By Bill Ordine
Whether the Orioles qualify for the playoffs and make a run for the World Series remains to be seen, but they have already crushed Las Vegas.
Before the season began, oddsmakers wrote off the O's, assigning the Birds an over-under of 69.5 total wins.
Let the record show that the Orioles smoked those Vegas projections with more than five weeks remaining during the season, after a 4-3 victory against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 27.
In Vegas, the odds of the Orioles' winning the World Series were 100-1 in early April, and their odds of taking just the American League East were 80-1. Since then, the Orioles' odds slid to 20-1, when they were tied for first place in the division earlier in September.
But the oddsmakers' respect seemed to come grudgingly. As recently as Aug. 27, the Orioles were still 40-1 favorites to win the World Series.
"All season long, both the betting public and the oddsmakers seemed to be waiting for the Orioles to fold," said Micah Roberts, handicapping expert and former casino sports-book operator. "And the same has been true for Oakland and Pittsburgh. But all they keep doing is winning. Guys like Zach Britton and Chris Tillman have been the keys for Baltimore."
The left-hander Britton and the right-hander Tillman had combined for a 12-3 record as of Sept. 5.
Roberts' contention that oddsmakers and bettors alike had been slow to recognize that the Orioles were a genuine threat helps account for the game-to-game odds that have been posted for Baltimore games, as well as the results.
The Orioles led the majors in money won for bettors with a running score of plus-2,919, as of Sept. 5. That means a bettor that made the standard $100 wager for favorites and underdogs on the Orioles would have produced a profit of more than $2,900.
Against opponents perceived to be better, such as the Yankees, Rangers and Tigers, the Orioles were consistently big underdogs, even late during the season.
In truth, the Orioles' preseason odds to win the World Series probably should have been much higher, say 200-1 at least.
But the St. Louis Cardinals stung Las Vegas bookmakers last season. The Cards appeared out of the postseason hunt in September, and the books allowed the Cards' World Series odds to skyrocket to 999-1 in some casinos.
The Cardinals rallied to make the playoffs as Atlanta collapsed, and then upset Philadelphia during the postseason. When St. Louis won the World Series, there were bettors that had taken a shot with those inflated odds.
Statewide, Nevada sports books lost more than $1 million on the Cardinals' run, Roberts said. So this season, Vegas oddsmakers and sport-book operators were cautious about posting huge futures odds.
Apparently, that apprehension was warranted, considering the surprising surges by the Orioles, A's and Pirates. Like the Orioles, Pittsburgh had 100-1 odds of winning the World Series, and Oakland was 200-1.
It has been that kind of baseball season. Some teams that were the betting favorites in spring training to win the World Series -- such as Philadelphia and Boston -- are also-rans in September.
The Maryland Lottery announced the winners of its Medal Madness, which piggybacked on the recent Summer Olympics.
The $250,000 winner was Kenny Smith from Glen Burnie; the $50,000 winner was Hazel Thornton from Baltimore; and the $25,000 finisher was Shawn Davis from Owings Mills.
Issue 177: September 2012