*Editor's note* I've spent the last 5 days in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (yes, I have a real job that requires some of my time) so be prepared for obligatory gambling references.
As I walked past the sports book at The Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas this week, I figured a passing glance on the favorites for the upcoming 2009 baseball season was very much in order.
To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. As I strode over to the big board that housed just about every possible sports bet you could ask for, I thought through the teams that I would most likely expect to see playing "Tiger Woods" to the field that would be chasing them this season.
After everything the New York Yankees have done this season, isn't it fair to assume that they would be the runaway favorites in Vegas to win the 2009 World Series?
I know that there are still some question marks, but poll 100 people on the streets right now and ask them who they think is most likely to win it all in 2009, and I wouldn't be surprised if one out of every three answered with New York.
The Cubs were one of the best teams of 2008, and there's no reason to expect that they won't repeat that regular season success in 2009.
The question that hangs over the Cubs is one that should feel familiar here in Boston, "can they shake their playoff malaise and misfortune?"
The Mets biggest problem the last two seasons was their inability to close games and/or the season. In addressing the end of their bullpen as aggressively as they have and returning a dynamic lineup, starting pitching looks to be the biggest "what if" as the Mets look to open the Citi Field Era with a banner.
Sure, the entire city of Philadelphia's attention is flying with the Eagles right now, but don't forget...the Phillies are the defending World Series Champions.
With Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels only getting better, you can't count out the champs. Can you? I mean, to be the man....
Young, dangerous, restocked with talent where they had gaps. The only thing that prevents this team from contending again is the off chance that their young pitching shows it's youth and consistency is a little harder to come by in 2009 than it was in 2008.
It's hard to imagine their bullpen pitching better, but it's also hard to imagine their young hitters not improving.
Sure there where some other teams that crossed my mind, both L.A. teams, the A.L. Central Champion (whether it be the White Sox, Twins, Indians, or Tigers...all have had recent success and could make a run), but outside of the Boston Red Sox (I'll get to them in a second), I couldn't think of another contender that could steal Vegas' heart this early.
I looked up at the board as it rotated through the NCAA Final Four odds with UCONN, Duke, UNC, and Pitt all riding high; past the Masters odds with a noticeably absent Woods at the top of this years odds as he recovers from surgery; until I saw 2009 MLB World Series Champions.
At first, I had to rub my eyes a little...okay, maybe it was from the 5 consecutive hours at the blackjack tables...but I'll chalk a little up to surprise as well. There at the top of the board sat the following.
1. Boston Red Sox....................4:1
It is easy to forget sometimes that this team is still considered a favorite by many to win the 2009 World Series.
But in an off-season that was filled with moves that some would call gambles, yet others smart, calculated risks, the Red Sox have come out with one of the deepest teams and hungriest teams in the league.
Let's be clear for one moment...Vegas odds don't a champion anoint, and they aren't even a representation of popular or public sentiment. But the Sports Book of a major Casino's pretty good at handicapping a field, so take it for what it's worth.
In the eyes of at least one major casino in Las Vegas, the favorites to win the 2009 World Series are none other than your Boston Red Sox.