he'll probably be in our exacta.

  3. Zanjero Great experience, with a G3, a G2, and a G1 race all under his belt this year. The only problem is that he didn't win any of them. And he was outfinished in the Bluegrass by two other Derby horses. I'm not ready to cross him out yet, we'll come back to this one

  4. Storm in May Lots of turf races for this horse, which makes him kind of tough to evaluate. He got blown out by Curlin in the Arkansas Derby, but I'm willing to overlook that one if I can find a reason to like him. Unfortunately, there isn't much to like on dirt. He even got the dreaded "weakened" in a 1 1/8 mile turf race. Cross him out.

  5. Imawildandcrazyguy Another horse with some good experience, but he's gotten beat by a lot of other Derby horses. The description on his run in the Louisiana Derby is "No final kick." We won't be betting on him.

  6. Cowtown Cat Coming off two victories in grades stakes races, but not against other Derby contenders. Seems to be a fairly slow starter with good distance legs. I'm going to keep him in consideration, we might find some good value here.

  7. Street Sense Good closer, beat a lot of Derby contenders in the Breeders Cup Juvenile last fall. But as we know from reading the Gowanus preview, Juvenile winners don't win the Derby. We're going to circle him anyway. I like strong finishers.

  8. Hard Spun 5 for 6 lifetime, with his only loss being a 4th place finish in the a Southwest 250K race that Teuflesberg won. Circle this one, he'll be in the exacta.

  9. Liquidity His line for the Louisiana Derby: "Faded final furlong." If you can't hang for 1 1/16, you're not going to make a mile and a quarter at derby pace.

  10. Teuflesberg Seems to have trouble starting races (lots of bobbles and an "unprepared start"). Not a good sign in a 20 horse field where a clean start is probably going to be crucial. This guy's another big X.

  11. Bwana Bull I'm of two minds about this one. He was either exposed as a 2nd rate horse in the Santa Anita Derby, or he had one bad race and is a strong contender. One problem is that the one bad race was a G1 at 1 1/8. Was the competition just too good? Was the distance too much? Or was it a fluke? I'm going to go with 2nd rate. You might look good in smaller Allowance and G3 races, but the Kentucky Derby is a whole different ballgame.

  12. Nobiz Like Showbiz I like this horse. Great prep resume, with 5 graded stakes races under his belt already. All of those were at either a mile or 1 1/8. He doesn't seem bothered by distance at all, and the only thing keeping him from a 4 race winning streak is a bumped start. Circle this one and put a star next to him.

  13. Sam P. This type of horse is the reason I don't bet Trifectas. He could easily sneak into the money, but for exacta purposes, I think we can cross him off (I hope).

  14. Scat Daddy This is the trap horse of the field. There is just enough in his past performances to talk yourself into putting money on him, but enough red flags to discourage you. His most impressive win, the Fountain of Youth where he beat Nobiz, has a Moss rating of slow late. Stay away from Scat Daddy. (see, I made it through that whole thing without a scat = horseshit joke)

  15. Tiago Yes, he's Giacomo's full brother. Yes, that is a reason not to bet on him. That Santa Anita Derby win looks like a fluke to me. I'm not buying.

  16. Circular Quay Impressive resume, but not enough to sell me quite yet. Leave him blank for now

  17. Stormello In both the Florida Derby and the BC Juvenile, 'mello has a line of "tired." I'll pass.

  18. Any Given Saturday Bad trip in the Wood and a couple of "close but no cigar" finishes in graded stakes. Let's put him in the "maybe" pile for now.

  19. Dominican I'm not seeing enough here to justify taking him from the 19 spot. The Blue Grass win is impressive, but it's still not enough.

  20. Great Hunter We can discount the Blue Grass loss to a bad trip, but is he good enough to win from the far outside? I don't think so. He'd be a maybe if he were starting from closer to the rail, but I can't put money on him from this starting gate. Even though his Grandsire was A.P. Indy, who was himself descended from both Seattle Slew and Secretariat. Now I'm starting to talk myself into him. Let's leave him in the "maybe" column.

