Hanley Ramirez Getty

Smart money on Hanley Ramirez, Jay Bruce in prop bets


Bovada released its player prop bets for the 2014 season on Wednesday, providing odds on the AL and NL MVP and Cy Young races, as well as MLB’s home run leader. Here’s a look at what I consider to be the best bets in each category. Please do note, though, all information here is for entertainment purposes only.


Mike Trout – 5/1
Miguel Cabrera – 6/1
Adrian Beltre – 16/1

This is one spot where I’d seriously think about going with the favorites. I’d say it’s better than 50-50 that Trout or Cabrera will claim the award, and the opportunity is there to bet both and still make some cash. Cabrera, of course, has won two in a row.

Since RBI remains king, Beltre, who has tied for the eighth best odds here, has the best chance to upset them. He’s in position to drive in a ton of runs behind Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Prince Fielder in the Texas order.

My favorite sleeper pick doesn’t get listed by Bovada, which probably means he’d get 50:1 odds. That’s Carlos Santana, who is also in position to drive in a whole bunch of runs behind Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis in the Cleveland lineup.


Hanley Ramirez – 25/1
Paul Goldschmidt – 9/1
Jay Bruce – 33/1

Ramirez was the NL’s best hitter in the half-season he was healthy last year, and his Dodgers are the clear favorites in the NL West. I see him making a run at a batting title and hitting about 30 homers. He’s my pick for MVP, long odds or no.

Goldschmidt has the third best odds here behind Andrew McCutchen (6/1) and Joey Votto (7/1). Because, again, RBI is king, I’d say he’s more likely to win than either of those two. However, for it to happen, he’ll need the Diamondbacks to make the postseason.

Bruce is going to have at least one 40-homer, 120-RBI season before he’s done. I doubt he’ll actually be a better player than Votto, but he’s the one of the two more likely to win an MVP, mostly because he gets to hit behind the guy with the .430 OBP.

AL Cy Young

Alex Cobb – 33/1
Justin Verlander – 12/1
Felix Hernandez – 15/1

Bovada and I agree: AL Cy Young is the most wide open of the four major awards. Their top choice here, Yu Darvish, has the highest odds (8/1) of the favorites. I don’t have a real favorite here, either. My projections call for Verlander, Hernandez, Darvish, David Price, Cobb and Chris Sale to all finish with ERAs in the 3.00-3.20 range, with no one lower than that. I’d be tempted to throw a couple of bucks on Cobb, but I’d probably otherwise shy away.

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw – 13/2
Madison Bumgarner – 15/1
Stephen Strasburg – 8/1

I’d go with the favorite here: Kershaw seems like he should be closer to 4:1 to repeat, in my opinion. If he doesn’t pitch up to his ability, that might open the door for Bumgarner. One sleeper pick who didn’t get odds from Bovada: Homer Bailey. He’d be really nice at 50:1 or 66:1.

MLB home run leader

Jay Bruce: 25/1
Chris Davis: 8/1
Giancarlo Stanton: 10/1
Justin Upton: 75/1

I have nine guys projected to hit at least 34 homers this season:

39 – Davis
38 – Stanton
37 – Bruce, Fielder
35 – Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Trumbo
34 – Pedro Alvarez, Edwin Encarncion

Bovada has Davis as the favorite at 8/1, followed by Cabrera at 9/1 and Stanton at 10/1. So we line up rather closely here. Bruce at 25/1 seems like the best bet to me: very good HR ballpark, very durable, three straight 30-homer seasons. Trumbo at 20/1 isn’t bad, either.

For a long shot, Upton is rather tempting. I have him at 30 homers, but he’s capable of doing better. Last year, he hit 12 in April alone, and he’s just now entering his age-26 season.

Leave Steve Bartman Alone

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 16: A general view on June 16,  2015 at Wrigley Field during the fifth inning of a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Cubs are up 3-2 in the NLCS and are heading back to Wrigley Field in an effort to punch their first World Series ticket since 1945. For Cubs fans it’s a dream come true. For Dodgers fans it’s nail-biting time. For most of the players involved it’s the biggest test of their professional lives.

For many in the baseball media, however, it’ll be an opportunity to throw gleeful, thoughtless punches at a man who doesn’t want or deserve the attention:

We all know the story of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS which, yes, began with the Cubs leading the series 3-2 and needing only one win in two games at home to go to the World Series. Bartman, like many other fans in his section that night and like countless other fans at countless other baseball games before and since, went for a foul ball coming his way. The fielder — Moises Alou — probably had a chance to catch it (I say “probably” because Alou himself has changed his stance at that on numerous occasions over the past 13 years). Either way, the ball was not caught, the Florida Marlins mounted a huge eighth inning rally, went on to win Game 7 and, eventually, the World Series.

The game was played on a Tuesday night. It became known forever as “the Steve Bartman Game” before the sun rose on Wednesday morning. It could’ve been called “The Mike Everitt Game” after the umpire who didn’t call fan interference on the play. It could’ve been called “The Alex Gonzalez Game” after the would-be inning-ending double play the Cubs shortstop booted, prolonging the Marlins’ rally. Or “The Mark Prior Game” for Prior’s subsequent walk of Luis Castillo or “The Dusty Baker Game” for Baker leaving Prior in too long. When a team blows a huge lead in fantastic fashion they NEVER blame it on one single player or one single play, but the entire 2003 NLCS and the Cubs’ subsequent struggles after that have always, to greater or lesser degrees, been hung on Bartman.

This despite the fact that, the next morning, he apologized. In doing so, he noted that he was already feeling the heat of an entire fan base’s blowback:

To Moises Alou, the Chicago Cubs organization, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, and Cub fans everywhere I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart. I ask that Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.

