A mere 12 hours after the Banter's Bobby Abreu bashing, oddsmakers unveiled the odds to win each Major League division. And wouldn't you know it, the Angels open up as the largest favorite in any division (-220). One man's way too early breakdown:
AL West: Angels -220; A's +300; Rangers +600; Mariners +1200
This division reminds me of the 2004 election. Did 51% of the country really want another four years of President Bush? Probably not. More likely, many of the voters simply opted not-Kerry. Betting on the Angels would be akin to voting not-Kerry. I'm not ready to go down that path again (yes, I voted for Bush in '04).
Sure, the Angels won the division by 20 games last year, but loyal readers know how dismayed I am with their off season efforts. Complacency does not breed division champions - unless your manager is Bobby Cox. I strongly believe the A's are just one player away from taking this division. Brad Pitt, err, Billy Beane make me look smart.
Pick: A's +300.
AL Central: Twins +175; Indians +200; White Sox +400; Tigers +400; Royals +1500
This division looks ripe for the picking, and the Indians seem most likely to take advantage.
The division favorite Twins have not added or lost any significant players this off season. Apparently, owner Carl Pohlad decided to cut costs and give the entire front office a four-month vacation.
The White Sox lost Javier Vazquez, Nick Swisher, Orlando Cabrera, Joe Crede and Ken Griffey, Jr. To compensate, they added... well, some spare parts (Wilson Betemit, Bartolo Colon).
The Tigers, coming off an uber-disappointing last place finish, made some minor changes such as replacing Edgar Renteria with Adam Everett (please, contain your excitement).
The Royals are the Royals.
That leaves us with the Indians who finished 2008 with a .500 record despite dealing CC Sabathia before the deadline. They revamped the bullpen with guys like sidewinder Joe Smith and fireballer Kerry Wood. The Indians also added Mark DeRosa who was disposed of by the Cubs for a reason unbeknown to most. The team underachieved last season and seems poised to take this division running away this season.
Pick: Indians +200.
AL East: Yankees -125; Red Sox +175; Rays +400; Blue Jays +1500; Orioles +4000
Talk all you want about the A-Rod distraction, lack of chemistry, and questionable health of some key contributors (Chien-Ming Wang, Jorge Posada), but the Yankees are clearly the team to beat. Wang, who sports a 54-20 career record, will be the team's third starter. No team in baseball can compete with the Sabathia-Burnett-Wang troika.
Pick: As much as it pains me, Yankees -125.
NL West: Dodgers +140; D'backs +160; Giants +500; Rockies +600; Padres +2000
Once the Dodgers sign Manny Ramirez, these odds will drop to -125. Don't wait. Jump on the Dodgers now. They have no competition.
If anyone wants to take the D'backs at +160, forget Vegas, and place your bets with the Banter. This team was decimated during the off season. They lost Randy Johnson, Orlando Hudson, Juan Cruz (presumably), Banter-favorite Adam Dunn, and Brandon Lyon. They took fliers on Tom Gordon - yes, "Flash" - Jon Garland, Scott Schoeneweis, and Felipe Lopez which wouldn't have been bad if the year were 2003. This will be a long, long season in the desert.
If you are a Giants' fan, I have some good news: Tim Lincecum will be your Opening Day starter. After that, things get murky. The front office failed to address the glaring need: offense. The Giants scored the second-fewest runs in the Majors last season. Signing Edgar Renteria won't do much to help.
The Rockies would intrigue me a whole lot more if not for the following three matters:
1. Aaron Cook is their #1 starter;
2. They traded their best player, Matt Holliday; and
3. Jeff Francis faces season-ending surgery.
As my mother often told me, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." (Thinking.... thinking... Got it!) San Diego is a beautiful city. I was always a momma's boy.
Pick: Dodgers +140.
NL Central: Cubs -160; Brewers +500; Cardinals +600; Reds +600; Astros +1300; Pirates +3000
The Brewers lost CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets leaving Dave Bush to be the team's second starter.
The Reds are MLB's version of the NFL's Detroit Lions. Never interesting, often terrible, and just plain blah. They are a difficult team to get excited about.
The 'stros overachieved last season and figure to regress towards the mean.
The Pirates have a beautiful stadium (thanks, Mom).
That leaves the Cubs and Cards as the only two teams that have a chance of winning this division. Chicago won the division last season by seven games and made only minor changes. They figure to win about 92-94 games. Can St. Louis win more than that? Doubtful, but at +600, I'll take my chances. They have the best hitter in baseball (Albert Pujols) and an ace in Adam Wainwright. I'm also bullish on the idea of Skip Schumaker playing second base.
Pick: Cardinals +600.
NL East: Mets +130; Phillies +160; Braves +450; Marlins +600; Nationals +6000
Both East divisions figure to be very competitive throughout the season. The NL East has four teams capable of winning the division.
The defending Wold Series champion Phillies essentially swapped Raul Ibanez for Pat Burrell. The thing that concerns me with this team is the health of Cole Hamels. He threw the most pitches of any Major Leaguer last season. Can he repeat?
The Mets addressed their most glaring weakness, the bullpen, but failed to add an impact starter (although, they did retain Olly Perez). Will it be enough?
The Braves lost John Smoltz but added Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez. If Chipper can stay healthy, a big "if," Atlanta can stay competitive.
The Marlins provide a nice value at +600 but lost a lot of talent from last year.
Since Washington remains irrelevant, here's an interesting Nationals-related fact: I was a better pro prospect than my high school teammate John Lannan, who happens to be the Nationals' number two starter.
Pick: Mets +130.
Coming later in the week: Full NL East Preview & World Series Odds breakdown.