Alright, we've been through the field once, so where do we stand?

Street SenseCowtown CatStorm in May
Hard SpunCircular QuayImawildandcrazyguy
Nobiz Like ShowbizAny Given SaturdayLiquidity

Great HunterTeuflesberg

Bwana Bull

Sam P

Scat Daddy




We managed to eliminate 11 out of 20 horses in the first pass. Now it's time to take a look at the odds on the "Yes" and "Maybe" Horses:

  • Curlin (7/2)
  • Street Sense (4/1)
  • Hard Spun (15/1)
  • Nobiz Like Showbiz (8/1)
  • Zanjero (30/1)
  • Cowtown Cat (20/1)
  • Circular Quay (8/1)
  • Any Given Saturday (12/1)
  • Great Hunter (15/1)
Ouch. We didn't manage to eliminate many of the favorites, and our "Yes" horses look very similar to the experts' picks. That's never good, especially in a large field.

Let's take another quick look at the maybes to see if any of them should be on the card. Zanjero looks worse the second time, Cowtown Cat looks like a yes at 20-1, Circular Quay looks like a yes, Any Given Saturday looks like a no, and Great Hunter looks like a no.

So that leaves us with 6 horses:

  • Curlin (7/2)
  • Street Sense (4/1)
  • Hard Spun (15/1)
  • Nobiz Like Showbiz (8/1)
  • Cowtown Cat (20/1)
  • Circular Quay (8/1)
I really like Nobiz and Street Sense, so let's put them at the top of the exacta with the others below. So our bet ticket looks like this:

7,12 | 2,6,7,8,12,16

That's a $20 bet with a $2 exacta. Now you know what I'm betting, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Photo Credit: bridgepix

More Jeopardy! Gripes

This is a sports blog, but it's also a competition blog and a "why God why?" blog.

Jeopardy! is currently airing the first round of the college tournament. It lasts two weeks. The first week is the quarterfinal round. There are FIVE champions and FOUR wild cards. By Thursday, a contestant can guarantee advancement by having the best or second best non-winning total. Today is Thursday.

According to J-Archive, the ultimate Jeopardy! resource on the internet, the Monday-Wednesday wild cards were tentatively held by:

Cliff - $16,800
Alice - $16,400
Haditha - $14,000
Hayley - $13,500

So for a Thursday player, a score of $16,401 or more GUARANTEES advancement. Imagine a chick, from the home school and my girlfriend's alma mater, USC, coming into Final Jeopardy! in the lead with $17K and change. She can be caught. Now imagine that she IS caught, and she wagered enough to drop her to $12K and change.

She had, in her hands, a guaranteed wildcard, and even a good shot at the top seeded wild card. She now has jack shit.

May 2, 2007

Champions League for Other Sports

I've enjoyed watching some of the UEFA Champions League the past few months. The semifinals end today, either Manchester United or AC Milan will face Liverpool in the final.

Every time I watch the Champions League, I can't help but wonder why more sports don't use this model. For those of you not familiar with it, here's a quick primer. The top finishers in all the major European soccer leagues compete against each other each year for in the Champions League, which is essentially the European club soccer championship. So in the semifinal today you have Manchester United (for the non-soccer fans among you, they're from England) vs. AC Milan (from Italy, for those of you not up on your Italian city names).

What I want to know is why hasn't this model spread to other sports? I think basketball and baseball are the two most obvious applications, but it might be able to spark some interest in hockey as well. Imagine if, instead of the poorly conceived, poorly marketed, poorly played World Baseball Classic (how something can be called classic the first time it's played is beyond me), there was a competition pitting the Cardinals against the winners of other baseball leagues from Japan, Mexico, etc. Similarly for basketball, wouldn't it be interesting to see the Heat play foreign league champs? Obviously the American leagues have the money to attract the best players from around the world and would probably win these competitions easily. But wouldn't they be fun to watch?

