“The Empire Slate” is a weekly look at betting angles and trends involving New York sports.
The Mets’ propensity to be hit by pitches has become an issue again after Yu Darvish plunked Pete Alonso with a 96 mph fastball in the left wrist Tuesday night, forcing Alonso out of the lineup for at least a couple of games.
It’s not so much that Alonso’s injury appears serious — the Mets said the wrist isn’t broken and Alonso informed reporters he could return to the lineup any day — but that it interrupts one of the more impressive rolls by a National League hitter so far this season, as Alonso has hit .333 with a 1.129 OPS and eight home runs in his past 20 games.
Pete Alonso has left the game in the second inning after getting hit by a pitch on the right hand. pic.twitter.com/zNHXSaA1S9
— SNY (@SNYtv) June 8, 2022
The injury snapped Alonso’s streak of 151 straight games played, leaving him 49 games short of Alex Reyes’ franchise record. It also gave the Mets 40 hit-by-pitches this season, a major league high and six more than the next-closest team.
The Polar Bear’s hot hitting has moved him up the leaderboard for NL MVP. At DraftKings, he went from +2500 to +1200 to +850, where he currently stands, behind only Mookie Betts, Paul Goldschmidt, and Manny Machado.
MVP voters tend to favor players from winning teams, which makes Alonso seem like a decent play even at those shrinking odds — presuming there are no long-term ill effects from the bone bruise. The Mets still enjoy a seven-game lead in their division, while Betts’ Dodgers are trying to hold off Machado’s Padres, who are only a game-and-a-half back. And Goldschmidt’s Cardinals are only seven games above .500 and in second place in a bad division.
AL MVP race a snoozer?
The senior circuit has a far more interesting MVP race than the American League these days.
The Angels’ 13-game losing streak has dimmed the prospects for last year’s winner, Shohei Ohtani, and perennial MVP contender Mike Trout. The Yankees’ Aaron Judge has distinguished himself as the favorite, with odds at New York mobile sportsbooks ranging from +140 (at PointsBET) to +170 (at BetMGM and FanDuel).
From here, the best bet in the AL appears to be José Ramírez. The Guardians probably aren’t going anywhere, but with Anaheim’s tailspin and Judge’s injury history, you’re getting a lot of value at +1200 (at FanDuel) on a guy who trails only Judge and Astros DH Yordan Alvarez in OPS in the league.
Did the Yanks blow it?
Of course, Judge’s phenomenal first third of the season (he has an otherworldly 1.058 OPS) has created a nagging worry for Yankees fans. Since he rejected the team’s seven-year, $213.5 million contract extension offer shortly before Opening Day, many people fear he could walk after the season.
How much will he be worth by fall? It only takes one team to really want Judge to drive his price well past that original number, but bear in mind that he’s already 30, so the market may not be quite as robust as it has been for players who bloomed earlier in their careers.
New York Post baseball columnist Jon Heyman said earlier this week on his podcast with colleague Joel Sherman that he thinks the Giants are the team the Yankees have to beat. That makes some sense, given that Judge grew up just a couple of hours from San Francisco and attended Fresno State. But Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi has tended to piece together offense by building platoons rather than shelling out for big bats.
Judge’s free agency will be an interesting test case, particularly if he lives up to his favored status and closes the deal on his first MVP award. The Yanks rolled the dice, and now Judge wants to make them pay.
The Rangers have blown a 2-0 lead and now stand tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL’s best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals heading into Game 5 Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
After losing 4-1 in the last game, the Rangers have gone from -152 series favorites to +130 underdogs (at BetMGM). Data analytics site Money Puck gives the Rangers just a 37.6% chance to win the series and a 6.6% chance to get by Tampa Bay and the red-hot Colorado Avalanche to win the Stanley Cup.
If you’ve paid close attention to this team, you might be thinking to yourself, “Perfect timing.” The Rangers have played some of their best hockey this month after falling into a hole, fighting back from deficits in each of their previous two series.
If you’re worried about the Rangers’ 2-7 record on the road this postseason, you might be better off just betting them Thursday night, when they’re offered odds as good as +110 at home (at BetMGM and DraftKings).
Oneida Nation offering workforce housing
In order to provide affordable housing for employees it desperately needs, the Oneida Indian Nation announced this week that it’s offering discounted apartments for its hourly casino and hotel employees. The move generated some headlines, since so many service-sector employers around the country are having trouble filling jobs.
The $15 million apartment complex near the tribe’s Turning Stone casino in the Utica area will begin taking tenants July 1, with one-bedroom apartments renting for just $550 per month. Eligible employees include dealers, cooks, custodial workers, and all hourly workers at the hotel.
It will be interesting to see whether something similar eventually happens at any of the three downstate casinos that are being planned, given the astronomical housing prices in the New York City area.
Photo: Orlando Ramírez/USA TODAY