Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers surefire World Series bets

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Time is of the essence to get money down if one believes either the Houston Astros or the Los Angeles Dodgers are surefire World Series bets.

With baseball starting up again now that the all-star break is over the Dodgers are +350 favorites on the 2017 World Series odds followed by the Astros at +425, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

A hot streak where the NL West-leading Dodgers won 26 out of 30 games to take a healthy lead in an otherwise strong division has taken away a lot of their betting value, as they were at +800 one month ago. Similarly, the Astros, who have 10 more wins than anyone else in the American League, will likely see their price come down soon enough once they shore up their pitching staff at the July 31 (non-waiver) trade deadline.

It is true that only five of the 27 teams to finish with the top regular-season record during the wild-card era (since 1995) have gone on to win the World Series, including the 2016 Chicago Cubs. However, baseball might as well be called Bullpen in October, and on top of having Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw and a strong offense with the likes of Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers have yet to lose a game this year when leading after five innings.

The Astros, with George Springer setting the table, lead the AL in runs, home runs and on-base percentage. Their question mark, even while 30-plus games above .500, is what the make-up of the pitching staff will be once Dallas Keuchel, a one-time Cy Young Award winner, and Collin McHugh rejoin the starting rotation. Houston likely will have to trade for another starter but it’s a thin trade market.

The top of the board also includes the Boston Red Sox (+600), Washington Nationals (+700), Chicago Cubs (+800) and Cleveland Indians (+800). Boston certainly has the pieces to make a run in October even if big-name starters such as Rick Porcello and David Price have higher-than-acceptable earned-run averages. Washington’s 5.20 bullpen ERA sets off red flags like home run fireworks.

Provided that their offense (seventh in the AL) doesn’t go completely stone-cold, Cleveland is a darkhorse due to their pitching staff, which has the lowest overall ERA in the league and lowest bullpen ERA in the majors thanks in large part to Andrew Miller. As for the defending World Series champion Cubs, at some point a team is what it is and the Northsiders’ starting pitching has seemingly regressed too much in one season for them to have a shot.

Farther down the board at sports betting sites, the Arizona Diamondbacks (+1600) are a diamond in the rough. The Diamondbacks have the third-best record in baseball and strong pitching on both ends, but their price is high because the reality is that they will likely have to survive a one-game wild card series in the playoffs since they play in the same division as the mighty Dodgers.

Of course, there’s also the scenario of having to beat the Dodgers only three times in the NLDS instead of four times in the NLCS.

 

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.