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Boys of Summer Warming Up

The Winter Olympics may be a hot topic in most of the world, but in America, the Boys of Summer already are grabbing headlines as they frolic on base paths at warm-weather spring training locales in Florida and Arizona. The big prize, of course, is the Fall Classic, captured last year by the Chicago White Sox, who won 100 regular-season games en route to their first World Series title in 88 years. The Chisox also copped 11 of 12 post-season games while disposing of Boston, the Los Angeles Angels and, finally, Houston. Clubs will report to training sites throughout the week, with the first spring games slated for March 1.

The regular season will begin April 2 with the White Sox hosting Cleveland, which almost caught them at the wire in last year's American League Central Division race. One sure sign that baseball is just around the corner is that 2006 season win totals began popping up on Las Vegas sports book boards over the weekend. Futures have been posted since before the 2005 World Series became history. "It's like a blur," said Hilton SuperBook oddsmaker Jeff Sherman. "One season just runs into the next.

" According to Hilton oddsmakers, no team will achieve the century mark in victories this year. The New York Yankees, pegged for 97 1/2 wins, top the Majors. "Actually, that's a lower total than we've had on the Yankees in several years," Sherman said.

"They may have weak spots pitching-wise, but their lineup always commands attention." St. Louis checks in at 93 1/2 wins, Boston at 92 1/2 and the White Sox at 92. At the other end of the spectrum, Kansas City comes in at 63 1/2, Florida at 66 1/2, Tampa Bay at 69 and Colorado at 69 1/2. Sherman says an "elasticity effect" comes into play when oddsmakers calculate season win totals from one year to the next.

"Teams that show great improvement one season are likely to win less the next," he said. "Teams that have a dramatic drop win more." Initially, Sherman notes, the SuperBook doesn't expect the season over/unders to draw a lot of action.

"The bulk of it will come the week before the (regular) season starts," he said. Play at the Hilton is minus $1.15 both ways; other books, such as the Stratosphere, are dealing with a minus $1.

10 line. "We trying to stir up interest among the players," Race and Sports Director Robert Jaynes said. .

By: Lynda Collins



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