When the 2009 season started, the Chicago Cubs were the prohibitive favorite to win the National League Central, and were a strong favorite to represent the Senior Circuit in the World Series. Only Cubs fans knew better.
Wherever you looked, pre-season, to find World Series odds, you would note the Cubs occupying the third spot behind the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. This was, of course, unsurprising for two reasons: 1.) on paper, the three were likely the best in the baseball, and 2.) as the most popular teams in baseball, they are the most likely to draw heavy action, regardless of true performance expectations.
But now that the Cubs have slipped under .500 in mid-June, certainly the Cubs’ World Series odds have fallen off the map, no?
Well. In a word? No.
As of June 14, 2009, the team picked as most likely to take the World Series by a group of odds-makers and other folks who do the whole MLB baseball betting thing is the Boston Red Sox. A close second is the New York Yankees – no real surprises there. Next up, and first in the National League is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Given how incredibly they’ve played even without Manny Ramirez, that pick is unsurprising.
Next up in the NL are the New York Mets – a bit of a surprise, given recent, Cub-like woes. The Detroit Tigers are also up there among the top five. But then there’s a surprise.
Next is the Chicago Cubs. Que?
The Cubs, currently a craptastic 29-30 and a distant fourth in the NL Central, are pegged by the odds makers as the 6th most likely team to win the World Series. Better, that’s right, than the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals far ahead of them in the Central.
So what to make of this? Do we Cubs fan overly negativize the performance and prospects for the team? Or is it simply a matter of my admittedly thin understanding of how sports betting works? Perhaps when it comes to baseball betting, these popular teams are going to stick near the top until the brutal end. Of course, it could simply be the matter of conflating “odds” with “chances.”
Whatever the reason, I don’t exactly take new solace here. This is a floundering, struggling, flawed offensive team. You want to tell me you’ll bet me the Cubs have a better chance of winning the World Series than, say, the Philadelphia Phillies? Sorry Cubs, but for now, I’ll take that bet.