The Houston Astros aren’t the most popular team these days, but they were when it ultimately came to the Las Vegas MLB odds. The Astros were the second choice to the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the 2022 World Series and delivered in six games against the Philadelphia Phillies. An individual accomplishment, though, stole the headlines in 2022 as the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge had a season for the books with a big payday looming in free agency.
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The Rise of Judge
Judge hit 62 home runs, breaking the American League record of 61 set by Roger Maris 61 years earlier. It was a dramatic chase. Judge tied the record on Sept. 28 after a seven-game drought, and needed another six to break the mark in Game No. 161.
The 6-foot-7, 282-pound slugger also flirted with the Triple Crown. He led the American League with 131 RBIs and his .311 batting average was second to Minnesota’s Luis Arraez (.316).
Many believe that Judge holds the MLB home run record seeing as those who hit more – Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa – were all villains in the Steroid Era. “I think public opinion says that Dad really has the record,” Kevin Maris, Roger’s son, told the media. “How can you celebrate people that have been known to cheat the game? It’s not done in any other sport. So I’d have to go with the court of public opinion.”
The judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million contract extension from the Yankees prior to the start of 2022. He hits the free agent market, where he could fetch $40 million per season.
Houston Provided Problem for the Rest of Baseball
The Houston Astros’ cheating scandal is still fresh on the minds of many baseball fans. Listening to the reaction when Jose Altuve steps into the box on the road is all the proof that’s needed. Houston, though, proved they can win above board. The Astros swept the Seattle Mariners and Yankees before dispatching the pesky Phillies to claim their second title in six years. Houston’s Dusty Baker – the only black coach or player on the club – won his first World Series as a manager.
“I’m so happy that it took this long,” the 73-year-old Baker told reporters. “Because had this happened years ago, maybe I wouldn’t even be here. Maybe, it wasn’t supposed to happen, so that I could hopefully influence a few young men’s lives and families, and a number of people in the country, showing what perseverance and character can do for you.”
Free agency could hit the club hard with Justin Verlander, Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley among those who could be playing elsewhere next season. But the rest of the infield – Alex Bregman, World Series MVP Jeremy Pena and Altuve – return to form a solid nucleus.
This Might Not Be Your Padre’s San Diego Club in 2023
The Astros are the second choice to repeat as world champions at +550. The Los Angeles Dodgers, the beaten favorite once again in 2022 after winning 111 games in the regular season, are +450. Philadelphia, which gave Houston all it could handle, sits at +1200.
The San Diego Padres are intriguing at +1400. The Padres cleared a major hurdle by beating L.A. in a National League Division Series before running into the Phillies’ buzzsaw. If injury-prone Fernando Tatis Jr. plays a full season and the pitching delivers, San Diego would be in a position to win its first World Series title.
Those betting online at the sportsbook would also be wise to take a shot on the likeliest team to acquire Judge. Rumors have him going anywhere from coast to coast, but it might be worth taking a shot on his “hometown team’’ at +2500. Judge grew up in Linden, Calif., less than 100 miles from San Francisco. Act fast. The price on the Giants is sure to drop fast if he were to come home.