by Josh Nagel - 09/18/2008
As the last week of the regular season approaches and teams pull out all the stops to find a spot in the postseason, evidently desperate times call for desperate measures. With just 12 games left and the team still in solid contention for the National League's wild-card spot, the Brewers fired manager Ned Yost.
This stunning move begs an obvious question: Isn't this what they do in the NHL, fire the coach on playoff-contending teams late in the season? History suggests it's practically unheard of in baseball, and Milwaukee's history suggests that this might be the final straw that cements the latest in a series of September breakdowns that threatens to spoil a golden opportunity to reach the playoffs.
Perhaps Yost isn't the long-term answer, but it stands to reason that the best course of action was to let him finish the season and at least get a chance to finish what he started which, at the very least, had been a significant turnaround of this moribund organization. Failing to reach the playoffs might have merited his dismissal, but letting Yost go this late in the process just seems irrational.
Here is a look at some Major League Baseball betting trends through Sept. 17:
American League East
Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays have been the surprise story of the season, and the biggest cash cow for bettors with +2,697 units. Those who were late to the bandwagon still had a chance to cash in, so long as they weren't afraid to take a shot, as some of the Rays' biggest wins have come in the past few weeks. Losing two of three at New York last week, you had to wonder if Tampa was showing signs of cracking down the stretch to the traditional AL East powers, but the Rays bounced back with two straight wins over Boston after losing the opener in the series.
Although a postseason berth almost is guaranteed, it looks like staying on the Rays is a good idea for now, as winning the division appears to be a priority for them, and they have been backing this up with clutch performances of late.
Boston Red Sox - Meanwhile, the veteran Red Sox missed a major chance to show their playoff experience and take control of the division in this week's series against the Rays. But they netted just one win and have split their last 10, while dropping four of six to Tampa over the past two weeks. With upcoming series against the Blue Jays and Indians, it stands to reason this team will not be cheap to back, but with a division title on the line as motivation, it might be worth the price.
American League Central
Minnesota Twins - It's unlikely that the Twins expected their late-season fate to hinge largely on a series against the Rays, but that is exactly what they are up against. Still trailing Chicago by a couple of games, Minnesota's four-game road series against Tampa might determine whether it reaches the postseason. Interestingly, they have met just twice this season and split the two games. The Twins come in fresh off a three-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland and are desperate for a win any way they can get it.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels - This team is starting to rest players here and there in anticipation of the playoffs, so it's worth doing a little research before backing them between now and the playoffs. That said, they had won five straight before dropping the last two in Oakland, and have won seven of their last 10 overall.
National League East
Philadelphia Phillies - Fighting for their playoff lives, with both the division title and potentially the wild-card berth at stake, the Phillies have picked the right time to get hot. They have won six straight and covered the run line in five of those. They also have played over in nine of their last 10.
National League Central
Milwaukee Brewers - The firing of Ned Yost was evidently upper management's answer to stop the bleeding, but it says here that this move backfires. While speculation suggests that many players didn't respect Yost, they were, if nothing else, used to him. A team with this many young players is bound to react emotionally to this significant event, which is not a good sign. Despite getting a win over the Cubs on Wednesday, the Brewers appear to be in big trouble. Bigger trouble than they were under Yost.
St. Louis Cardinals - A rash of devastating injuries and a cool down of what was once a hot pitching staff have combined to send this team near the .500 mark which, frankly, is where most prognosticators expected them to be when the season started. Although it took a while for Cardinals to hit the wall, they have done so with a bang, losing seven straight and turning what was once a four-figure profit down to a +429 mark for the season.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers - The Dodgers finally decided to grab the division title that has been waved in front of their faces for months, winning 14 of their last 16 to take a sizeable lead over the lifeless Diamondbacks. One underrated aspect of the addition of Manny Ramirez to the lineup is, despite providing the lethal bat this club desperately needed, he's opened up more opportunities for No. 3 hitter Andre Ethier, who might already be one of the league's most underrated talents.