The way I see it, there are several advantages of the Champions League model over the World Baseball Classic:

  • The teams play together all season in their domestic leagues. They aren't cobbled together for a month long tournament, so the quality of play is likely to be better.
  • Each team already has a fanbase. Cheering for team USA is great for the Olympics and the World Cup, but I'd rather cheer for the Orioles than a mishmash of players who happen to be American
  • Coach K won't coach my favorite team. This is a big problem with World Baseball (or Basketball) tournaments. While I probably like all the players on my favorite team, there's a good chance that I'll hate some of the players (or the coach) on Team USA.

So what will it take to get a Champions League started for baseball and basketball? Bud, David, are you listening? Let's get this show on the road.

May 1, 2007

Jeopardy! Is Making Me Insane

Speaking of destroying the television, Jeopardy! is making apoplectic on a daily basis. Today the chick (and it's ALWAYS chicks that fall into this category) was trailing by more than half when she hit the last Daily Double with the 59th (out of 60) question. She didn't wager enough to have half of the leader's total. Even though she got it right, she couldn't catch the leader. spacerThis smart-ass college contestant wagers $1337. In supernerd circles, 1337 = leet, or elite. The opposite of a newbie, or noob.

(Granted, it is the college tourney so she could have been playing for wild card, but she didn't have enough for that yet either. J-Red's never-followed Jeopardy Rule #1: If you get a Daily Double in the last 5 clues, and you would need to nail Final Jeopardy and bet it all to win, BET IT ALL ON THE DAILY DOUBLE SINCE YOU KNOW THE CATEGORY, unless the category is really bad for you. How is this not common procedure? I think it goes back to the "why don't NFL coaches do X" explanations. No one wants to be at $0 or out of it when the final buzzer sounds. If I get the second Daily Double in anything that isn't New Testament, Opera, or Art, I'm doubling up if I'm trailing. This should be obvious.)

I can't possibly explain how furious this makes me, and you wouldn't believe how often it happens. The gene that makes you good at Jeopardy! makes you suck at math. I must have gotten the awesome at Jeopardy!, awesome at math gene set.

Idol Recap

Alright, so I didn't destroy my TV after Blake's performance. Let's do a brief Faulkner before I get into performance reviews: Ryan needs a shave badly, my fiancee now lusts for Jon Bon Jovi, 70 million dollars is incredible, W throwing in a dig at Bono was pretty dumb, everyone in America will be talking way too much about the Lakisha/Simon kiss by the morning, my mother is a fish ( Ten bucks for the As I Lay Dying reference). So let me preface this review by saying that this is going to be from the perspective of someone whose iPod is loaded with Bon Jovi, who can get psyched up by the intro to Lay Your Hands on Me, and who has seen them live. In order from best performance to worst:

1) Phil
Knocked this out of the park. In my mind, we've witnessed the resurrection of Phil Stacey the past few weeks. Looked more comfortable than any of the other performers, sounded great, and added his own twist to the song while making it honest to the original recording. I'm not quite sure why Simon knocked it... I think possibly because he was first up and Simon hadn't compared him to the other performers yet. I have a feeling that this is one of those nights where if Phil went 4th, 5th, or 6th, Simon's review would have been more favorable.

2) Melinda
Well on this one I agreed with Simon and Randy. It was absolutely impossible not to think Melinda was channeling some sort of inner-Tina Turner when she was singing the song. She sang with great attitude, a lot of soul, and was able to rock out pretty well. One note... was Will Ferrell in the background on cowbell at the beginning? Seriously, that aspect was pretty damn annoying.

3) Chris
His first few notes were totally off. And way to not know the words to this classic song when you meet the artist, dumbass. Side note... I think they should create a Wonderlic for Idol contestants. Chris would rival Vince Young. But back to the song... he did just OK. He pulled off the rock thing. He sang the song well. He did add some blues to it. It was pretty average.

