Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox stay even on 2017 World Series odds

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Timing will be everything if one is inclined to bet on either the Boston Red Sox or the Chicago Cubs to win the 2017 World Series, due to the effect of big-market bandwagon fandom.

With Opening Day just more than a week away, the Cubs and Red Sox are each listed at +450 on the odds to win the World Series at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

There’s a chance the odds might not get more high-yield once the season starts. With their giant fanbases in the Midwest and New England, both will draw plenty of betting action and odds could fall closer to even money if either has a hot start in April. The teams were both also listed at +450 at the outset of spring training.

The Cubs, who are also +175 to win the National League Pennant, have a nucleus of young stars – 3B Kris Bryant, 2B Javier Baez, SS Addison Russell, 1B Anthony Rizzo – who might stay together for several seasons. The big variable, as always, is the health and performance of the pitching staff; the Cubs are looking for a bounce-back from new closer Wade Davis.

The Red Sox, after three years of regenerating since their 2013 World Series win, have added ace LHP Chris Sale to their rotation and have their own cohort of young offensive stars such as SS Xander Bogaerts and RF Mookie Betts.

Boston has to replace the run production of retired DH David Ortiz, but are a solid choice given that they are the AL East team which is most in win-now mode. The Toronto Blue Jays (+2200) might have missed their window, while the New York Yankees (+2500) are still a year away from their peak.

The upside of the Cubs and Red Sox being so highly touted is that it might inflate prices on other teams – and hey, postseason baseball is a wide-open game. The Cleveland Indians (+900), who were one win away last season and added RBI machine Edwin Encarnacion, still have an excellent shot at getting back to the postseason.

The National League’s other teams in major markets, the Los Angeles Dodgers (+1000), San Francisco Dodgers (+1100) and New York Mets (+1400), have all come down slightly in price since mid-February. All three certainly have the pitching to make a run in October, but perhaps not the balanced lineup.

One team whose odds has been surprisingly static since the winter meetings in October is the Houston Astros (+1400), who have one of the game’s most offensively prolific double-play combos with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. The Astros’ late-season stumbles of the past two years might be a fixed reference point for many baseball fans, but they have been following the model of slow-growing their prospects over a period of several years.

Los Angeles Dodgers’ World Series odds dip heading into month of September

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The Los Angeles Dodgers’ first losing skid all season has done little to increase their World Series price, which is lower than the 2016 Chicago Cubs’ at the same point of last season.

As they get set to welcome ace Clayton Kershaw back after a six-week absence, the Dodgers are a +220 favorite on the 2017 World Series odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. That’s a fair shot below the +290 another National League legacy franchise, the aforementioned Cubs, commanded last season as the calendar flipped to September.

The Houston Astros are the not-so-close second favorite at +500, with the Boston Red Sox (+700), Washington Nationals (+700), Cleveland Indians (+700) and the Cubs (+750) all below 10/1 odds.

The best news for potential Dodgers bettors is that their five-game losing streak – which involved consecutive series losses against the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks – might have prevented a rush of casual-bettor money. It will likely also take Kershaw, who will be on a 75-pitch count when he starts on Friday, a few starts to show that he’s in peak form after missing more than a month with a back injury.

In other words, the Dodgers’ price might not move until the September 15-17 weekend, when they visit the Nationals in a  potential NLCS preview.

If either the Astros or Nationals are to make a deep playoff run, they’ll have to score enough in the playoffs to offset their leaky bullpens. Each division leader’s relief corps has an earned run average north of 4.00, which does not fit the recent formula for winning in the postseason.

Either Boston or Cleveland is an acceptable alternative if one is looking for more value than the Dodgers offer, or simply hates laying chalk. The Indians and Red Sox are second and third in MLB in bullpen ERA, and each boasts a staff ace – Corey Kluber for Cleveland, Chris Sale for Boston – who’s capable of flipping a best-of-seven series by winning two games. Those two hurlers are also battling atop the odds to win the AL Cy Young.

The difficulty picking one right now is the fact they would be playing each other in the ALDS if the playoffs were starting this weekend.

It will be interesting to see how the line on the Cubs moves over the next month, especially with a not overly demanding September schedule where they play only two series – both against the Milwaukee Brewers (+5000), their closest pursuer in the NL Central – against a team with a winning record.

Of the two wild card leaders, the Arizona Diamondbacks at +3300 have a far better price than the New York Yankees (+1400) and probably have a better case as a World Series darkhorse.

The Diamondbacks have star power on both ends of the equation (RHP Zack Greinke, 1B Paul Goldschmidt). As a wild card, they could potentially play the Dodgers in the NLDS, which as a best-of-five series has a higher chance of an upset. The Yankees might not have the pitching to win in October, plus there’s the matter of rookie Aaron Judge’s drop-off in play.

 

Little League team disqualified over controversial Snapchat photo

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What you put on social media can have real consequences, and the Atlee Little League softball team from Virginia found that out the hard way over the weekend.

The team, consisting of girls between 12 and 14 years of age, was disqualified from the Junior League World Series over a controversial Snapchat post. After beating the team from Kirkland, Wash. on Friday in a semifinal game, a team member posted a picture of six players flipping the bird with a caption indicating the image was meant for Kirkland, which hosted the game.

While the manager, Scott Currie, had his players apologize to Kirkland in person, the Little League office decided to disqualify the team anyway. In a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Little League spokesman Kevin Fountain called the post “inappropriate,” adding that it was a “violation of Little League’s policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct, inappropriate use of social media, and the high standards that Little League International holds for its participants.”

The decision was handed down just hours before the team was set to take the field in the title game, and instead the berth was awarded to Kirkland.

The team was met with cheers on Sunday when it landed home in Richmond, and Currie believes the disqualification was too far a reprimand.

“It’s a travesty to these girls,” he told the Times-Dispatch. “Yes, they screwed up, but I don’t think the punishment fit the crime.”

The Atlee organization released a statement apologizing and seeking further investigation by Little League International into the decision.

However, you can bet the players will certainly think twice before posting anything on social media again.