Maybe it's because football keeps our attention year round (what up, Ed Reed?), maybe it's because we're right in the middle of March Madness, or maybe it's just because as a city we've been beaten down by a half a decade of mediocre to bad baseball, but goddamn, this baseball season snuck up on me!
The season gets started on Sunday night right here in Houston as the Astros begin the next chapter in their history, the chapter where they move to the American League West.
In the cover story of this week's print edition of the Houston Press, "The Astros: Out of Their League?", in a quasi-primer on the American League, I compare the Astros move from the NL Central to the AL West as some bizarro version of soccer's English Premier League's method of relegation, whereby the worst teams are moved down to a lesser division.
The Astros have been the worst team in baseball for the last two seasons, and combining those two seasons, they've been one of the worst franchises in MLB history over a two-year period. And yet here they go, from the competitive but not overwhelming NL Central to the murderer's row that is the AL West.
Three teams in the division last season finished with 89 wins or more -- Oakland (94), Texas (93), and the Angels (89, before adding Josh Hamilton in December) -- and the fourth team (Seattle) made some nice moves this offseason.
Meanwhile, the Astros pared their payroll all the way down to a projected $25 million and head back to Houston with a roster loaded with first time Major Leaguers. Opening Day starter Bud Norris is their highest paid player at $3 million. He would be the fourteenth highest paid player on the Angels. FOURTEENTH.
So coming off of a 55-107 season, with a less experienced, far less expensive roster, and moving into a division where they play Oakland, Texas, Anaheim, and Seattle 19 times apiece, it's hard to envision the Astros cracking the 59 1/2 win total that Vegas has put up for them.
So reluctantly, and merely as a sound investment, I will take the UNDER on 59 1/2 wins for your Astros.
While we're at it, here are five more season win-total wagers you can go place so that if the Astros go over their total (which the fan in all of us is rooting for, right?....RIGHT?) you have some winning bets to backfill your losing Astros UNDER ticket:
4. Baltimore Orioles UNDER 78 1/2 I didn't just get burned last season by my UNDER 69 1/2 win bet on Baltimore, I was barbecued and served to a pack of wolves. The Orioles, who closed out spring training by losing to a college team, won 93 games and made the playoffs for the first time in a decade and a half. So why am I going back to the UNDER well again? Well, the Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games last season. With upstart teams that have a sudden turnaround, that stat tends to even out and regress over time. Also, the division overall will be better as evidenced by the win totals for the four other teams ranging from 83 1/2 to 88 1/2. Bottom line: I've been waiting six months to bet against these fuckers. It's personal. 3. New York Yankees OVER 88 1/2 The math dictates that someone has to go over 88 1/2 wins in the American League East this season, especially if I think the Orioles will be going under 78 1/2 wins. So if I'm going to play one team over their total, give me the team that's averaged 97 1/2 wins a season the last four years, 90 or more 15 of the last 17 years, and gone over their Vegas total three of the last four seasons.
2. Chicago Cubs UNDER 73 The Cubs have been regressing consistently literally every season since 2008, when they won 97 games. Two seasons ago they lost 91 games and last season they lost 101 games. Further compounding the issue for them in 2013 is that they did nothing to really improve the team this offseason and they now have to replace the 19 games per season they played against the Astros with 19 games against a combination of "teams that are better than the Astros."
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1. St. Louis Cardinals OVER 86 1/2 Every year, the Cardinals seem a little undervalued, and it plays out that way with them having flown past their win totals in each of the last five seasons. They've won 85 or more games in 11 of the last 13 seasons. In the National League Central, I have to think this team finds a way to stay a player all season long, and BONUS...now that the Astros are in the American League we don't have to pay lip service to a "rivalry" with the Cards anymore. We can just root for our futures bets in peace.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.