4) Lakisha
She would've been ranked higher than Chris if I didn't think she was cheating on rock week. But absolutely the right song for her, and I feel like she might've saved herself after a few horrid weeks prior to this one. Will it be enough? She didn't pick a well-known song which I think worked in her favor. That low range of her voice is incredible. But come on Lakisha... you just proved to me why you can't be the winner... every winner has some strong points and some weak points, but they don't totally duck their weak points like you just did.

5) Blake
Still... enraged... by... this... cocky...bastard's... heresy. Who the hell do you think you are, Mr. Beatboxer, to try to turn that CLASSIC into some crappy-ass funk/acappella song? Simon was only half right... you did manage to turn off half the voters, and you did take a risk. But I don't think that what you showed was any vocal talent. Maybe more appropriate for America's Got Talent if the show hadn't been cancelled. Or maybe for the next Police Academy movie since you are a sound effects machine, were able to replicate a record player, and therefore can replace Michael Winslow. But hell son, what a clusterf**k. (Brien, are we allowed to use the f word on here? That was never discussed!)

6) Jordin
It took skill to beat Blake out for this spot. I fault Jordin's youth here for her thinking she could tackle a song that quite possibly everybody in America knows because everybody, when drunk, sings along to this song in the bar at some point in their lives. I was actually waiting before the show started for the person who would commit Idol suicide by trying to do this song. People don't realize how difficult it is to sing lyrically, let along how difficult it is to sing musically and make it sound half as decent as Jon Bon Jovi did. Try to keep pace with the lyrics when you're singing along in your car sometime. Guarantee you lose your breath a bunch of times and have to skip words. At least Jordin was honest and she knew she blew it. Her look was horrible (why dye your hair?) She seemed wildly out of control. A truly terrible performance by Phillipi's daughter.
Definitely Chris. Who will go with him? I'm scared for Jordin, but think her tremendous vote total from last week and her strong fanbase will save her. I kind of hope Blake goes because I now despise him. But I think Lakisha might go because her vote total from last week was likely very low and I don't think her performance tonight stood out as a "rock performance." So there you have it: Chris and Lakisha.

Idol Recap - May 1, 2007

I'll take this Idol Recap, since Jeremy might do something silly like reveal his undying love for Richie Sambora if I don't. It was Bon Jovi night. A potential disaster that came off surprisingly good.

In order of greatest to suckiest, here is how tonight went:

1) Blake - Blake delivered the best performance in the history of American Idol. He didn't sing the best or dance the best, but he was by far the most entertaining ever. He had absolute balls of steel to take "You Give Love a Bad Name" and turn it in to a totally syncopated kick-ass song. He beatboxed a lot of the middle, and actually sounded great. As soon as the song was over, his drummer (who Blake owes a significant amount of money) threw his drumsticks straight up and walked off stage without ever looking at the crowd. For the first time, they could have told Blake the song would be a hit if it were released tomorrow and they would have actually been telling the truth.

2a) Phil - Phil sang "Blaze of Glory" from Young Guns. For the third week in a row, Phil nailed the song and had great energy. He obviously found his confidence recently and he's been nailing everything since.

2b) Melinda - Jordin needs to watch a Melinda performance. Melinda sang "Have a Nice Day", a song I was not familiar with. Even when her song selection isn't particularly good, Melinda sings every note from start to finish with great energy and perfect pitch. She's still the one to beat.

4) LaKisha - LaKisha was in a tough spot this week, especially with the pressure of a two-week cumulative vote after she did not do well with "Life Anthems" the week before. LaKisha sang "This Ain't a Love Song", another questionable song choice. She oversang a bit, but sang the song very well overall.

5) Chris R - Chris looked like his mother had shot his dog and then herself right in front of him. He was clearly shell-shocked by Blake's kickass performance. That being said, he oversang "Wanted Dead or Alive", even coming close to yelling at times. There was visible sympathy from the judges and Seacrest, though no one really nailed him.

