With the 2021 MLB season complete, we can now take a look back at the action, to evaluate the performances of each team that made it into the postseason. One team who only made it into the 2021 playoffs at the last minute were the Boston Red Sox. That they even made it that far is impressive, especially when considering their pre-season odds of being crowned World Series champions was +5000, lower than the LA Angels (+4000) and with the same odds as the Miami Marlins. Clearly the oddsmakers did not rate their chances very highly at all.
Betting on baseball is a pastime almost as old as the game itself. Between April and October each week, millions of fans will search for MLB expert picks, so they can have professionals tell them which teams to bet on, and which ones to avoid. It helps the more inexperienced bettors not bet on the wrong team, and steers them in the right direction.
The Red Sox defied the pre-season odds to come 2nd in the American League East, behind the Tampa Bay Rays. They snuck into the American League Wild Card Game, drawn against their old rivals the New York Yankees. They had played each other several times in the months leading up to the Wild Card game, with the Yankees winning the previous 5 meetings, so they were certainly the odds on favorite to progress. However, the Red Sox were able to dig deep, and produced a performance worthy of the big occasion. The game ended 6-2 to Boston, which was seen as quite the upset in the betting markets.
They then successfully navigated their way through the Division Series before facing off with the Houston Braves in the League Championship Series. The Astros were the favorites in the betting markets, with odds of -160 to the Red Sox +134. These odds were fairly spot on, as the Braves won the Series 4-2, with the Red Sox’s campaign finishing just before the World Series.
Of course, they have previously been successful and claimed baseball’s highest honor. Let’s take a look into some of those victories here.
Curse of the Bambino
Between 1903 and 1918, the Red Sox won the World Series 5 times, including the first one ever. While it is hard to go back to find betting odds on say the 1916 World Series between the Red Sox and the Brooklyn Robins to know for sure who was the oddsmakers favorite, it is very likely that the Red Sox would have had the far superior odds.
The ‘curse of the Bambino’ is a term that has been used a lot in baseball over the years, to explain the crazy drought that the Red Sox were enduring. It dates back to the 1920s, when Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees. The fortunes of the Yankees, who had to that point been a relatively poor side both on the field and in the betting odds, was utterly transformed, going on to become the most successful team in MLB history. Meanwhile, the Red Sox would fail to win the World Series again for nearly 90 years.
They came close on a couple of occasions. In 1946 they were in the final, but were defeated 4-3 by the St Louis Cardinals. It took 20 years, but in 1967 they were back again, against the Cardinals once again. They took it to game 7, but again, St Louis came out on top 4-3. The Cincinnati Reds were their opponents in 1975, but again the Red Sox lost 4-3. Then in 1986, they were desperately hoping to break the curse against the New York Mets. However, yet again they were undone, and lost the series 4-3 It really did appear like they would be cursed forever.
Curse lifted, a new dawn begins
In 2002, following the “moneyball” method which Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics perfected, the Red Sox built a World Series winning team, using data analysis as opposed to old school scouting methods.
The first championship came in 2004, when they won 4-0 against the St Louis Cardinals. This was all the more remarkable given that at the bottom of the 9th inning of the ALCS game, the Red Sox had betting statistics of only 2.5% to the World Series. To come back from that was something few would have bet on, but somehow they managed it.
Following the breaking of the curse, the Red Sox went on to win the World Series again in 2007 (4-0 against the Colorado Rockies), 2013 (4-2 against the Cardinals again) and in 2018 (4-1 against the LA Dodgers). The Red Sox were -135 favorites in 2018, compared to the Dodgers who had odds of +115, so any bettor who stuck money on the side from Boston before the World Series began would have been very pleased with the outcome.
With the 2021 finished, many fans and sports bettors will be looking ahead to the next season already, to try and decide who might be the favorite to lift the World Series. Looking down the list, the Red Sox are currently sat as 9th favorites, with odds of +1600. Ahead of them are the Dodgers (favorites at +500) the Yankees (+1000) and the Chicago White Sox (+1200). Of course these could change in the coming weeks and months, so bettors will be advised to continuously monitor these, to see if the Red Sox move anywhere up, or down, in the betting stats.