MLB Bans Player for Life for Betting on Baseball

News & Politics

San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano was banned from baseball for life for betting on the sport, and four other players were suspended for one year. It’s being called the worst betting scandal in baseball in 100 years.

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Marcano made 387 legal bets on baseball with a sports book totaling more than $150,000 in October 2022 and from last July through November. 

He wasn’t very good at it. He bet almost exclusively on the outcome of Pirates games, which was the team he was playing for at the time. He won only 4.3% of his bets “and lost all of his parlay bets involving the Pirates, winning just 4.3% of all of his MLB-related bets,” according to the Associated Press.

“The strict enforcement of Major League Baseball’s rules and policies governing gambling conduct is a critical component of upholding our most important priority: protecting the integrity of our games for the fans,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “The longstanding prohibition against betting on Major League Baseball games by those in the sport has been a bedrock principle for over a century. We have been clear that the privilege of playing in baseball comes with a responsibility to refrain from engaging in certain types of behavior that are legal for other people.”

Along with Marcano, four other players were banned for one year for betting on baseball.

Oakland Athletics pitcher Michael Kelly was suspended for one year for betting on baseball while in the minor leagues and a three minor leaguers also were banned for one year for betting on big league games: pitchers Jay Groome of San Diego and Andrew Saalfrank of Arizona, and infielder José Rodríguez of Philadelphia. Each of those four players wagered under $1,000.

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In 1924, New York Giants outfielder Jimmy O’Connell was banned for life for betting on baseball. And Pete Rose, one of the best players in Major League history, agreed to a lifetime ban after it was proved he bet on his Cincinnati Reds team while managing. 

In the early part of the 20th century, gambling was as much an attraction in baseball as the game itself. It was always a question if a player’s bad performance was bad play or the result of tanking to make the bettors rich.

Gambling was nearly driven out of the game after the 1919 Black Sox scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox allegedly threw some games in the World Series and were banned for life. Defenders of some of the players, especially Buck Weaver and Joe Jackson, insisted that they played up to their full potential and should not have been punished. 

The integrity of the game had been destroyed. The team owners brought in a retired judge, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, to save the game. He banned the players for life even though they had been acquitted of accepting bribes. He put in the rule that Marcano is now paying the price for. He cracked down with an iron fist on other players as well. In hindsight, it was necessary to bring integrity back to the game.

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Under rule 21, “Any player, umpire or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.” There’s not much wriggle room there. There wasn’t supposed to be. But the players believed Landis was arrogant and high-handed and complained bitterly about his actions.

This was a scandal waiting to happen. And it’s not going to be the last one, I guarantee it. 

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