MLB bans Tucupita Marcano for sports betting violations; 4 other players disciplined

Major League Baseball announced disciplinary action Tuesday against five players for betting on baseball, the latest indication that widespread legalization of sports gambling and MLB’s promotion of gambling-based advertisers Chance could increase the prevalence of gambling among players, which has long remained out of sight. a boil.

San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano became the first person to be declared permanently ineligible for baseball betting since Pete Rose in 1989 after an MLB investigation found Marcano had bet more than 87 $000 on MLB games, including 25 Pittsburgh Pirates games in which he was injured. the major league roster.

The other four players – Oakland Athletics pitcher Michael Kelly, Philadelphia Phillies minor league infielder José Rodríguez, Padres minor league pitcher Jay Groome and Diamondbacks minor league pitcher Arizona Andrew Saalfrank – were ruled ineligible for a year after an investigation found they had bet on MLB games. , Also.

“Strict enforcement of Major League Baseball’s rules and policies governing the conduct of gambling is an essential part of upholding our most important priority: protecting the integrity of our games for fans. The long-standing ban on betting on Major League Baseball games by players in the sport has been a bedrock principle for more than a century,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

“We have made it clear that with the privilege of playing baseball comes a responsibility to refrain from certain types of behavior that are legal for other people. Since the Supreme Court’s decision opened the door to legalizing sports betting, we have worked with licensed sports betting operators and other third parties to put ourselves in a better position from an integrity perspective through to the transparency that a regulated sports betting system can offer. MLB will continue to invest heavily in integrity monitoring, educational programs and outreach initiatives in an effort to ensure strict compliance with this fundamental rule of our game.”

MLB, which was quick to allow its teams and national broadcasters to air sports betting odds and ads during games once the Supreme Court cleared the way for legal sports betting in 2018, insisted Tuesday in a press release that none of the players involved influenced the outcomes of the games they bet on and that “the betting data does not suggest that the outcomes of the baseball games they bet on have been compromised, influenced or manipulated in any way.”

The press release explains that in March of this year, a legal sports betting operation reported the past bets of MLB minor and major league players, who obtained the data on their bets. MLB has long been clear about its position on sports betting: Players can bet on other sports as long as they do so through legal betting operations, but they cannot bet on baseball under any circumstances. .

MLB rules state: “Any player, umpire, official or employee of a club or league who bets any amount on a baseball game in which the bettor is under no obligation to play shall be declared ineligible for one year. » Meanwhile, “any player, umpire, official or employee of a club or league, who bets any amount whatsoever on a baseball game for which the bettor has a duty to play, will be declared permanently ineligible”.

Marcano last played in the major leagues in July, when an ACL injury ended his season with the Pirates. In total, MLB discovered that he bet more than $150,000 on baseball starting in October 2022 and lasting through the summer of 2023. This was during that summer, while he was listed on the injured list, but was still receiving treatment at PNC Park, that he placed 25 bets. on the Pirates. He did not appear in any of these games.

The other four players did not bet on the teams they were registered for at the time, although some did bet on games played by their major league affiliates while they were minors. When Kelly was a minor league player in the Houston Astros system in 2021, he bet on the outcomes of games, the number of runs the major league team would score and the number of strikeouts pitchers had, according to MLB. These bets totaled $99.22. Kelly, who has since appeared in 46 major league games with the Phillies, Cleveland Guardians and Athletics, including 28 this year for Oakland, was not involved in any of the games he bet on, the company said. MLB.

The same was true for Saalfrank, a left-hander who appeared in three World Series games for the Diamondbacks as a rookie in 2023. The MLB investigation found that Saalfrank bet on MLB games 28 times while in the lower levels of Arizona’s minor league system. Four of those games involved the Diamondbacks, according to MLB. In total, he wagered approximately $450 on MLB-related bets.

Rodríguez, who appeared in one game with the Chicago White Sox before being acquired by the Phillies before this season, placed seven bets on the White Sox while a member of their 2022 Class AA team. In total, he bet about $725 on 28 bets. on MLB games.

Groome has yet to make his major league debut, but was discovered to have bet on Boston Red Sox games while a member of their high-profile Class A affiliate in 2020 and 2021. According to MLB investigation, he wagered $453.74 on 30 MLB-related bets. .

The suspensions come as MLB continues to investigate former Los Angeles Angels infielder David Fletcher after his name was revealed in connection with Mathew Bowyer, the alleged bookie with whom Ippei Mizuhara, former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, allegedly racked up millions in debt that he tried to pay off with Ohtani’s money. Mizuhara appeared in a Los Angeles court Tuesday and pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud charges that carry a maximum sentence of more than 30 years in prison. Subsequently, MLB released a statement clearing Ohtani of any professional misconduct.

“Based on the thoroughness of the federal investigation that was made public, the information collected by MLB, and the resolution of the criminal proceeding without contest, MLB considers Shohei Ohtani to be a victim of fraud and this matter has been classified,” he said in a statement. .

MLB does not typically announce investigations as soon as they are opened, so it is unclear whether other gambling investigations are also underway.

But the fact that Marcano’s name will appear alongside Rose’s on the list of people banned for betting on baseball is a reminder of the seriousness of this offense in the eyes of MLB and Rose’s complicated place in history. baseball. Rose had long since become MLB’s all-time winning leader by the time he was accused of betting on 52 of his team’s games while managing the Cincinnati Reds in 1987.

Rose, who allegedly had control over in-game decisions that could have helped him win bets if he had chosen to make them, has denied the allegations. But he ultimately agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989 in exchange for then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti not releasing any formal findings about the extent of his gambling activities.

Because he was declared permanently ineligible, Rose was not inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining some of the corrupt stars of the steroid era as controversial exclusions. This exclusion has become a more frequent topic of discussion in recent years as MLB has embraced sports betting.

Now, 35 years later, MLB has issued another lifetime ban — one that, because Marcano has 88 hits to his credit instead of 4,256, probably won’t seem as historically significant. But it’s worth noting that Tuesday’s punishment was actually unprecedented. The 1919 Chicago Black Sox were the last group of players punished en masse for gambling violations. These players, of course, were accused of throwing the World Series. So far, MLB says, it has no evidence of such manipulation of its games.

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