“I don’t think anybody thinks it’s good for the game,’’ West says. “We’ve gone on for so many years without having this, so why now?’’
Money, of course.
“Sports betting happens,’’ Commissioner Rob Manfred told Yahoo Finance this spring. “Whether it’s legalized here or not, it’s happening out there. So I think the question for sports is really, ‘Are we better off in a world where we have a nice, strong, uniform, federal regulation of gambling that protects the integrity of sports, provides sports with the tools to ensure that there is integrity in the competition…or are we better off closing our eyes to that and letting it go on as illegal gambling?’
“And that’s a debatable point.’’
MLB realizes that jumping into bed with the gambling world can be profitable. From "integrity fees" to partnerships with casinos to, perhaps, their own gambling windows at the ballpark, assuring that action-loving fans stay in their seats until the ninth inning.
In a sport that is generating more than $10 billion annually, does baseball really want to go down this road?
Does the industry really want their players subjected to death threats when they may be playing on an injured ankle, but StatCast said they had an 80% chance of making that play?
Does it want integrity questioned on virtually every single pitch, knowing that the home-plate umpire can affect a game’s outcome more than any official in any sport?
Will any player, manager and umpire be above suspicion if they happen to have a poor performance?
Sure, maybe baseball’s annual $4 million average salary will be enough of a deterrent to prevent players from being tempted to go to the dark side, but money woes can make people do some crazy things. And with the most arcane bets subject to action, mining sources for information – be they part-time clubhouse attendants or other support staff – will have greater value.
MLB is powerless to stop the betting. The Supreme Court had its say, and not even Manfred’s "best interests of the game" clause can trump that.
Yet, MLB can still ask itself, is it worth the risk to tacitly endorse gambling merely for a cut of the action?
Maybe, it’s a question more suited for Pete Rose – you know, the guy who is permanently banned for gambling on baseball.
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