As success blooms, attitudes rage. As championships become less of a surprise and more of an inevitability, players and teams morph from being admired to being despised. The peoples' choice turns into the elitists' choice. This will never happen to the Chicago Cubs or the San Francisco Giants, but it happened long ago to the New York Yankees and, more recently, to the Boston Red Sox. This will probably never happen to a fun loving, free-swinger like Adam Dunn. But it was a fait accompli for a pretty boy like Alex Rodriguez. There are simply those teams and players that live on the dark side, existing only to be rooted against.
As fans, we can be content to be disgusted by their presence. We can boo, sneer, post mean messages on our Internet machines or make jokes on Twitter. Or we can put that energy to use in a positive, constructive way -- like gambling. Or, as I see it, a moneymaking scheme that puts anything Scott Boras concocts to shame.
This is an idea that took seed on Monday afternoon when I was on the podcast with Mr. Bill Simmons. We were talking about where some value might be on home run king futures. He mentioned Adam Dunn. And then he brought up A-Rod as someone who might have one more great home run year in him. I responded, "Do you really want to spend the season rooting for A-Rod?"
"Well, maybe it takes you to that weird place as a fan?" he said.
"Like the dark side?" I asked.
And that quickly, an idea was born. Before the podcast ended, I was doing a column about prop bets that take you to the dark side during the major league baseball season. These give you a reason to tune in to the Yankees or Red Sox or root for A-Rod and Miguel Cabrera no matter how much you loathe them. It's the Bizarro world variation on the emotional hedge, which I've written about in the past and is when you bet against your favorite team in the hopes of soothing your losses with cash. In the dark-side bet, if your most hated team or player fails, you will be happy. But if they win, you may be rich.
However, first, let's dispense with what I'd like to call a sweet-side bet. This is a wager you can feel good about. Mr. Sports Guy mentioned that he thought Dunn (currently 7-1 at Bodog) was offering good value as a future home run king. The next day I called Bodog bookmaker Adam Young to get his take on where all the action in the home run futures race was going and, coincidentally, Dunn was far and away drawing the most attention, having opened at 12-1. And he wasn't just a fan fave in the home run race. Bodog opened The Big Donkey at 50-1 to win the MVP and he is now down to 40-1. "We have taken the most money on Dunn," Young told me. "He is our biggest liability so far."