Searching heaven for more Angels

Feb 11, 2003 4:00 AM

Over and under futures bets based upon total projected wins for each of the 30 major league baseball teams really puts the fun into betting.

The task is too arduous to focus on all 30, so last year the cutoff point was eight in each league. Since we like to treat the cup as half full instead of empty, the results were 6-2 in the AL and 2-6 in the NL.

The major successes were Anaheim and Minnesota, while the biggest flops were the New York Mets and Montreal. This year we will make five plays in each league prior to spring training, which is slated to begin Feb. 27.

A lot can happen between now and the start of the regular season, but the purpose of putting futures out early is to get the bet in before things change in favor of the house.

AL

Minnesota Twins (88 wins): The Twins won 94 games last year en route to the AL Central title and played the Angels tough in the first round of the playoffs. The Twins have stood pat in the off-season, only signing Arizona reliever Mike Fetters to a minor league contract. Still, Minnesota can win five less games this season and exceed the projected total. This will be an even Âí­hungrier team. OVER.

Chicago White Sox (86): The White Sox quietly finished at .500 last year after coming apart in the first two months. Acquiring Bartolo Colon should be worth the five-game improvement by itself. Frank Thomas is no longer the main man, but is still capable of producing adequate numbers behind the underrated Magglio Ordonez. Lefty Mark Buehrle is a stud. Look for the Pale Hose to win around 90. OVER.

Cleveland Indians (71): This appears to a transition year for the Tribe, which allowed Jim Thome to escape Jacobs Field in a move to lighten the wallet. Thome’s exit continues the yearly pattern of top-notch talent abandoning ship. Richie Sexton went to Milwaukee. Bartolo Colon will now haunt the Indians in Chicago. Roberto Alomar wound up with the Mets. We don’t like sinking ships. UNDER.

Anaheim Angels (90.5): The world champions can win eight less games than last year and still go over the total. The Angels managed 99 regular season W’s and countless thrills. Anaheim, like the Twins, liked its ballclub and did little tweaking. The Angels lost reserve outfielder Orlando Palmeiro, but picked up a similar scrappy player in Eric Owens from San Diego. We can see at least 91 wins. OVER.

Baltimore Orioles (72): Only the Angels (+14) are projected to win more games than Baltimore’s 2002 preseason estimate of 65.5 wins - an increase of 6.5. Why is Las Vegas Sports Consultants so high on the Orioles? Pitching and a long-awaited boost from the minor leagues. The Orioles over the years allowed their minor league pipeline to dry up by failing free agency. Baltimore is now getting back to its roots. OVER.

NL

San Francisco Giants (85.5): To repeat as NL champions, the Giants may need to borrow Anaheim’s rally monkey. Jeff Kent is in Houston, Dusty Baker is managing the Cubs, and three-fourths of the infield is missing. Barry Bonds is one year older, but not deeper in debt. The Giants spent $46.1 million to pick up Edgardo Alfonzo (Mets) and Ray Durham (A’s). SF was projected to win 87.5 last year and won 95. We won’t 86 the Giants yet. OVER.

Houston Astros (90): The Astros won 84 games last year, but have the talent on paper to exceed 100. Adding Jeff Kent to the mix should allow Jeff Bagwell to put up the best numbers in an already stellar career. The deal also places Craig Biggio in centerfield next to blooming slugger Lance Berkman. The pitching staff is young, deep and scary. If closer Billy Wagner stays healthy, we can smell pennant. OVER.

Chicago Cubs (82): Moises Alou was supposed to be the missing piece last year. Instead, he was simply missing. The Cubs should bounce back with less expectations. Sammy Sosa stayed and acquiring Shawn Estes should bolster a good staff. OVER.

Atlanta Braves (91.5): The Braves elected to keep Greg Maddux, but not even the best Las Vegas pitcher in major league history can make up for losing Tom Glavine and Kevin Millwood. Atlanta is due for a fall and this looks to be the year. UNDER.

Cincinnati Reds (79.5): The Reds disappointed us last year, but we are still on the band-wagon. This is a murderer’s row with Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Sean Casey and iffy Griffey. Larkin at SS doesn’t hurt either. If the pitching is only adequate this is at least a .500 ballclub, we hope. OVER.