Happy Major League Baseball Opening Day!
Oh, what's that? You say I missed Opening Day? It was actually last night when the St. Louis Cardinals helped christen the Miami Marlins' new ball park (and new name and new uniforms and new manager and...) with a 4-1 win? Oh, I'm sorry, that was the domestic Opening Day, the actual MLB opener took place in Japan between the Mariners and the Athletics while we were all sleeping? And what's that you say, today is only Opening Day for four teams, the rest of the teams not named Mariners, Athletics, Cardinals and Marlins open tomorrow?
I think you get my point. Bud Selig managed to take one of sports' true "save the date" days and whack it up into four generic days of baseball. Not just that, but he completely infringed on my Season Wager mojo. I mean, how am I supposed to remember that the Mets (a lock for under 74 wins this season) start on Opening Day #3, not Opening Day #4? (Answer? It doesn't matter because I didn't remember and that lucrative ship sailed.)
Bud Selig's now costing me money. Don't let him do the same to you. These four teams open on Friday afternoon. Get your action down. As kidnappers for ransom would say, you have twenty-four hours.
Baltimore Orioles UNDER 69 1/2 wins (-135) This one is a simple mathematics play. Every other team in the American League East is slated to be anywhere from decent to great this season. The lowest AL East win total wager on the board after the O's is Toronto at 82 1/2. That means the Orioles are in a division where literally everyone else is projected to be above .500. And the scary thing is I think those projections are accurate. Oh yeah, and the schedule is ridiculously unbalanced in baseball. Oh yeah, and the AL East's crossover division for interleague play is the National League East (four good teams and the Mets). Oh yeah, and the Orioles lost to a community college team on Wednesday night. Strongest play on the board. Fire!
Chicago White Sox UNDER 76 wins (-120) The Robin Ventura Era begins and Ventura's first order of duty is navigating a season where he's essentially responsible for straightening out a team that swapped a slew of prospects last year for veterans to try and make a run at the playoffs. Basically, Ventura is having to pay off all of Ozzie Guillen's baseball credit cards. In order to have even a decent season this year, Ventura needs bounceback years from vets like Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. Also, he has to do this without the "set your watch to it" consistency of Mark Buehrle and his 13 to 15 wins. (Buehrle has had double-digit wins every season since 2001.) Add it all up, and to quote Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, you can take under 76 wins and "put it on the booooaaarrd, YES!"
Arizona Diamondbacks UNDER 86 1/2 (-115) Look, the Diamondbacks were a fun story last year with the team taking on the persona of their manager Kirk Gibson -- scrappy, feisty, all-out. Those adjectives are typically reserved for teams that overachieved, which history tells us the Diamondbacks did last year as they've only reached the "over 86 win" stratosphere twice in the last nine years. The NL West isn't a great division, but I think it's good enough to send the Diamondbacks back to their normal water line, which is about a .500 team.
Houston Astros UNDER 62 1/2 wins (+100) Sorry, Astro fans, but the only argument I've heard for this team going over this total is that "they won 56 games last year, it can't get worse, can it?" Logic dictates that the odds of it getting worse are fairly small, but the problem is, even a six-game improvement doesn't get you there and an improvement of more than six games means you won your bet but, hell, you probably took five years off your life worrying about it. Put simply, can you imagine having a wager on the Astros where you had to count on them to WIN games at the end of the season? Also, the starting rotation outside of Bud Norris are guys who were either awful last year (J.A. Happ), have barely been in the majors (Lucas Harrell and Kyle Weiland and their combined 1-5 career record), or on the block to be traded (Wandy). In a vacuum, you should be laughing at the thought of this team NOT losing 100 games, but the rancid taste of 2011 makes you think the only direction to go is up. Don't be fooled. That may be true, but six wins (over a TEN percent improvement) is a LOT to ask. So I won't ask. Instead, I'll take the under.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.