2006 Cardinals - Pretender Versus Contender?

Here in the middle of the winter, can anyone truly define the difference between a pretender and a contender?

Personally, I give a fair amount of credence to what the gamblers have to say about the outcome of major sporting events. This is not because I necessarily believe them on any particular instance, nor do I support them or frequent them.


But, I do pay attention for one simple reason. They have to sort through all the rhetoric and noise and actually ensure their money is laid on the line in a manner that is right down the middle of what the bettors believe. That is how they survive. To me, that means a lot more than idle chatter.


In other words, cash speaks a lot louder than talk.


I went back to my article last March entitled "I Made the Bet Again". In it, I reviewed the preseason Las Vegas odds for the American League and National League crowns as well as the World Series. Here is what I noted as teams headed into spring training this past March.


"Currently, the 2005 Cardinals are right behind the Chicago Cubs as the favorite to win the National League.  In a clear nod to the importance of a healthy roster on the forecasted outcome of the season, the Cubs are 5:2, while the Cardinals are 3:1.


Following the Cubs and Cards in the NL pre-race picks are the Atlanta Braves at 4:1, then the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers at 5:1.  The Houston Astros are 6:1.


Over on the American League side, the New York Yankees are at even money and the Boston Red Sox are 5:2.  Trailing them are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (what a ludicrous name) at 3:1, the Minnesota Twins at 5:1 and the Oakland A's at 6:1."


What is the point in dredging up this old news, other than to remind a lot of Cubs backers that they lost a boatload of money in 2006? Well, did you happen to notice that the World Champion Chicago White Sox weren't even mentioned? Not to mention that the Houston Astros were viewed to be the only sixth-best team in the National League.


So, did the oddsmakers and those who bet with them have a crystal ball? Clearly not. But their view seemed as good as anyone else's at the time, didn't it?


Let's fast forward to 2006.


Just today, I checked the odds on the 2006 World Series. If you don't think the betters and oddsmakers are already well aware of immense ramifications of the Junior Spivey signing, for example, you are a great candidate to purchase some fine jewelry on the Home Shopping Channel.


Anyway, here are the current odds for winning the 2006 World Series.

Odds to win 2006 World Series  x:1
New York Yankees 5.5
St Louis Cardinals 6.5
Boston Red Sox 8
Chicago White Sox 10
New York Mets 10
Los Angeles Angels 12
Chicago Cubs 15
Cleveland Indians 15
Oakland Athletics 15
Atlanta Braves 17
Houston Astros 17
Minnesota Twins 21
Philadelphia Phillies 26
San Diego Padres 34
San Francisco Giants 34
Texas Rangers 34
Florida Marlins 41
Los Angeles Dodgers 41
Toronto Blue Jays 41
Arizona Diamondbacks 51
Washington Nationals 51
Baltimore Orioles 67
Milwaukee Brewers 67
Cincinnati Reds 81
Detroit Tigers 81
Seattle Mariners 81
Pittsburgh Pirates 101
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 151
Colorado Rockies 201
Kansas City Royals 251


Yep, that's right. Those who are willing to lay their money on the table believe the Cardinals have the best chance right here and now to win the National League and play in the World Series. No other team is even close.


All the millions and millions of dollars of spending that the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers have made so far this offseason have elevated them all the way up to 41:1 odds. That puts the two of them squarely on even par with the fire-sale Florida Marlins.


Could these guys be wrong? Sure, they could. But at least they are strong enough in their beliefs that they are willing to lay money on it.


In summary

Those who bemoan the Cardinals for spending "just enough to be competitive" have absolutely no idea if what they are talking about has any merit at all. No one – and I mean no one - can forecast who is going to end up on top in any given season.


Yet, do the Cardinals have enough firepower to again be among the group near the top in 2006? The oddsmakers clearly reflect the view of the bettors in saying "yes", though some vocal members of the Cardinal Nation continue to complain that is not good enough.


Well, I say "bull"! Let's play the games and hold the Monday morning quarterbacking for Monday, not on the previous Friday, which is about where we are right now.


Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


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