The San Francisco Giants, who had the best record in the majors after entering the season as 100-1 long shots to win the World Series, have their sights set on another unique distinction: sportsbook crusher, as multiple operators each stand to lose more than $1 million if they win the championship.
“Honestly, we get crushed if the Giants win,” MGM director of trading Jeff Stoneback told ESPN, explaining the potential net loss, even after accounting for all wagers on the 29 other teams.
Although the Giants never faded as they rolled to a 107-55 mark during the regular season, bookmakers still only gradually lowered their odds throughout the season. Bettors could have grabbed them at 10-1 in late July.
“We didn’t think they had a real chance to do this,” SuperBook executive director John Murray told ESPN, adding that they expected the Arizona Diamondbacks (52-110) to finish higher. “We consider the Dodgers to be the best team in baseball. We’ve thought that the whole season and thought it was just inevitable they would pass the Giants.”
San Francisco edged its rival by one game, cashing 40-1 tickets for winning the National League West title.
The Giants, however, once again find themselves dismissed and in the underdog role entering the postseason. The Dodgers are -160 favorites for the best-of-five National League Division Series, even though San Francisco has home-field advantage.
“It’s basically a blue-collar team. Gabe Kapler has done an absolutely incredible job of implementing the entire roster on a daily basis,” longtime Las Vegas handicapper and baseball specialist Dave Cokin told ESPN. “It was difficult to sense because you don’t see teams managed that way. I think it contributed greatly to avoiding slumps and keeping what had to be great team chemistry.”
The Giants led the National League with 241 home runs, yet not a single player reached 30. The team’s balance helped set an MLB record with 17 players finishing with at least five home runs. Their 18 pinch-hit home runs also set an MLB record.
Entering the season, oddsmakers posted a regular-season win total of 74.5. The Giants became just the second team since 1994 to surpass their win total by at least 30 games.
“Obviously you’ve got a team with high odds like that with a fast start, people jumped on them early at those high odds and they never went away,” Stoneback said.
Familiarity with the Giants’ postseason success — with World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 — also provided allure for bettors.
“It’s the same way we always get futures on UConn and Syracuse in college basketball,” Murray said. “People have seen them do it before so they think they can do it again. We kind of laughed it off the last six or seven years. This year it definitely got our attention. I’ll say that much.”
When this financial exposure reached a certain likelihood for sportsbooks, uncomfortable conversations were necessary.
“I got a phone call with something to the effect of, ‘How did we ever get into that position on the Giants?'” Murray said. “It’s hard to lower liability when one guy has $1,000 at 300-to-1 and another guy has $1,000 at 200-to-1. And then you just have the sheer volume of tickets because they’re such a popular team.”
The potential hit does have a silver lining. Sportsbooks are routinely equipped to absorb significant losses during the football season, given the large betting handle in both college and pro football. In fact, this October has five Saturdays and five Sundays, so most sportsbooks are projecting this month to have the largest handle of 2021.
If the Giants do reach the World Series, bookmakers can massage the betting odds and mitigate some risk. They endured a similar predicament in 2017 when the hometown, long-shot Vegas Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural NHL season.
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