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July 10, 2012 at 8:30 AM

New gaming odds demonstrate just how AL West has become a two-team division

ADDITIONAL NOTE: If you missed this morning’s Talkin’ Baseball segement on Sports Radio KJR, click the link above to hear it. Towards the end, sub-host Dick Fain asked me whether I felt a Chone Figgins-Vernon Wells contract swap could work. I thought it might help the M’s, giving them a veteran CF backup in case Franklin Gutierrez gets hurt next year. Wells is also 32 with some bat upside if he can stay healthy and recapture some of what he once had (he’s two years younger than Figgins, who doesn’t fill much of any role now). But it only works if the M’s don’t throw good money after bad like with the Milton Bradley-Carlos Silva swap. And looking at the Wells contract, there’s too big a gap. He’s owed more than $40 million more than Figgins, so it’s not even close to being doable. Nice idea, bad contract timing.
We’re set to begin the “second half” of the baseball schedule once tonight’s All-Star Game is played and some new odds, courtesy of the online gaming site @Bovadal LV were sent my way this morning. There were a few interesting items beyond the Yankees being 9/2 favorites to win it all, followed by the Texas Rangers at 5/1 and the San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals and the Angels being at 11/1.
But for me, the biggest thing of note was looking at the teams picked to win their respective divisions. One clue to where I’m going are the odds I just showed you above, where AL West teams hold down two of the top three best odds slots to win the World Series.
When it comes to individual divisions, the Rangers and Angels again have odds posted on them taking the AL West –the Rangers favored at 1/4 and the Angels at 3/1.
But that’s it. No other AL West team even has odds posted on them. The Vegas bookmakers couldn’t even bother because nobody in their right mind thinks the Oakland A’s (a .500 team, mind you) or the Mariners have a snowball’s chance on the casino strip in mid-afternoon sun of winning this four-team division.
And that’s the only division in baseball where that’s the case.
Yes, folks, welcome to the western branch of the AL East.

Hey, at least all five teams in the AL East have odds given on them. The Yankees are favored in that division at 1/3, followed by the Rays at 7/1, the Red Sox at 15/2 and the Orioles and Blue Jays at 10/1.
But not in the AL West. Nope, the division the Mariners play in is now truly one of haves and have-nots.
The closest thing to it is the AL Central, where the White Sox and Tigers are both equally favored at 6/5 and the Indians come in at 7/2. Nobody else registers there.
In the NL West, there are also only three teams meriting discussion, with the Giants at 10/11, the Dodgers at 8/5 and the Diamondbacks at 4/1.
There are four teams in the NL Central, with the Reds at 1/1, the Cardinals at 2/1, the Pirates at 5/2 and the Brewers still holding on with a pulse at 16/1.
All five teams make the board in the NL East, which shows you there is still a sense the Washington Nationals could collapse. The Nats are at 4/4, the Braves at 9/4, the Mets at 15/2, and the Marlins and Phillies (yes, they still are not being counted out) at 12/1.
It’s always a good idea to pay attention to bookmakers because while they never get every pick right, they usually have the fundamentals down pat. They have a lot of money at stake and can’t afford to guess wrong on too big a scale. Plenty of expertise and inside info goes into setting the odds. So, when they don’t even bother to give odds on the .500 A’s winning the division, I find it interesting.
And it will be interesting to see how the Mariners make decisions from here, given the two-behemoth reality that is the AL West. How far behind are the Mariners? Will it take a year to catch up? Two years? Or more? If it’s more, do you try to re-sign Felix Hernandez?
These are all odds the Mariners will have to weigh when they sit down this off-season and start to get honest with themselves. And it won’t be to go casino hopping. It will be to plot the future of the franchise and the best way to overcome the tremendous division obstacles now in their path.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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