That didn’t happen, of course. The blowback continued and continues to this day. Just this week ESPN did a segment lumping Bartman in with fans who have thrown beer cans at players or who have otherwise interfered with games with malice.

For the most part, though, it’s less rancorous now than it used to be. It’s occasionally tinged with humor. As demonstrated in those tweets above it’s often just rote. When the Cubs are on the brink of anything one is apparently obligated to mention it, just like one mentions Billy Goats or the Curse of the Bambino or any number of other bits of baseball lore. Bartman references are, at turns, laments of futility or signaling of one’s grasp of baseball history. Before those tweets were composed, the author’s synapses fired: “hey, this is like that one time that thing happened so I am obligated to mention that thing.” Joe Buck and John Smoltz will likely have a discussion about it on Saturday night. Fox’s production team is likely splicing together the video as we speak. Some deep-thinking longform writer is probably composing yet another turgid “Searching for Bartman” piece, the sort of which we get every few years.

But there’s a difference between Steve Bartman on the one hand and Billy Goats and curses on the other. Steve Bartman is a human being. One who was jeered and who had his friends and family attacked. One who, apparently, has felt it necessary to disappear from public view in order to protect his privacy and identity so as to not be scapegoated anew every time the Cubs threaten to do anything in the postseason. In this day and age even the justifiably infamous will make great efforts to capitalize on their infamy. They’ll give interviews or print up t-shirts or write a quickie book or any number of other things to prolong their 15 minutes of fame. Then we, as a society, tend to leave them alone. Bartman has done everything he can to be left alone, but we simply cannot do that, apparently. No one wants to leave him alone, his wishes to be left alone be damned.

We should let it go. Not because it’s not a genuinely interesting bit of baseball history — it is — but because there’s a human being at the center of it who had his life negatively altered as a result. He can’t go to the games of his favorite team anymore. If he still lives in or visits Chicago he likely worries about being recognized. His name is pretty distinct. How many job interviews or customer service telephone calls or exchanges of credit cards and checks at a restaurant have resulted in an awkward conversation in which he is immediately presumed to be infamous? Think of how bad you feel on those rare occasions when someone, rightly or wrongly, assumes the ethical high ground over you. Then realize that every single person with even a moderate knowledge of baseball does that, intentionally or otherwise, with Steve Bartman every time he ventures out into the world. The only way he could avoid that would be to change his name. Imagine if you were forced to change your name because people won’t stop reminding you of your unwarranted infamy.

I’ve seen some people suggest that, should the Cubs win one of the next two games, the club or someone representing it and/or its fans should make a public proclamation of forgiveness to Bartman. Maybe Bill Murray takes a microphone and says something Bill Murray-esque about how “Cubs Nation forgives you, ya knucklehead, come on home!” I wouldn’t be terribly impressed if that happened. Forgiveness, if any was even warranted in this case, should’ve come on October 15, 2003 when Bartman offered a sincere and heartfelt apology. Forgiveness should always be contingent on one’s sincere remorse. It should not be contingent on the Cubs finally getting their act together after long stretches of futility. To be honest, if there is any forgiveness to be granted here it’s Bartman forgiving everyone responsible for turning him into a punchline, not the other way around.

Let it go, baseball fans. Let it go, baseball media. Let’s try to spend today’s off day, tomorrow’s Game 6 and, if necessary, Sunday’s Game 7 without forcing the Steve Bartman narrative. Given the storylines of the 2016 NLCS — two interesting teams, several interesting players and the great starting pitchers the Cubs and Dodgers are going to feature in the next one or two games — it’d be superfluous as it is. But given that, at the heart of that narrative, is a man who has done nothing to deserve either the attention or the scorn he has received over the years, pushing it is even less justifiable than it would be if all things were equal.

Leave Steve Bartman alone. We’ve put him through enough already.

Concerns over Jon Lester’s throwing ability much ado about nothing

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Going into Thursday night’s NLCS Game 5, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts planned to have his team be annoying and distracting on the base paths for Cubs starter Jon Lester. Lester, you see, has a hard time making throws when he’s not pitching from the rubber, as seen here.

The Dodgers got an immediate opportunity to test their strategy, as Enrique Hernandez drew a four-pitch walk to start the game in the bottom of the first inning. Hernandez was taking leads between 15 and 25 feet, just taunting Lester to throw over to first base. Lester never did. And despite being given the luxury of such a large lead, Hernandez never attempted to steal second base.

It ended up costing the Dodgers a run. After Justin Turner struck out, Corey Seager lined a single to center field. Hernandez, large lead and all, should’ve been well on his way to third base, but he settled for staying at second base. Carlos Ruiz then flied out to right field on what should’ve been a sacrifice fly. Hernandez instead just advanced to third. Howie Kendrick grounded out to end the inning with the Dodgers having scored no runs.

In the bottom of the second inning with two outs, Joc Pederson dropped down a bunt, but Lester was able to field it and make a bounce-throw to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the inning. Lester stared angrily into the Dodgers’ dugout as he walked off the field. If it were me, I’d have been glaring angrily not because the opposing team was attempting to exploit my weakness, but because the strategy is so poor.

The bunting would continue in the seventh inning as first baseman and noted power hitter Adrian Gonzalez tried to sneak a bunt past Lester on the right side of the infield. Second baseman Javier Baez was able to scoop it up and fire to first. Gonzalez was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned upon replay review.

Lester countered the Dodgers’ bunting and greedy lead-taking by just pitching his game. He went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. The Cubs went on to win 8-4, taking a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. A worthy consideration for the National League Cy Young Award based on his regular season performance, Lester now has a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings spanning three starts this postseason. Turns out, the yips isn’t debilitating if you’re really good at your main job.