With the NFL season wrapping up, it’s time for bettors to start thinking about … major-league baseball?
You probably thought I was going to say March Madness. But opening-day betting odds for MLB are available at the Westgate. They hit the board last week as an added attraction for the Super Bowl tourist crowd. Visitors could bet their favorite baseball team over the winter to win the season opener, then return for Final Four weekend to cash the ticket.
— The Mets play the first National League game of 2020, hosting the Washington Nationals at 1:10 p.m. March 26. The Westgate made the Mets -120, with a low total of 6.5 (the Nats return + 110 on a short dime line). Bettors wishing to back the Mets must lay $120 to win $100, or anything in that ratio. Those wanting the Nats would risk $100 to win $110, or anything in that ratio.
— The Yankees visit Baltimore at 3:05 p.m. that day and are laying a whopping -450 against what’s expected to be another virtual minor-league Orioles team. Baltimore returns + 375 for thrill seekers. The Over/Under is 9.
It’s important to note that all matchups represent action bets regardless of who pitches. It’s impossible to know who will be the opening-day starting pitchers this far in advance. Even the most logical choices could suffer injuries this spring that keep them out of the lineup.
The rest of the slate:
— National League: Cubs (+ 115) at Brewers (-125), Rockies (+ 135) at Padres (-145), Giants (+ 285) at Dodgers (-330), Cards (-110) at Reds (even), Phillies (-155) at Marlins (+ 145), Braves (-120) at Diamondbacks (+ 110).
— American League: Tigers (+ 245) at Indians (-280), Royals (+ 165) at White Sox (-180), Red Sox (-140) at Blue Jays (+ 130), Twins (-105) at A’s (-105), Rangers (-140) at Mariners (+ 130), Angels (+ 150) at Astros (-160).
— Interleague: Pirates (+ 180) at Rays (-200).
Are there any smart bets this far in advance? Sharps will typically tell you it’s crazy to place a bet without knowing whom the starting pitchers will be. This is particularly true for recreational bettors who want to lay odds with an ace they expect to be on the mound. Injury news will only hurt.
Value bets could be defended only in the following circumstances:
— You’re convinced that an underpriced team will be better than market expectations because of personnel changes or a return to full health after an injury-plagued season. You want to bet this team before the market catches up.
— You’re convinced an overpriced team will be worse than expectations because of personnel changes or offseason distractions that could put a cloud over its outlook. You want to fade this team out of the gate.
— It doesn’t matter whom your starting pitcher will be, or it doesn’t matter whom the opposing starting pitcher will be, because the options are fairly similar.
Sometimes betting smart means knowing when to avoid tourist traps.