For years, a buddy and I wagered an annual steak dinner on baseball’s Cy Young Award. We each had a short list of studs – mostly favorites – and once you won with a guy, he was yours forever. So my pal collected three juicy porterhouses, thanks to Max Scherzer. And I’ll always toast the late, great Roy Halladay for earning me those two ribeyes at Del Frisco’s.
It’s been fun. And highly caloric. But now the stakes get higher than, well, steaks.
With legalized sports gambling, we can now bet on any future we want at casinos around the area. If I win this time, I’ll take my earnings without a side of mashed potatoes.
And because we get actual odds in this new world, I’m not just leaning on the favorites. Washington’s Scherzer, for example, is a perennial candidate for Cy. But at 9/4 in 2019, the payout doesn’t seem worth the investment. Who wants to bet the chalk anyway?
So let’s look at other NL candidates. The Mets Jacob deGrom had a spectacular 2018 season, certainly worthy of the 20118 Cy he won. DeGrom cut his ERA more than in half (3.53 to 1.70) and dropped his WHIP nearly 25 percent. Had he done that at age 25, rather than age 30, I’d believe he could repeat. But at his age? Sorry, Mets fans. I see it as an outlier season.
Clayton Kershaw (10/1) has been a three-time winner (cost me a steak each time), but he enters 2019 with more shoulder issues. My next wager on him will involve the Hall of Fame.
And, hey Nats fans. I’m also staying away from Patrick Corbin (25/1) who’s overpaid and overrated after one strong season; and from Stephen Strasburg (25/1), unless the wager is how many times he winds up on the newly named “injured list.” And I’ll avoid the excellent Kyle Freeland (18/1) because in their 26-year history no Rockies pitcher has ever received a single first-place vote for Cy Young.
That still leaves worthy candidates. Aaron Nola (9/1) improves every season and is entering his prime at 26. He will benefit from stronger defense (Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen) and a potent lineup – which should persuade manager Gabe Kapler to let Nola pitch deeper and earn more wins. A terrific bet at the odds.
And throw a few Benjis at these longshots:
@ Madison Bumgarner (18/1), whose recent injuries are more freak accidents than baseball breakdowns. I foresee a strong bounce back season, even if the Giants stink.
@Walker Buehler (25/1), is the next great L.A. pitcher. Did you know the Dodgers have won 12 CY Young awards – five more than any other franchise?
@ Mike Foltynewicz, Braves (50/1) and Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks (50/1). It’s fun to bet a longshot, and both of these guys seemed poised for bigtime success. Take five bucks you’d spend on coffee and lay it down on one of these 27-year-olds.
In the American League, I’m also eschewing the low-payout favorites, which takes out Corey Kluber (5/2) and Chris Sale (3/1). I considered Luis Severino (7/1) until I read the Yankees shut him down with shoulder inflammation. Uh oh.
Two AL pitchers I love for this proposition: James Paxton (22/1) moves from Seattle to New York, where he’s going to win a lot more games and garner a lot more attention. And Gerrit Cole (20/1) finished fifth in the Cy voting as a first-year Astro in 2018. He’ll likely do even better this season on one of baseball’s elite clubs.
At those odds, I’ll bet ‘em both. And when I collect, I’ll be buying steak dinners for all. Make mine medium-rare.