Major League Baseball (MLB) has taken enforcement actions against five players across four teams for individual violations of its betting rules.

The most notable disciplinary action has been issued against Tucupita Marcano, an infielder and outfielder for San Diego Padres. Marcano has been banned for life from playing professional baseball.

Marcano’s Padres teammate Jay Groome, a pitcher, has also been disciplined, although MLB stated that the charges against all five players were unrelated. 

In addition to the Padres’ players, Philadelphia Phillies infielder José Rodríguez, Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitcher Andrew Saalfrank and Oakland Athletics‘ pitcher Michael Kelly have also been disciplined.

MLB Commissioner of Baseball, Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said: “The strict enforcement of MLB’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. 

“The longstanding prohibition against betting on MLB 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 behaviour that are legal for other people.”

All five players were found to have violated the MLB’s Under Major League Rule 21 on betting. The penalties against Groome, Rodríguez, Saalfrank and Kelly are all considerably less harsh than the lifetime ban against Marcano, however, with all banned for one year.

This is because the rule sets out different standards for players, umpires and club officials who bet on games in which they are involved, and those who bet on games in which they are not participating.

As Marcano placed bets on Pittsburgh Pirates during which time he was on the team’s injury list, he violated the first section of this rule, justifying his lifetime ban in the eyes of the MLB.

The bans may stir some debate in the US due to the extensive partnerships that now exist across the four major leagues, including the MLB. Since the repeal of PASPA in 2018, various clubs and leagues have sought to capitalise on the revenue opportunities posed by sponsorship deals with bookmakers.

The MLB, for example, has partnered with BetMGM – one of the three biggest sportsbooks in the US after FanDuel and DraftKings – as has Marcano’s former team, Pirates

Collaborations have gone beyond marketing, however, with clubs and the league also embarking on player education partnerships, and working to protect sports integrity. The MLB detailed that the five players’ betting activities were uncovered following a joint-investigation with a licensed betting operator.

Manfred, Jr continued: “Since the Supreme Court decision opened the door to legalised 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. 

“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.”

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