The latest baseball news from the winter meetings is that Aaron Judge will not leave the Yankees; he re-signed with the team for 9 years and $360M. Considering that he hit an AL record 62 home runs last year, it is not all that surprising that he will be making more per year than any other position player – – for now, nor is it too surprising that the Yankees opened the exchequer to retain his services.
As far as I can tell, Judge and Clayton Kershaw are the only free agents who have signed up with their previous teams during this free agency season. There have been several signings announced and I believe all the others involve a change of venue for the players. Stay tuned; this free agency shuffle has only just begun.
The FIFA World Cup is down to what we here in the US would call the “Elite Eight”. Because of the way lots are drawn to assign teams to Groups, it would be a stretch to say that FIFA had “engineered” this bracket but consider the following:
- Had Morocco not shocked Spain in the knockout round, Spain would be playing Portugal this weekend. No national rivalry there…
- England and France will play each other this weekend. No national rivalry there…
- If Brazil and Argentina win this weekend, those two sides will meet in the semi-final round. No national rivalry there … [Aside: Brazil is a heavy favorite to beat Croatia and Argentina is a small favorite to beat the Netherlands this weekend.]
Having referred to wagering on the World Cup, it is interesting to check out some of the reports about global action on these games. According to the folks at Barclays (the former sponsor and banker for the English Premier League), their estimate for the handle on all the World Cup Games is $35B. If that turns out to be the actual handle, it would be a 65% increase over the handle for the World Cup in 2018.
One reason for the increase is the situation here in the US. In 2018, sports betting was not allowed in almost every state; now in 2022, more than 30 states have legalized sports wagering; so naturally, there has been a large uptick in bets placed in the US. One report I read said that the estimate for World Cup wagering in the US would be $2B and that would represent almost a 400% increase as compared to 2018.
Standard wagering on World Cup games is akin to money line wagering on college or NFL football games. You pick the winner, and the sportsbook offers odds that vary from time to time based on their attempt to balance their exposure. However, there is a wrinkle. Since soccer games – prior to the knockout round in the World Cup – can end in a draw, one can also wager on the outcome being a draw. [Aside: There is also a bet at reduced odds called “Draw No Bet” where you pick a side to win but if the game ends in a draw it is considered a push and you get your original wager back. This option is used by bettors in only a small percentage of the bets.]
The existence of the “Draw” option on the money line provides a lucrative advantage for the sportsbook. The vast majority of bettors on the game outcome opt to pick a side to win the game at odds that can typically vary from minus-300 to +500. And all those majority wagers are losers when/if the game ends in a draw. In the Group Stage of this year’s World cup, I counted 9 draws; that means the sportsbooks “cleaned up” on nine of the 48 games in the Group Stage – two of those thanks to the US team.
There is another outcome of this year’s World Cup in Qatar; this one makes me shake my head as I try to understand it. There is a report that Qatar is going to put in a bid to host the Summer Olympic Games in 2036. The stadium venues built for this World Cup would provide a sound basis for holding the actual competitions; the country built 7 new facilities to host the World Cup and did a “tear-down/re-build” operation on an eighth stadium. The fact that Qatar might offer a bid for the Olympics in 2036 leads to a couple of issues in my mind:
- The World Cup is a big event; the Olympics are a colossal event. The World Cup had 32 teams representing their countries this year; the Tokyo Olympics had about 200 teams. A soccer team has about 25 members plus coaches and staff; that means the competitors number less than a thousand. The Tokyo Olympics had over 10,000 athletes competing so when you add in coaches and staff the number of athletes and staff would certainly dwarf what existed for the World Cup. Qatar is a geographically small country; will everyone associated with the Olympics plus the spectators fit?
- The Summer Olympics take place in – – wait for it – – the summer. We have been down that road before; the reason this year’s World Cup is happening in November/December is because summer temperatures in Qatar are not compatible with outdoor athletic competitions.
- [Aside: The IOC may need to deal with that sort of climatic reality soon because there are reports that India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia may also make a pitch for hosting the Games in 2036. Maybe the Summer Games will need to be re-branded as the “Not-Winter Olympic Games”?]
In case you are wondering why Qatari officials are looking at a bid for the 2036 games, the reason is that the venues for the Summer Olympics are already awarded through 2032.
- Paris, France in 2024
- Los Angeles, USA in 2028 (along with Canada and Mexico)
- Brisbane, Australis in 2032
Finally, let me close today with this item from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm that seems eerily accurate these days:
“Kindergarten: Former platform for early learning and playtime; currently the time in a child’s life when he or she better damn well decide exactly what they want out of life and get going on a plan to make it happen.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………