A few Vegas Bookies have soft spot for Pittsburgh Pirates

Jul 17, 2012 3:04 AM

If you go through the bios of some top sports book directors throughout Las Vegas history, you’ll notice quite a few hail from Pittsburgh.

Legends like Jack Franzi, Art Manteris, Bert Osborne and Jimmy Vaccaro all made their way to Las Vegas and were instrumental in shaping the way modern sports books operate.

One of the newer additions to the Pittsburgh lineup making his mark in Las Vegas is Cantor Gaming’s sports book director Mike Colbert, who hails from the Scott Township, South Park area of Pittsburgh.

While his chain of beautiful sports books may not fare the best if his Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series, it’s a bitter-sweet trade off that Colbert wouldn’t be overly disappointed about.

“I‘m extremely excited about the Pirates thus far,” said Colbert. “It’s been a long time since they been this good and it brings up memories of all the good times in the early 90’s, not just of winning the NL East three straight years, but also the good times of going to about 30 games a year with my Grandpa.”

It certainly has been a long time for the Pirates. Try 19 years of futility that has not only seen them miss the playoffs each year, but also have a losing record, the longest stretch of continually losing in MLB history. As we near the end of July, the Pirates are currently 10 above .500 and one game out of first behind the Reds.

But Colbert isn’t very optimistic, perhaps trying not to be overly excited in anticipation of a failure occurring to lessen the disappointment.

“Look, this is the best team they’ve had since those (Barry) Bonds years when he choked in all three of those playoff series, but they were in first place near the end of July last year and still finished with a losing record.

“They have a good young team and it looks like the team is committed to the future and winning by having their star player, Andrew McCutchen, bottled up which is something we haven’t seen the Pirates ever do in the modern age of baseball. But I don’t think they’ll be able to top the Reds in the division. I hope they can, but I don’t realistically see it happening.”

This season there is an added dimension like never seen before with an additional wild card team making the playoffs. Pittsburgh is currently tied with the Braves at the top of the list, two games above the Dodgers.

“I’d be very surprised if the Pirates got one of those wild card sports,” said Colbert.

Despite the Pirates failures last season that saw them finish 72-90, this year’s version looks a little more prepared for a good run due to veteran leadership, some experience off 2011 and most of all, better pitching.

You can’t put a value on the veteran presence of playoff tested players like A.J. Burnett, Casey McGehee and Rod Barajas. They also have McCutchen on an MVP run playing better than anyone in baseball, yes, better than even Mike Trout.

If the Pirates did somehow make the playoffs and then win the World Series, Colbert says his books would lose, but it’s only the fourth worst scenario for the house.

“We opened the Pirates at 150-to-1, but had lowered the odds as they got on their run and before 150-to-1 found any real takers, and we‘ve been steady at 30-to-1 on them for a while.

“The teams that do the most damage are the Dodgers, Nationals and Mets. We had the Dodgers at 30-to-1 to start the season and they reeled off all those early wins and had people excited. The Nationals were 50-to-1 and the Mets were 100-to-1.”

Amazing Sheets

Who needs Brandon Beachy when the Braves can pull two gems out of nowhere and turn them into superstars. First we saw a magical transformation in Jair Jurrjens and now we have Ben Sheets throwing six scoreless innings Sunday against the Mets. Sheets hadn’t pitched since 2010 and was coming off Tommy John surgery. He only pitched 10 innings of Double-A ball prior to Sunday, but looked as sharp and crisp as he did when he was one of the best pitchers in baseball during the 2000’s.

Who’s Hot

The Pirates have continued to smoke the ball and lead baseball in runs scored (65), total bases (194) home runs (17) and batting average (.315) in the month of July through Sunday. Yes, the Lumber company has definitely been revived. The charge has been led by Andrew McCutchen (.514) and Neil Walker (.474).

The Cubs couldn’t give Alfonso Soriano’s big contract away two months ago, even if agreeing to pay most or all of his $18 million salary. But no one has been a bigger power source over the last two months, which now gives Theo Epstein some leverage as the trade deadline approaches.

Soriano has hit 17 home runs since May 15 and could be a nice fit for a contending team, most likely an American League team because his defense would make any NL defense worse.

Another Cubs player that will find plenty of suitors around both leagues is Ryan Dempster, who started off the season as a tough luck loser, but is now hotter than any pitcher in baseball.

Even though the Marlins aren’t hitting the ball, Mark Buehrle is doing exactly what he’s paid to do – stop losing streaks and win games. He’s won his last four starts allowing a combined three runs over 28 2/3 innings.

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel gave up a run June 28 in a non-save situation that ended a streak of 17 straight games/innings without a run.

At the same time, the Braves have won seven games in a row heading into Monday’s games making them almost the hottest team in baseball. That distinction goes to the Oakland A’s who have won nine of their past 10 games through Sunday allowing only 18 runs in the nine wins.

Cooled off

On Sunday, the Pirates finally lost a game that A.J. Burnett started, ending a streak of 12 straight wins. Yankees starter Ivan Nova was once the rock of stability giving the Yankees a virtual guarantee of winning the last two seasons, but NY has lost three of his past four starts.

The Astros are in a terrible tailspin, dropping 13 of 14 games through Sunday. Their last two game win streak came on June 27.

Believe it or not, the feared Texas lineup has scored the fewest runs (20) of all MLB teams in July.