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MLB: The Times, They Are A Changin'

   by Larry Ness - 06/02/2008

As the calendar turned to June 1 on Sunday, the end of the day's MLB action brought us an occurrence which last happened 100 years ago! By the end of all of Sunday's games, the Cubs not only owned MLB's longest active winning streak at seven straight but the "North Siders" owned MLB's best record as of June 1 (36-21), for the first time since June 1 of 1908!

Baseball historians will tell you that the Cubs stood at 23-14 back on June 1, 1908, on their way to a 99-65 regular season mark. The Cubs advanced to their third straight World Series that year (no, I'm NOT making this up!) and after losing in 1906 (4-2 to the White Sox) plus in 1907 (4-1 to the Tigers), swept the Tigers 4-0 to capture the franchise's first World Series title. Of course, as everyone knows, the Cubs haven't won one since.

In fact, the Cubs haven't even been back to a World Series since 1945, which was also against the Tigers (lost that one in seven games). I believe there is a certain symmetry in the world of sports but with the Tigers at 24-32 in games played through June 1, a Cubs/Tigers World Series is likely a long shot. Is this the Cubs year? We'll have to see.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I often heard it said that the words and music of Bob Dylan were "the voice of a generation." Looking at the "state of the union" in MLB as of June 1, Dylan's words seem to have staying power. In his classic song The Times they are a Changin, one of his best lines was "the first ones now will later be last." I wonder if Dylan was talking about MLB here? Let's take a closer look.

Now this is a sports betting column, so I'm talking "moneylines" here. MLB's biggest "money-maker" in 2007 was the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies were plus-$2,466 during the regular season at $100/game. So where do the Rockies stand through games played June 1? Here's you cue Bob! Colorado is dead-last (30th of 30 teams) in '08, at minus-$1,839 vs the moneyline. They will enter play on June 2 with a seven-game losing streak overall and a road losing streak which has reached 12 in a row.

That's the longest road losing streak in MLB since the Seattle Mariners lost 15 consecutive road games back in 2004. Speaking of the Mariners (here's some of that symmetry I like to talk about), they came in second to only the Rockies last year against the moneyline, going plus-$1,924 at $100/game. So where do they rank this year? You guessed it, the Mariners rank 29th against the moneyline through June 1, at minus-$1,598. Another favorite saying of my mine is, "you can't make this stuff up."

So who are MLB's "biggest winners" through June 1? Just look to the state of Florida. In Tampa Bay, the franchise which has never had a winning record in 10 previous years (Tampa has finished in last-place in NINE of its 10 MLB seasons), the team decided to drop the "devil" from its nickname after the Devil Rays finished with a ML-worst mark of 66-96 in 2007. Someone in the organization should have thought of that sooner.

This year "the Rays" own MLB's best moneyline mark at plus-$1,340 through June 1. On the other side of the state, the Florida Marlins finished the 2007 season at 71-91, three games ahead of the 68-94 Pirates, who owned the NL's worst record. However, the Marlins currently rank second to only the Rays against the moneyline, with a plus-$1,275 mark.

Now pitchers have the greatest daily influence on the moneyline, so let's take a quick look at how last year's top "money-makers" are doing in 2008. I think you already know what's coming! Aaron Harang was MLB's biggest "money-maker" among last year's starting pitchers, as the Reds went 24-10 in his 34 starts (plus-$1,347). Through June 1, the Reds are 5-7 (minus-$226) in his 12 starts of '08. Colorado went 22-12 (plus-$1,094) in Jeff Francis' starts last year but are only 3-8 (minus-$520) in his 11 starts during '08.

Rounding out the top-five from '07 are LA's Brad Penny, 23-10 (plus-$1,042 in '07) but 6-6 (minus-36) in '08. The Mariners went 21-9 (plus-$1,020) in starts made by Felix Hernandez in '07 but they are just 5-7 (minus-$452) in his 12 starts so far this season. Converted reliever Todd Wellemeyer made only 11 starts for the Cards last year but the team's 9-2 (plus-$995) record vs the moneyline ranked him fifth-best among MLB's starting pitchers in '07. Wellemeyer has already made 12 starts in '08 (again, through June 1), with the Cards going 7-5 (plus-$164).

Next week I'll update you on how last year's biggest "money-burners" are doing in 2008 and also which pitchers are this year's biggest "money-makers." Join me back here Wednesday, for my NBA playoff notebook, as I recap the postseason to-date plus look ahead to the NBA Finals (Celtics/Lakers).

Good luck, Larry.

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