6) Jordin - Jordin peaked too early. She had been steadily improving from the 12/12 boys/girls rounds to the top 8 or so, but she's hit the wall and bounced back hard. Jordin sang "Living on a Prayer". She sucked it up early, and even though she recovered, she lost me and probably most people watching by the end of the song. It's at least the 3rd or 4th week in a row that she's started very poorly. To make matters worse, she saved all the tone-deaf people in the country the trouble of trusting their instincts by basically admitting that she sucked throughout the judges' critique.

So which two are going home, based on two weeks' performance? I'd say Chris R and Jordin.

(Jeremy's non-Bon Jovi favorite band is Guns N Roses. He can't be trusted this week.)

Anyone have a new TV?

The Idol Recap might not happen. I knew one of our singers would make this Bon Jovi fan snap like a disgruntled postal worker and destroy living room furniture. Blake Lewis, you are this week's champion. I will be in therapy for a few weeks.

Throw him the damn unemployment check

So the Panthers cut Keyshawn Johnson today just days after he spent hours preening as part of the ESPN NFL Draft crew. It's pretty funny in retrospect thinking about Key's response to the Panthers' draft pick of Jarrett, saying he was looking forward to taking the fellow former USC wide receiver "under his wing."

According to the Associated Press' interview with the Carolina GM, Key's reaction was about as follows:

"I don't think he agreed with the decision. I think he feels like he could have come in and helped us in our goal of trying to get to the playoffs and win the championship but I think he understood our thought process... I would just say he didn't agree with it."

Well if there's anybody who I thought would be gracious in the face of getting cut for younger talent, it would be Keyshawn. I personally am shocked that he "didn't agree with it." I have a feeling his words might have been slightly stronger.

But as somebody who has long despised this guy, I think since Jason could man up and make a positive post about the Redskins, I'm going to have to man up and say that I actually liked Keyshawn as a draft analyst on ESPN. He definitely knows the game, knows the coaches in the game (maybe because he's clashed with a good third of them), and is way more palatable than Deion Sanders or Shannon Sharpe ever were. Plus, Chris Mortenson truly seemed to despise sitting on the same set as him during the ESPN coverage. That's always fun to watch.

April 30, 2007

In Defense of the....<gulp>....Redskins

It hurts me to do this. I mean, it physically makes me ill to do this. Click on the "Redskins suck" tag and see who the author is for each and every post.

The Redskins did the right thing on Saturday. They took LaRon Landry, at a marginal need position, with the salary cap-consuming 6th pick.

When the Redskins went on the clock with the 6th overall pick, Adrian Peterson, RB from Oklahoma, was the far and away most needed player on the board. No, he wasn't the BEST player on the board, but there were teams who desperately needed him.


MINN - 7th pick overall
RB stable - Chester Taylor, Artose Pinner, Mewelde Moore, Cedrick Fason

QB stable - Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger

In other words, Minnesota was passable at RB but dying at QB. They just invested in Tarvaris two years ago and he hadn't really gotten a shot. It was probable that Minnesota would pick the RB, Peterson. However, if Peterson was gone, they certainly would have taken QB Quinn. There was no reason for Minnesota to swap with the Skins just to preserve Peterson.

TENN - 19th pick overall
RB stable - LenDale White, Chris Brown (drafted Chris Henry out of Arizona with 50th pick)

Tennessee absolutely needed a feature RB. LenDale White has looked like a bust since day one, but never has looked chiseled. At best he can hope to become Mike Alstott without the fumbling. Chris Brown can't stay healthy in long enough stretches to be effective. To boot, he's an attitude problem.

They had the Michael "Burner" Turner market cornered in SD, or so the media led us to believe. The whole world had a deal in place prior to the draft between the Titans and Chargers, with most sources having the teams swap first rounders (Chargers were 30th) and the Titans throwing in their 4th rounder. This didn't happen, but no one knows why. Since the Chargers pulled Turner off the table officially today, we have to assume either Tennessee renegged or the Chargers never found the swap/4th deal sufficient.

