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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 8:27 PM

Before the 2012 Major League Baseball season started, TV networks were drooling about the huge ratings potential for the Interleague matchup between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Two historic franchises who supposedly had been cursed for decades (Boston overcame theirs, Chicago didn’t) were meeting over a weekend that would surely rock the sports world.

*Purists would love it because of the history involved, and the special setting in a landmark stadium that still has ivy on the wall. Well…purists may not be fond of Interleague play in general…but something like Red Sox/Cubs is going to get them excited.

*There would be big present day news because Theo Epstein is how the head brain for the Cubs behind-the-scenes after getting so much credit for leading the Boston Red Sox to the promised land. Chicago is hoping Epstein can do for the Cubs what he did for the Red Sox…and they would have loved for that to happen in a big series AGAINST the Red Sox!

*And, if things went as expected in the lead up, an improving Chicago team would be hosting an AL East contender in a matchup that would carry importance in the standings.

The TV schedule was locked in early:

Friday: MLB Network (part of a day-night doubleheader with NY Yankees-Washington)

Saturday: FOX Prime Time (heading “Baseball Night in America”)

Sunday: ESPN Prime Time

Those are still the TV listings…but the series itself is A BATTLE OF LAST PLACE TEAMS!

The Boston Red Sox were projected to win about 90 games in the pre-season legal betting markets. That was second to the 92-93 win projections for the New York Yankees in the AL East, but would have safely had them in Wildcard position. But, instead of performing like a playoff team all year, Boston has sunk to last place in the competitive AL East. They carry a 31-32 record into this weekend series…which would normally be middle of the pack in most divisions, but is dead weight in a good division like the AL East.

The Chicago Cubs were expected to be at least a year away from making a run at the .500 mark. Epstein isn’t a miracle worker and the franchise has been in very bad shape in recent seasons. Preseason markets had projected 74 wins for the Cubs…which would mean a 74-88 final record in a 162-game season. Chicago was already 20 games under .500 heading into Thursday afernoon’s series finale with Detroit…well past the 14 game under mark expected by the markets for the full season.


Market Projections/Current Projections

Boston: 90-72/ 80-82

Chicago: 74-92/55-107

The Red Sox still have time to get things going and make a run at the playoffs. You can get to 90 wins from a .500 record at the All-Star Break if the pieces fall into place. We’ve seen that time and time again in recent seasons in the majors. Chicago doesn’t have any pieces. They have to pick up the pace just to avoid being a laughingstock. Cubs fans knew it was going to take awhile to get moving in the right direction. Last year’s team finished 71-91…things are sprinting in the wrong direction!

In terms of Las Vegas impact…Boston is down about 7.5 units this season against the market moneylines. Chicago is down around 16-17 units. Nobody in their right mind would be backing the Cubs every day to begin with. But, if you’re trying to pick your spots with them…it’s been difficult.

Some showcase series!

We do think you should pay very close attention to BOTH of these teams this weekend though. It might not be art…but you’re more interested in commerce anyway. Oddsmakers and the market as a whole tend to let impressions created in the first three months of the season overly influence lines in the second half of the season. It’s very common for early disappointments to be profitable after the All-Star Break. Either, or BOTH of these teams could start making money for backers soon since they’ve fallen off the radar in terms of contending.

Can Boston contend in 2012? Adrian Gonzalez needs to pick up the pace offensively. A few pitchers need to settle into career norms. And, the team has to figure out how to win at home! Boston is an inexplicable 14-19 in Fenway Park this year, compared to 17-13 on the road. They’re already playing like a contender in road games. They must figure out how to overcome the intense pressure they’re feeling from fans and the local media in Boston.

Can the Cubs approach respectability? This seems tougher. When you watch their games, you get the sense that a few of the guys don’t even know how to play. The fielders lose track of outs, where they’re supposed to throw the ball, what opponents are on which base. This is basically a minor league team that occasionally wins when one of their pitchers as a good game…or if their free swingers happen to connect on a given day. Epstein has to be looking at nearly a complete overhaul if he’s going to build a winner any time soon.

We are looking forward to this series…and to a few matchups that will be important for handicapping purposes in the coming days…

NY Yankees at Washington: this one has turned into a monster because both teams have been on fire in Interleague action. It’s way too early to suggest a World Series preview. But, if there was a World Series based only on recent form…this would probably get the not for matching the two hottest teams in each league. A huge gut check for the Nats in a high pressure situation. Sweeping Boston at Fenway was nice…but now they’re facing a team that’s been playing much better ball than Boston. Note that tonight’s game will be on the MLB Network, as will Saturday afternoon’s early start. Sunday afternoon’s meeting will be on TBS.

Chicago White Sox at LA Dodgers: A great test for the Sox if they’re going to be taken seriously as an American league contender. They’re on the short list of hot teams from the past several weeks. If they can take two of three at Chavez Ravine after the LA Angels did the same thing…then the AL pennant race will be closer to getting locked in. Don’t lose site of this one just because there will be a couple of late starts. Stay up late Saturday and watch on the MLB Network.

Cincinnati at NY Mets: Not an interleague series, but a potential playoff preview the way those teams have performed of late. How about the Mets lighting up the scoreboard down in Tampa Bay?!

Baltimore at Atlanta: It still feels weird highlighting what the Baltimore Orioles are doing at any given time. They’ve held their own in Interleague action, and may catch the Braves down in the dumps after Yankees/Atlanta went so badly for the home folks.

The next basketball game isn’t until Sunday, so make plans to cash in big in the bases with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK Friday and Saturday. Game day releases go up a few hours before first pitch here at the website. Make a few clicks and have your credit card handy. You can also call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 to get on board. Be sure to ask about combination packages with basketball when you call.

Back with you Saturday in the NOTEBOOK to talk more baseball. Sunday’s report will be our stat preview of Game Three in the NBA Finals as the series shifts to Miami. Can Oklahoma City win on the road? The man with the answers in ALL SPORTS is legendary handicapper JIM HURLEY!

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