Updated: May 29, 2020
It doesn’t feel like baseball weather outside now, but April will be here soon enough for the pierogis who compete for the crown at PNC Park every year. Since the expansion of the league to 7 pierogis in 2017, there’s been a mixed bag of season leaders, making it hard to tell which contender has the edge heading into 2020. Fear not, because Jagoff Sports has an exclusive scoop on who Vegas oddsmakers are favoriting, and who they’re fading this season.
The reigning champ from 2019 is one of your best bets this season according to Vegas Insider and FanDual’s online sports book. Since suffering a broken foot during the 2014 season, Chester’s recovery and proceeding race career have made him a perennial force in the Great Pierogi Race. Last year was no different, as Chester outpaced the other pierogis by 9 races to secure his 3rd career title.
“I’m trying not to get ahead of myself,” Chester told Jagoff Sports. “There hasn’t been a back-to-back champion in this league since 2002, and I’m well aware of it.” Odds makers are aware of that fact as well, downgrading Chester slightly from his 5-1 odds at the beginning of last season.
“The Wrath of The Stache” shirts were lining the shelves of Pittsburgh sporting good stores last season when Bacon Burt took an early lead on the rest of the pierogi field. Plenty of scouts now think that Burt is just beginning to hit the prime of his career, and the sports books are following suit.
“There’s a real chance he’s going to take home some hardware this season,” Konrad Lupkowski of S&D Polish Deli told us. Lupkowski has been in the pierogi game for almost 45 years, and has a keen eye for dumpling talent when he sees it. “Bacon isn’t traditionally something you see in a pierogi, but times are changing. Deep analytics, pitch-count limits and new ingredients. I think this young kid really has a shot, and the fans love him”.
Jalapeño Hannah raised plenty of eyebrows around the league this offseason when the spicy strudel announced she was starring in the hit musical “Empeñadas in Love”, which is currently touring around major cities in Central and South America. Despite her championship finish in 2018, and a close third-place tie with Oliver Onion last season, critics are beginning to think Hannah has lost focus.
“It’s like something you seen with Ronda Rousey when she got distracted from winning fights,” Strip District local Meyran Bogdanski commented. “They should just call her Hollywood Hannah now.”
Despite the doubters back home, Hannah’s strength and conditioning coach is confident that she will be in peak physical form when the 2020 baseball season begins. “People don’t realize the amount of training and choreography she’s endured just to be on stage at this high of a level”
Pittsburgh fans have been slow to warm up to the Italian expansion pierogi since she made her debut in 2017. After winning just a handful of races in her inaugural season, Pizza Penny followed it up with middle-of-the-pack finishes in 2018 and 2019. Odds makers seem to think the trend will continue this season.
People within the Penny camp are focusing on the Stromboli Sister’s public image, hoping that some fan excitement can help push her to the next level of competition. However, they’re fighting an uphill battle.
“It’s just not right,” concession stand worker Darlene McClouth told Jagoff Sports. “We used to serve pizza at one concession stand, and pierogis were a whole other thing. Why would you combine them into the same thing? Up is down and down is up I guess. What’s next? They want us to start putting popcorn on hotdog buns?”
It was a long and arduous offseason for Oliver Onion and the Mascot Player Association. After months of leading mascot negotiations for the 2021 collective bargaining agreement, Onion settled for what he called “less-than-ideal” vision insurance benefits. In what started as a bid for his own LASIK eye surgery, Onion set forth a proposal for the CBA that would have boosted mascot health benefits for the 2021 season and beyond.
Instead, the Mascot Racing League (MRL) countered with a tedious legal battle that lasted over 6 months beginning in August of 2019. Rumor has it that the MRL dragged out the process, knowing that the mascots would be unable to continue negotiations into their training schedules. Jagoff Sports reached out to Onion for comment, but his staff informed us that he’s not making public statements at this time.
It’s been over 5 years since the hometown favorite, (and North Side native) Sauerkraut Saul was relevant. Back in the days of Pirates’ playoff baseball, Saul took home three second place finishes in a row (2013-15), and many fans thought there would be more upside to follow. That certainly was not the case as Saul quickly fell out of contention over the past 4 seasons. Oddsmakers are anticipating another rebuilding season for Saul.
“We never want to say it’s a rebuilding year,” Saul told us while shooting a game of pool in the back room of his favorite hangout, Gooski’s. “I know a lot of people around here are worried that I’m only in it for the money, or that I’m not spending my resources wisely. That’s not true. Come down to PNC Park this summer and you’ll see, Saul is back.”
Vegas disagrees — posting some of the lowest odds for a pierogi we’ve seen since Cheese Chester was placed on the 15-day DL in 2014.
It comes as no surprise to pierogi race fans that Las Vegas refuses to accept bets on Potato Pete. In fact, we’re not even sure if Pete is competing this season. However, if you’re not familiar with the infamous history of Pete’s antics both on and off the field, then here’s a short recap:
2009: Potato Pete is fined $15,000 by the MRL (Mascot Racing League) for tackling Teddy Roosevelt during an inter-mascot squad competition
2014: Potato Pete comes out of retirement to win unprecedented 14 races in a row. Tests positive for MSG and other flavor enhancing substances.
2015: Potato Pete is suspended for using in-race “mechanical devices” to help gain an edge.
You can see why casinos in Vegas aren’t lining up to accept wagers on someone with such a bad history of cheating. We asked the MRL commissioner if Pete’s history of fixing races was comparable to any other franchise in sports. He hinted that there was one particular franchise in the NFL who has a history of cheating, but refused to comment on why sports books are still accepting bets for that particular team.
Guest Appearance Odds
Odds makers are also pushing out early prop bet odds on the guest appearances for those slated to make appearances in single races this season.
Wiz Khalifa: 14-1
Rap star Wiz Khalifa has been hitting the gym full-time over the past couple of years, and looks to make a bounce back from his last place finish in the race during the 2014 season.
James Connor: 45-1
The odds for Pittsburgh’s hometown hero are sliding more and more each week and injuries continue to put a damper on Connor’s hopes of winning the pierogi race this season.
Clint Hurdle: 80-1
With a couple of bad hips (or whatever his problem was), we’re both shocked that Clint is coming back to run, AND that he still has better odds than Peduto.
Bill Peduto: 160-1
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is given little chance of winning without bicycle lanes paved over the warning track.