Even with Teixeira, odds against Orioles

November 01, 2008|By peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

This is the time of year when well-meaning people of reasonable intelligence begin to think with their hearts instead of their heads, which leads to the if-and-when mentality that allows teams such as the Orioles to keep selling season tickets after 11 consecutive losing seasons.

Even the administrative milestones in this year-round business can send at least a ripple of optimism through the Orioles' fan base, so the news that local hero Mark Teixeira was among the first 65 players to file for free agency after the end of the World Series is more than adequate cause for a new round of speculation about his - and the team's - possible intentions.

Teixeira would put a charge into the Orioles' offense and certainly would put some more fannies in the stands, but it's important to understand that one player is not going to take the team with the fifth-worst record in the major leagues and transform it into something akin to the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles made some strides this year, but all you have to do is look at the proposition odds on them to know that it'll take more than one giant leap to get into contention in the American League East.

I'm pretty sure most people realize that, but the odds are still illustrative of the mountain Andy MacPhail would have to climb this winter to make the Orioles a legitimate wild-card contender. Because we're now going to get into the real numbers, this is a good place to point out that I'm using this information for analytical purposes because it's fairly objective and absolutely not as an encouragement for anyone to bet on sports.

The 2009 World Series title odds released Thursday by Internet bookmaker BetOnline.com have the Orioles at 100-1 - right where they were before the start of the 2008 season. The dramatic improvement of the Rays combined with the likely improvement of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have negated whatever progress the Orioles achieved this year.

That's the bad news, and this is the worst news for those who are hoping Teixeira decides to come home. The actual likelihood of that - as far as it can be determined - is already factored into the equation.

"In our estimation," BetOnline baseball analyst T.J. Kendrick said, "it's highly unlikely he goes to any team that's not a contender, unless some team overpays."

Don't misunderstand. Kendrick is not saying the Orioles are still a 100-1 long shot if they sign Teixeira. He's saying they are a 100-1 long shot because they almost certainly won't sign Teixeira. The oddsmakers have to make their best guess on that because they are locking those odds in for anyone who wants to bet on the Orioles, or anyone else, right now.

"I'd say 80 percent of that number is based on what the team has right now," Kendrick said, "then you obviously have to take into account when a team might sign a certain guy or make a certain position a priority. But most of it is a reflection of the team right now."

If the unexpected occurs and Teixeira submits to the siren call of the team he rooted for as a kid, the oddsmakers will have to readjust to account for the addition of one of the game's top run producers to an improving offensive team that includes established young star Nick Markakis and ultra-promising outfielder Adam Jones. Nobody knows exactly what the new odds would be, but Kendrick was willing to speculate.

"Landing in that order with those other great hitters, I would think the odds could probably go down to about 80-1," he said.

Well, that's a bit sobering, don't you think? The odds on the Rays' winning the World Series coming off the worst record in the majors last year were only 60-1, but all you have to do is look back at the potential of their starting rotation to figure out why they were still a better bet than the Orioles plus Teixeira. If the Orioles also bring in significant pitching help and a solid shortstop, that number could drop significantly, but probably not below 50-1, which is still a long, long shot.

Actually, for one player to affect the odds by 20 percentage points is pretty impressive, but that takes into account the emotional impact the acquisition of a superstar player has on the betting public.

"It's a big chunk," Kendrick said, "but adding him at first base changes that team dramatically. It's not like they got very much production from that position last year."

If you were wondering, the world champion Philadelphia Phillies probably didn't make anybody rich. They were only a modest long shot at 14-1 on Opening Day this season. They are listed at 6-1 to repeat in 2009. Next year's other favorites look a lot like this year's, with the Red Sox on top at 3-1, the Chicago Cubs at 5-1, the Los Angeles Angels at 5-1 and the Yankees alongside the Phillies at 6-1.

The Rays, finally getting some respect after all these years, are next at 10-1.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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