Cincinnati is favored at 4 to 5 to win the National League pennant, with New York 3 to 5 to take the American League, in the Las Vegas future books.
"The price on the Yankees came in from 4 to 5 Tuesday when they got Bucky Dent from Chicago to plug the hole at shortstop,' a spokesman for the Stardust Hotel remarked. "Cincinnati has held at 4 to 5 but there has been a surprisingly strong play for Los Angeles, which has shortened to 8 to 5."
Other National League prices find Philadelphia 2 to 1, Pittsburgh 5 to 1, St. Louis 15 to 1, New York 15 to 1, San Diego 20 to 1, San Francisco 30 to 1, Houston 75 to 1, Atlanta 100 to 1, Chicago 100 to 1 and Montreal 200 to 1.
American prices have California 5 to 2, Kansas City 3 to 1, Boston 5 to 1, Texas 8 to 1, Minnesota 50 to 1, Oakland 75 to 1, Detroit 100 to 1, Chicago 100 to 1, Milwaukee 100 to 1, Seattle 5,000 to 1 and Toronto 5,000 to 1.
The odds on California are ridiculously short. Despite all the money owner Gene Autry spent since last season, the Angels still lack depth in their starting pitching and don't have a solid relief corps. Kansas City is my choice to repeat for the divisional championship, and, at 3 to 1, the Royals are worth one unit for the long haul.
Another one unit applies to the Red Sox. The Yankees have the talent and, indeed, may now be the best team in baseball with the addition of Reggie Jackson and Don Gullett. But manager Billy Martin can be an unsettling influence after having turned a franchise around in his first year on the job. If the Yankees aren't happy with each other by midyear the Red Sox can beat them. I'll string along with Boston at 5 to 1 and worry about whether they can beat Kansas City in the playoff for the pennant a little later.
Ordinarily I tend to go against a "hot" team in the money mart. The Dodgers, however, have an excellent chance of overtaking the Reds this year. Their pitching staff is so superior to Cincinnati's that they are worth a short, at 8 to 5. Rick Monday should help the Dodger offense considerably.
The public's impression of Cincinati pitching was distorted by what was seen on television last year in the playoffs and in the World Series. With Gullett gone the Reds lack a dependable starter.
Cincinnati again presents a wondrous attack but Joe Morgan and Pete Rose now are in their mid-30s and Johnny Bench continues to be suspect in the slugging department. If Bench does not have a good year the Reds will be vulnerable to lefthands pitching.
Pittsburgh's pitching staff of John Candelaria, Jerry Reuss, Bruce Kison, Jim Rooker and Larry Demery will be helped considerably from the bullpen by Rich Gossage and Terry Forster. The Bucs figure to be better while Philadelphia can only slide downward under the shaky leadership of Danny Ozark.
Kansas City leads off smartly with George Brett, Hal McRae and Amos Otis. Then follows John Mayberry in the clean-up spot. If Big John can forget last season's horrendous .232 average the Royals should have enough to again hold off Texas and California.
What a difference a year makes in Oakland. Last spring the As were favored at 6 to 5, this year they're 75 to 1 - with no takers.
Anyone looking for a long longshot could do worse than turn in the direction of Atlanta, at 100 to 1. Jeffs Burroughs will become quite a home-run hitter in the Braves' bandbox and Andy Messersmith should be the pitcher that the ownership thought it purchased last year for all those millions of dollars.