By Forrest Lee
Jay Rood instantly recalls the huge odds the Cardinals faced this time last year to win the World Series.
“Nine-hundred and 99 to one,” he said.
We know how that stunning story ended. One bettor, who wagered money on them at one of Rood’s sports books in Vegas, scored a cool $750,000, betting the Cardinals to not only win the National League pennant, but the World Series, too.
“They were closer to being out of the playoffs than in,” said Rood, vice president of race and sports for MGM Resorts International in Las Vegas, where he oversees its 10 sports books, of the unfathomable run. “But kudos to the guy. That’s a great call. That’s hitting the lottery. He wasn’t the only one, but he had the biggest ticket for sure.”
Like last season, the Cardinals again are clinging to slim hopes of punching a ticket to the playoffs. But Vegas isn’t giving them 999-1 odds. Rood said he knows better than to count them out again. Entering the week, St. Louis was a 25-1 bet to claim the World Series.
“I wouldn’t mind keeping them out of the postseason,” Rood said. “But they’ve got such a rich history and they seem to find a way to get (to the playoffs). Anything is possible. They could march in one more time. I wouldn’t put it past them.”
The odds aren’t as long for several other Major League Baseball clubs. A glimpse of the top five favorites entering the week to win it all in October with some commentary from Rood.
1. Yankees and Rangers (4-1): The Yankees are frequently favored because of their potent lineup and their ability to pay top dollar for high-profile talent. Quality pitching, though, remains a drawback. The Yankees opened the season as 4-1 favorites and remain such despite the Rays and O’s breathing down their necks. They are 2-1 favorites, along with the Rangers, to win the American League championship. Sound familiar?
“The Yankees always get through the regular season until (running into trouble in) the postseason when the Rangers of the world come along,” Rood said.
The Rangers, meanwhile, navigated a recent rough stretch and continued to keep the A’s (18-1 to win the WS) and the Angels at bay. Still, they must overcome their sometimes shaky starting pitching to keep them on top and possibly earn a World Series title that has eluded them the past two World Series.
2. Dodgers and Nationals (6-1): These odds were posted days before the Dodgers completed their blockbuster trade Saturday for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. But Rood said Friday, when the deal was a strong possibility of occurring, that it wouldn’t impact the odds much. Vegas’ proximity to L.A., among other issues, always plays a factor.
“The ownership change and the direction they’re headed, and the proximity, makes them wildly popular,” Rood said. “Six to one is kind of short for them, but we try to protect ourselves.”
The Nats, who opened the season at 60-1, are another appealing choice despite threatening to shut down ace Stephen Strasburg: “They’ve been a popular pick lately, especially with the excitement of (Bryce) Harper and Strasburg,” Rood said. “They jumped out the gate quick this year and have maintained the lead (in the NL East). We limited our liability with them because anything can happen. Plus, they’ve played great baseball.
“But this will be their first trip to the postseason since they were Montreal or whatever they were. It’s tough to win it all when you’re a first-time club.”
3. Reds, Giants and White Sox (8-1): All three clubs lead their respective divisions—the Reds hold the biggest advantage—but Rood likes a dark horse in the NL West instead of the Giants, who are coming off a three-game sweep of the second-place Dodgers.
“I still think Arizona has a pretty quality club,” he said. “If San Francisco cools off, Arizona could get in and win the division. I don’t know if they’re considered a real dark horse, but they haven’t been on top of the standings yet. They could be a good value play.”
4. Angels and Rays (10-1): Despite often being at least eight games back of the Rangers, the Angels are starting to show a pulse. “They haven’t been playing as well as everyone thought,” Rood said. “But that Mike Trout kid is making them fun to watch.”
So are the Rays, who took four in a row from the Angels last weekend and performing as one of baseball’s hottest teams lately.
“I think Tampa Bay is going to make some noise before the end of the season,” Rood said. “They’re playing like the Cardinals last year. They’re making a huge run.”
5. Braves (12-1): They had played as well as any club in the second half until suffering through a recent tailspin. But they remain within striking distance of the Nats for the division crown and a strong contender for a wild-card berth.
That is unless they tank again and allow the Cardinals another life.
Editors Note: All odds used were as of 8-25-12