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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, July 4, 2016 at 9:23 AM



It's one of the oldest baseball axioms ever ... teams that are in first place come the Fourth of July are - more often than not - the ones that win their division at season's end.

Last year that "axiom" proved correct with all three American League division leaders as Toronto, Kansas City and Texas were the respective frontrunners in the AL East, Central and West and all of the above were in first place at year's end and even one of the AL's wild card teams (the New York Yankees) were sitting there tied with the best second-place mark on Independence Day.

Turn back the calendar to July 4, 2015 and you'll see that the National League division leaders were the New York Mets (East), the Chicago Cubs (Central) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (West) and only the Cubbies didn't finish in first place as the St. Louis Cardinals wound up division winners.

So, five-of-six division leaders on 7-4-15 finished on top of their divisions and now 'ya gotta wonder if that's gonna happen again ... here's the division leaders on this date and a quickie comment to follow:


EAST ...BALTIMORE (47-34) - Birds skid into this holiday on four-game losing streak but Buck Showalter's crew is thumping the long ball with the best of 'em (see AL-leading 127 dingers) and holds three-game lead over Boston.

CENTRAL ...CLEVELAND (49-32) - Tribe's recent 13-game winning streak finally was snapped over the past weekend but still they hold healthy 5.5-game lead over Detroit and this Indians pitching may be second to none.

WEST ...TEXAS (52-31) - Three cheers for the Rangers who hold the largest lead over any second-place club in the bigs as surging Houston is still 8.5 games back and how about fact Texas is electric 28-12 at home with four-game home set versus weakling Minnesota later in the week?

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are banging outs lots of winners in Major-League Baseball these days and all you need to do is check in either right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 any time after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners. Plus, the Football Season isn't that far off as NFL Preseason action swings into gear on Sunday, August 7th with the annual NFL Hall of Fame Game between the Indianapolis Colts versus the Green Bay Packers - just cannot wait, right?


EAST ...WASHINGTON (50-33) - Now that RHP Stephen Strasburg (11-0) is back in the saddle after he threw 6.2 no-hit, 4-BB innings against Cincinnati in Sunday's easy 12-1 win, you wonder if the Nationals are gonna stay on top of the pack right through September. Okay, so the suddenly alive New York Mets are "only" five games back of the Nats who rank first in the NL in home runs (108) and third in team ERA (3.34) but unless NYM can KO Washington in a couple of series, one would think D.C. gang could be wire-to-wire winner.

CHICAGO CUBS (51-30) - Nothing like getting swept four in a row by the aforementioned Mets and still leading this division by a bloated 8 games over born-again St. Louis but one thing you do have to look at is whether Chitowners have enough starting pitching to get 'em through the next three months. Yes, we agree with Fox analyst John Smoltz that they could use one more starting pitcher.

SAN FRANCISCO (52-32) - Getting the feeling that everyone will be chasing the Giants all summer long here with San Fran sporting a 5-game leader over the Los Angeles Dodgers at press time and, if LHP Clayton Kershaw misses a few starts with his bad back, heck, the Dodgers will need a periscope to find the Giants ahead of 'em.


It is summertime and that means the annual Jim Sez report on all 32 NFL teams with our quick-hitter looks continuing today with the Baltimore Ravens and the Dallas Cowboys ... and check out our quickie pointspread ditties too. Note the 2015 SU (straight-up) records appear next to the team name below:

BALTIMORE (5-11) - The scoresheet didn't lie and it said the Ravens scored 20 points or less in nine of their final 11 games last year yet optimism abound with QB Joe Flacco (knee) revved up for a return but one major key could be the play at tight end where Dennis Pitta is looking to rebound from the second dislocation of his right hip. Pitta has not played a down since September 2014 and he'll face major competition at the position from the likes of Ben Watson, Crockett Gilmore and second-year pro Maxx Williams all battling for reps ... keep your eye on Williams, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher, who is one of our favorites and could be a fantasy league stud.
Pointspread Notes - Last year's Ravens finished 5-9-2 ATS (against the spread) and that was not bad considering Baltimore was 0-5-1 vig-wise right out of the proverbial starting gate. Overall, this AFC North crew is a decent 10-7-1 ATS away since the start of the 2014 campaign.

DALLAS (4-12) - If the Cowboys are regain their status as one of the league's top rushing teams than there's little question first-round draftee Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State) must be a star but don't forget about former Washington star Alfred Morris who inked a two-year, $3.5 million dollar in March. The 'Boys would like Morris to be a quicker study in the passing game - he had some problems with routes and protections in the minicamp - but this could be a critical part of the Dallas attack and especially if Elliott somehow falters.
Pointspread Notes - Believe it or not, the Cowboys finished last year with a 4-11-1 ATS mark, representing their worst pointspread record in more than a decade. Note that Dallas went 6-10 spreadwise in 2012 and 5-10-1 ATS in 2011.

NOTE: Lots more Baseball and Football coverage all week right here at Jim Sez, so don't miss out!

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