Major League Baseball needs to be careful where they step because they’re approaching a slippery slope.
The slope is the sports game.
Two questions immediately come to mind. What is MLB doing about banned hit king Pete Rose? As team-sponsored gaming becomes more ubiquitous, what safeguards are in place to protect the integrity of the game?
Let’s get something straight from the start. While I don’t bet on the outcome of games – or any of the inner workings and top sports – I don’t pass moral judgment on gambling. If people want to bet money on the number of strokes Vladamir Gurrerro Jr.’s homer this season, betting on how many runs the Yankees will score against the Red Sox in a weekend series, or getting the better of how many games the Rockies will win this season, it is their business.
According to Forbes, Americans bet a record $57.22 billion on sports last season. Sports betting is legal in 30 states (including Colorado) and the District of Columbia. It’s America’s pastime.
But with the explosion of sports betting comes trouble, and I’m not talking about those who squeal “And… Do… It… Rain!” Television commercials.
Let’s start with Rose, baseball’s all-time leader who received a lifetime ban from baseball in 1989 when an investigation revealed he bet on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds. He accepted a permanent spot on baseball’s ineligible list, and two years later the Hall of Fame voted to exclude everyone from the permanently ineligible list.
You can bet “Charlie Hustle” noticed that a few days ago Charlie Blackmon became the first active player in Major League Baseball to endorse a bookmaker.
“I just arrived at the wrong time” Rose told USA TODAY Sports. “I was 30 too soon.”
Rose also said, “Baseball is pretty much in bed with the game now.”
Rockies star outfielder Blackmon has partnered with Colorado-based MaximBet. Blackmon will be an ambassador in marketing campaigns, promotions, social media content and attend various events for the online bookmaker.
There is a lot of money to be won through gambling, and MLB, its partners and its players are not about to miss the jackpot.
Previously, marketing and sponsorship deals with legal sports betting were limited to MLB and team entities, but prohibited to players and coaches. However, the new collective agreement now allows them to participate.
In a recent interview on ESPN’s SportsCenterMLB commissioner Rob Manfred raved about the future of in-play betting.
âWe see it primarily as a form of increasing fan engagement. It’s an additional way for our fans to interact with the game,â Manfred said. âI think in-play betting is going to be a important element. I think if you talk to experts in the field, they don’t see outcome betting as a major growth area.
âIt’s actually in-play betting, called prop betting, that’s going to be the area of ââgrowth. And most of these bets will take place on mobile devices.
And yet Rose, now 81, is still barred from even being considered for the Hall of Fame. Alleged steroid users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have at least been lucky enough to be on the ballot for 10 years.
Listen, I understand. Rose has committed baseball’s mortal sin of betting on games, even though Rose still doesn’t seem to understand what he did wrong.
âI bet on my own team to win. If I was here today, no one would think anything about it. Rose told Sportico.
MLB, as it should, still prohibits players from betting on baseball, but Rose argues he’s been punished long enough.
“Look, I (expletive),” Rose told USA Today. âI screwed up when I did what I did, okay? I can’t bring it back.
“However, I wish baseball would just give me the opportunity to be on the (Hall of Fame) ballot. No, put me in it, let the writers decide. I’ve been suspended since ’89, 33 years ago. That’s a long time. And to be honest with you, it probably cost me $100 million.
“I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that I was punished quite severely.”
I think he is right. Allow the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to vote for Rose.
And, fine, allow Blackmon and other players to connect to sports betting if they wish. But MLB better watch the situation carefully.
Blackmon is a man of integrity and would never bet on baseball I’m sure. But with more and more money being poured into sports betting, the temptation for insiders to bet will only grow.
Clubbies, low-paid assistant coaches, and other staff will have inside information on injuries, clubhouse clashes, hangovers, lineups, and more.