07/05/2005 11:00PM

Yanks catch everyone's eyes


LAS VEGAS - With the Fourth of July behind us, I'd like to reflect on a few issues that are red, white, black and blue.

As the baseball world turns

Over the holiday weekend, the big sports news was Kenny Rogers pushing a TV cameraman (that's the black and blue part). Most people know that Rogers has been at odds with the media all season for what he considers yellow journalism.

Since the incident, there has been threats of a lawsuit and Rogers received a 20-game suspension, and now there's the controversy of Rogers being named to the All-Star Game while appealing the suspension.

But that soap opera pales in comparison to the ongoing Yankees saga. Owner George Steinbrenner is a magnate and a media magnet. And the up-and-down fortunes of his ballclub give the rumor mills and the tabloids their daily grist.

The Palms sports book here in Vegas has a proposition wager on whether the Yankees will make the playoffs. As of this writing, following the Yankees' fourth straight victory on Tuesday and with an off day on Wednesday, the "yes" was at -115 and the "no" at -105. Since the prop was put up two months ago, this is only the second time that the "yes" has been favored.

"We first posted this prop during Kentucky Derby week when Steinbrenner's Bellamy Road was the talk of the town," said race and sports book director Rich Baccellieri. "We opened with the 'no' favored at -125 and shortly after putting up the prop, the Yankees won 16 of 18 games and we took a lot of money on the 'yes' and made that the favorite, but then they struggled again and people realized that the streak was against Oakland, Seattle, Detroit and the Mets and the money came back on the 'no.' It's only been in the past week that the money's been going back on the Yankees to do it, partly because a lot of people think Baltimore might be ready to fold."

Baccellieri was formerly the sports book director at Caesars Palace and then the MGM Grand before losing his job in the MGM Mirage megamerger in the fall of 2000. He spent the past few years working with some offshore sports book and pursuing other interests, but says he's happy to be behind a counter in Nevada and dealing with customers - he's quickly becoming one of the more accessible sports book directors in town - and is looking forward to combining his experiences as a mix of a old-school bookmaker with a modern edge.

"This prop has certainly met the criteria of generating a lot of interest," he said. "To have the Yankees with a $200 million payroll and struggling to stay in contention, the storyline has a lot going for it. We think we can keep it up the rest of the season until the Yankees either clinch a spot or are eliminated."

Baseball an international game

While baseball is America's pastime - though many people feel football has surpassed it as the country's favorite sport, and many people say that watching TV is our real pastime - it's also an international sport, even when played by our teams. That will be on display Monday in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star break as major-league leader Andruw Jones (Curacao), David Ortiz (Dominican Republic), Bobby Abreu (Venezuela), Carlos Lee (Panama), and Jason Bay (Canada) are scheduled to participate, along with two others who had yet to be determined.

Because the field isn't finalized, there are no odds available in Las Vegas, but the Pinnacle offshore sports book has odds posted on the World Baseball Classic to be held next March. The World Baseball Classic is a 16-team World Cup-like tournament with major leaguers playing for the native countries instead of taking part in spring training.

The Dominican Republic is the +125 favorite (win $1.25 for ever $1 wagered, or the equivalent of 5-4 odds) with the United States the second choice at +250 (or 5-2). When Pinnacle opened betting two months ago, the U.S. was the +130 favorite.

The big question is whether the U.S. State Department will lift sanctions to allow Cuba to play, and then if Fidel Castro will allow his team to come here in the later rounds. Pinnacle has Cuba at 30-1, up from 15-1.

More on international competition

On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee announced that London had won the bid for the 2012 Summer Games. Most media outlets used the words "shocking" and "upset" to describe the news, though they didn't say what the odds actually were.

The Olympic offshore sports book (no relation to the IOC) had been taking bets with Paris as the overwhelming 1-4 favorite and London the distant second choice at 9-2. Madrid was 20-1, with New York at 25-1 and Moscow at 50-1.

Back in the States

It will be interesting to follow Michelle Wie's attempt to play with the boys in the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill.

The Las Vegas Hilton has the odds on Wie making the cut at 5-1 (earlier this week, you could have layed -800 that she wouldn't). The Hilton had her at 500-1 to win the whole tournament, even though she's facing a watered-down field as most of the top players are preparing for the next week's British Open.

* The Nextel Cup circuit travels to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., for the USG SheetRock 400 on Sunday. Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle, who are also battling for the lead in the points standings, are the 9-1 co-favorites at Station Casinos. Tony Stewart, who won last Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona, is the third choice at 10-1.