Believe it or not, the Cubs are attracting action in Las Vegas at a pace that far outstrips that of any other MLB team. That would include the Kansas City Royals, who actually won the World Series last season and have made two trips in a row.
What in the name of the Billy Goat is going on here? Well, Chicago did make a playoff appearance last season — its first in seven years — and it has a bounty of talent, and that seems to be leading to all sorts of remarkable optimism.
According to ESPN’s David Purdum, the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has installed the Cubs as a 4-1 World Series favorite. By comparison, the second-best odds are 10-1, for the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets next at 12-1; the Royals are further back at 18-1.
“It’s amazing to see how many people are betting the Cubs,” Jeff Stoneback, an assistant manager at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, told ESPN. “Every year, there are always a lot of tickets. Now that they’re good, you can basically double that. You get the people that are betting them just because they’re the Cubs and the people who are betting them because they actually think they’re going to win. That’s increased the ticket amount.”
Odds at online sites reflect a similar dynamic. OddsShark has the Cubs at plus-400, while the next-best team, the San Francisco Giants, checks in at plus-800. At Bovada, the Cubs are also listed at plus- 400, but the next-best odds are at plus-1000 (Dodgers, Giants and Mets).
There is certainly reason to like the Cubs’ chances, especially if one is inclined to think that they are not so much cursed as long overdue for some major success. Last year, the team featured the eventual National League Cy Young winner (Jake Arrieta), the rookie of the year (Kris Bryant) and the manager of the year (Joe Maddon), plus Anthony Rizzo was fourth in MVP voting, and it added the likes of Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey this offseason.
Maddon, for one, is happy to have his team play the unaccustomed role of World Series favorite. “I’m really a big believer in running toward the fire, as opposed to away from it,” he said Friday (via the Associated Press).
“I really want our guys to get comfortable with the concept,” Maddon added. “Everybody’s speaking so glowingly of us. … We have to embrace the target.”
Perhaps the only person not feeling positively about the Cubs these days is Donald Trump (plus-250 to win the U.S. presidency, according to OddsShark). But his concerns have less to do with Wrigley Field than the political arena, as, on Monday, he fired off a tweet that took issue with an owner of the team’s contribution to an anti-Trump political action committee.