The State of the State

May 9, 2023

Pretend, for a moment, that it’s 2004.

Now, key into your trusty Google device, “American League Standings.”

Next, stand on your head. What is it that you see?

Yankees… Red Sox… Blue Jays… Orioles… Rays. (Remember, you’re still standing on your head.)

If it were 2004, you’d believe exactly what your eyes, in such an inverted position, just told you. But since it’s 2023, go ahead and return to having your feet on the ground. Read it again, just reverse it. Is this the Bizarro AL East?

It sure felt like something was up when the Tampa Bay Rays jumped out to a 13-0 record to kick off the 2023 MLB season. And the Yankees who were a +325 favorite to win the AL Pennant (and 7/1 to win the World Series), quickly fell to the basement of the division. The Yankees? Dead last? That’s correct. Read on.

Here’s the other kicker when examining the AL East Standings: Payrolls haven’t exactly paid off. In fact, the team payrolls in the AL East are just as bizarre. Bringing up the rear are the aforementioned, big-spending Yankees and their second-highest payroll in the majors. Boston comes in at No. 14 and Toronto at No. 7. Meanwhile, two of the thriftiest spenders in the Bigs – the Rays (No. 28) and Orioles (No. 29) – sit atop the division.  

Sure, we’re barely into the second month of the MLB season; there’s a long way to go between now and October.

But, Maryland, this is also where opportunity knocks.

At the outset of the season, the Rays held +1000 odds to win the American League. Now, holding a 5-game (plus or minus) lead in the division, that price has steepened quite a bit; now one will only get +350 if they truly believe Tampa Bay is for real (…bet all 172 Rays fans wish they’d have ponied up before the season, right?). Perhaps inexplicably, the basement dwelling Yankees hold the division’s next-best odds at +600 (as do the Blue Jays), while the lowly Red Sox are priced at a justifiable +2500.

Meanwhile, the Orioles – who began the season at +2000 – have only become slightly less attractive at +1500. What gives, Baltimore?

How is it that the second-best team in what many believed to be one of baseball’s toughest divisions, is getting no respect from the betting community? There’s no doubt, a full, 162-game season has a way of separating the contenders and pretenders, but are the Orioles really pretending, or are they simply building on what was a turnaround season of a year ago? There’s no question that the O’s appear to be on the right track, but just how right is it?

Last summer, the team that ultimately finished fourth in the AL East still managed to win 10 straight games. They somehow won 21-of-30 at one point. They went toe-to-toe with the Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays – all while having the fourth-youngest roster in baseball.

Indeed, things look pretty bizarre here in early May. Yes, the Yankees are still da Yankees. And, while no longer undefeated, the Rays still have more wins than any other ball club in the majors.

But the Baltimore Orioles look like much, much more than a flash in the pan. They closed out April winning five-of-seven; they began May by playing .600 ball on a 10-game road trip. They’re trending upward.

Can they win the division? Can they sneak into the postseason even if they don’t?

Only time will tell, but it sure seems like a great time to bet long on a solid young team while the price is still right.

Go O’s, go.