GB - 16th pick

RB stable - Vernand Morrency, Nick Herron, PJ Pope

And they drafted DT Justin Harrell, then RB Brandon Jackson out of Nebraska with the 63rd pick. GB was clearly the place for Michael Turner to go. The team has NO viable options at RB, an aging QB, and no truly frightening receivers (Greg Jennings, seriously?). Much like the Titans and Turner, Moss to GB was rumored to be just waiting for the ink to dry on draft day. We now know that Randy Moss cost NE's (later than GB's) 4th rounder. GB had a 2nd, two 3rds and a 4th. They obviously could have moved up to get Peterson and gotten Moss. I can't understand this team.

Buffalo - 12th pick

RB stable - Marshawn Lynch (12th pick this draft), Anthony Thomas, Shaud Williams

I'm going to forgive the Bills here. They apparently targeted Lynch from the start. Teams 8 through 11 (Atlanta, Miami, Houston) either didn't need an RB or didn't need one bad enough to pass up other need positions. They could feel confident that Lynch would be there.

So...............the Redskins got offered nothing, supposedly, for their 6th pick. That's the pick that guarantees the trading team Adrian Peterson. RBs have the shortest learning curve from college to the pros, so if you want to improve your team fast that's the best position to pick. As much as I would LOVE to believe otherwise, I truly believe the Redskins got offered no value for the pick. I'm led to this conclusion NOT because I have an iota of faith in Gibbs/Snyder/Cerrato, but rather because Gibbs sounded like his dog had been shot when he gave his post-LaRon Landry fan/press conference at FedEx. I actually believe the Redskins planned to move down in this draft.

So the Skins did what they had to do. They picked the player they had rated highest on their board, based on their needs (and SS was a need, just one that will only provide marginal improvement next year). All the cliches are in play: "You can't make a deal that isn't there", "We weren't going to take peanuts", "This is the guy we wanted all along", etc etc etc. For once I don't blame them, but I do have to wonder what the Titans and Packers were thinking.

Michael "Burner" Turner Off the Table

A.J. Smith, GM of the San Diego Chargers, just stated on the Colin "Shrutebag" Cowherd Show on ESPN Radio that LT's backup, RB Michael Turner, is officially off the table. The Chargers will retain Turner through this, his final contract, year.

So what does this mean? It means Tennessee is basically screwed out of any quality RB (not to mention Buffalo and Green Bay, though they displayed less publicly-disclosed interest in Turner). If reports of Skins' camp are correct, no one made them an attractive offer for their 6th pick in the first round. That pick was well-known to be the last chance to obtain Adrian Peterson before Minnesota picked at 7. Tennessee eventually selected S Michael Griffin from Texas with the 19th pick in the first round followed by RB Chris Henry (not that one) out of Arizona in the 2nd round. Both of those picks could have almost certainly been packaged to obtain the Redskins 6th pick and RB Adrian Peterson from Oklahoma. I suppose time will tell which was the wiser move.

Perhaps A.J. Smith is just puffing, especially since he now knows that Tennessee is facing the 2008 season with LenDale White and oft-injured Chris Brown as their featured backs. Reports that the Titans have made calls to Eddie George, Robert Smith, Terry Allen, Emmitt Smith, and Barry Sanders have not yet been confirmed.

April 29, 2007

Randy Moss to the Pats for a 4th

Adam Schefter of is reporting that the Raiders have sent Moss to the Pats for a 4th round pick in this afternoon's draft. the AFC power teams are getting richer, or at least staying rich, while the NFC flounders around for yet another offseason. Can we un-merge the leagues? Seriously, this year's AFC Playoffs might have six teams better than anything in the NFC. The 49ers could actually make the NFC Championship Game, while good AFC teams like the Broncos and Bengals will be struggling to get a wild card.

So much for parity. I think parity requires all 32 teams to be competent.