It struck me today that I hadn’t heard much about Jacoby Ellsbury recently. It wouldn’t be surprising that a typical rookie wasn’t making much news, but Ellsbury emerged in such a high profile way last year, and he started off so well, that the absence of news was remarkable. I took a quick look to see what I had missed. It hasn’t been pretty. His average isn’t terrible, with an average of .262. He’s just fallen off a cliff recently. His strikeouts have jumped, his walks have plummeted. He has no home runs in 28 days, one in 48 days, and he has just five home runs in 35 games. He’s leading the league in stolen bases, but the rest of his game is pretty terrible right now. I don’t really have a point other than to say that breaking into this league isn’t always as easy as it might seem.
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I don’t know about you, but I am itching for the football season to get here. Aching, really. NFL training camps get under way right away, so America’s favorite sport has been on my mind a lot lately. We’ll obviously spend a lot of time talking about the league in the weeks and months to come, but before we get into any specifics I just wanted to reflect on some of the general thoughts that are bouncing through my mind at this point.
Jacksonville – I like this team. A lot. Their division is a bit softer than it has been. Their offense is solid. Their defense is significantly upgraded. Every year there are a couple of teams that I either make or lose a fortune on. I strongly suspect that Jacksonville is one of those teams. They aren’t going to surprise anyone, and the public is going to be aware of them, but I still thin that they will play well enough to make some money.
As much as we might wish otherwise, Donald Trump won’t go away. The USFL, the WWE, and a few golf courses weren’t enough involvement in the sports world for him. Now he’s involved with MMA. He’s a financial and promotional partner with Affliction, a clothing company that fancies itself a fight promoter. The first major Affliction event, called Banned, takes place tonight in Anaheim. In typical Trump style the Baned card is big and impressive. Fedor Emelianenko is widely seen as the best heavyweight, and perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter, in the world. The UFC has tried to land him for years, but they have failed. He’s headlining the Affliction card. Here’s a look at the card for tonight, with odds from Bodog.
Fedor Emelianenko (-350) vs. Tim Sylvia (+275) – Fedor was a menace in PRIDE, but he was done there at the end of 2006, and he has done little since. He has fought just twice, and neither match was even remotely a challenge. His first opponent was a seven foot giant without any skills to match his size, and his second was an undersized middleweight. He needs to prove that he is still as good as his legend, and Sylvia is a good opponent to do so. Sylvia is a two time UFC champ. His last fight in February was for the UFC title, but he lost to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He’s not the best fighter out there, but he is a legitimate talent. Sylvia is a good striker, and he is hard to take down. Fedor is much better inside, and the fight is probably over if it gets to the ground, Sylvia could surprise, but Fedor seriously needs this win, so I expect him to be hungry and get the job done. Fedor by a submission.
I spent most of the morning watching the British Open. It was fascinating, and not much else is going on in the sports world right now, so I thought I would share what is sticking out in my mind halfway through the tournament.
Wow, is the weather ever ugly at the British Open. If I showed up at a course and the sky looked like that I would turn around and go home. A links-style course does nothing to make the day look any nicer, either.
I said I wasn’t going to do it, but in the end I found myself watching a fair bit of the All-Star game. I even enjoyed it. The league almost got itself into a big pickle, though, with the way it ended. Or almost didn’t end. After they took steps to avoid a recurrence of the ridiculous tie of 2002 it almost happened again anyway. Because of that, and just to make the game more interesting in general, here are a few changes I would recommend that they make to the game. I don’t think that it needs a major overhaul, but since it is an exhibition game anyway these tweaks could make the game more interesting.
I’m going to avoid talking about the All-Star game before it happens because, well, it bores the hell out of me. I love baseball as much as the next guy, but I don’t think it lends itself particularly well to an exhibition format – especially one that none of the players really care about. If pitchers were all supposed to only pitch an inning a game then they’d all be called closers, and each team would have 18 of them. If I had to I would bet on the American League, but I would rather bet on cricket.
We learned couple of things from the Home Run Derby tonight – it can incredibly entertaining, and the overall format is flawed. Watching Josh Hamilton’s tour de force was one of the coolest things I have done in a long while. The problem, though, is that no one cared about the result after that all happened. Justin Morneau is a fellow Canadian, and I am proud of him for coming through, but he didn’t deserve to win, and no one cares that he does. Instead of making it a three round contest like it is which just tires out batters and pitchers and rarely builds to a dramatic finish, it is time they tweak it a bit. They should invite a few more guys to participate, give each guy a few more outs, and just have one round. It didn’t matter what happened after Hamilton did his thing, so the format should be such that he didn’t have to do anything. The way it is now, Morneau hit fewer home runs in three rounds than Hamilton did in one, and he still won.
I was passing some time tonight by browsing around the odds at Pinnacle looking for anything interesting (it was a slow night, obviously). As I did that a few lines of interest popped out that are worth a comment:
Men’s Olympic soccer – Anything can happen in a short tournament, but it would be a major upset of the winner of this tournament wasn’t either Argentina or Brazil. They are just that much better than anyone else. Interestingly, they are priced in such a way that you could bet both if you wanted and still make money if you were right. Argentina is +188 and Brazil is at +238 to win them all. That’s not bad for heavy favorites at this point.
How bad could it get for the Rays? Just a short week ago they were the talk of the league, sporting a five game lead in the least budget-conscious division in sports after winning 11 of 12 games. They haven’t won a game since. They dropped their sixth straight game tonight, and their previously comfortable lead is down to just half a game over the Red Sox. Oops. That’s now how the fairy tale was supposed to go heading into the All-Star break.