U.S. Sports League Issues Lifetime Ban To Player, Suspends Four Others

June 5, 2024
Major League Baseball issued five suspensions on Tuesday to players found to have bet on baseball, including the first lifetime ban the league has issued for betting since the infamous ban of its all-time hits leader 35 years ago.

Major League Baseball (MLB) issued five suspensions on Tuesday (June 4) to players found to have bet on baseball, including the first lifetime ban the league has issued for betting since the infamous ban of its all-time hits leader 35 years ago.

Tucupita Marcano, a player for the San Diego Padres, was placed on MLB’s permanently ineligible list after a league investigation found that he placed 387 bets on baseball in 2022 and 2023 for more than $150,000.

Four other players, including one other major league player and three minor league players, received one-year suspensions, the league announced Tuesday.

After being notified by a legal sports-betting operator in March 2024 that it had identified activity from accounts connected to players, a league investigation found that 231 of Marcano’s bets were on MLB-related events, and 25 included wagers on the Pittsburgh Pirates, the MLB team Marcano played for in 2022 and 2023. 

MLB said Marcano did not play in any of the games he wagered on, as all of the Pirates-related bets were placed after he suffered a season-ending knee injury on July 24, 2023, and was on the team’s injured list.

The league said that there was no evidence to suggest that any of the MLB games that any of the players bet on were compromised, and noted that almost all of Marcano’s Pirates bets were on the Pirates winning, or on runs scored over/unders.

MLB also noted that Marcano’s bets were “generally” parlays, that he lost all of his Pirates-related parlays, and only won 4.3 percent of his MLB bets.

Under major league rules, players who are found to have bet on any game “in which the bettor has a duty to perform” shall be found permanently ineligible, while players who bet on any baseball game “with which the bettor has no duty to perform” are subject to a one-year suspension.

“We are extremely disappointed of Tucupita’s actions and are fully supportive of Major League Baseball’s ruling," the Pirates wrote in a statement. "The Pirates, along with MLB, Players Association, and every Club, work to ensure all involved within our game are aware of the rules and policies around gambling.

"While the thorough investigation revealed no evidence of any games being compromised, influenced, or manipulated in any way in this case, protecting the integrity of our game is paramount.”

The league has not issued a lifetime ban for gambling since the 1989 ban issued to Pete Rose, the league’s all-time leader in hits, for wagers he placed while playing and managing the Cincinnati Reds.

Rose has since petitioned for reinstatement on multiple occasions, which would also allow him to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but the requests have been rejected.

“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,” said commissioner Rob Manfred 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,” he continued. “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.”

The other major league player to be suspended was Oakland Athletics pitcher Michael Kelly, who placed ten bets on MLB games while he was a minor league player in 2021 for a total of $99.

The bets included three bets on the Houston Astros, the major league team whose minor league system Kelly was playing for at the time.

Minor league players Jay Groome, Jose Rodriguez, and Andrew Saalfrank also received one-year suspensions.

Groome, a pitcher for a minor league affiliate of the San Diego Padres, placed 32 MLB-related bets in 2020 and 2021, including 24 on the Boston Red Sox, the major league parent he played for at the time.

Rodriguez, an infielder in the system of the Philadelphia Phillies, placed 31 bets on baseball, including 28 on MLB while he played for a Chicago White Sox minor league team in 2021 and 2022.

Saalfrank, a pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system, placed 28 bets on major league games, including four bets including the Diamondbacks in 2021 and 2022.

Groome wagered about $454 on his bets, while Rodriguez wagered $749 and Saalfrank wagered $446. None of the players are appealing their suspensions, the league said.

“Since the Supreme Court decision opened the door to legalized 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 the transparency that a regulated sports-betting system can provide,” Manfred said. 

“MLB will continue to invest heavily in integrity monitoring, educational programming and awareness initiatives with the goal of ensuring strict adherence to this fundamental rule of our game.”

The league also announced that it had cleared Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani of any wrongdoing after a league investigation that was brought on by allegations that his interpreter had wagered hundreds of millions of dollars with an illegal California bookmaker and wired money from Ohtani's bank account to cover his debts.

Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani's interpreter, pled guilty Tuesday in federal court to bank and tax fraud charges, and the league released a statement shortly afterward clearing Ohtani.

“Based on the thoroughness of the federal investigation that was made public, the information MLB collected, and the criminal proceeding being resolved without being contested, MLB considers Shohei Ohtani a victim of fraud and this matter has been closed,” the league said.

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