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Tucupita Marcano Gets Lifetime Ban For Betting On Baseball, Four Others Get One-Year Suspensions

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The largest gambling scandal in baseball in decades resulted in four players receiving one-year suspensions from Major League Baseball and San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano receiving a lifelong ban for betting on the game on Tuesday.

According to the MLB, Marcano wagered more than $150,000 on baseball in 387 wagers between October 2022 and July through November 2022 through an authorized sportsbook. With 149 major league games under his belt, the 24-year-old Venezuelan became the first player to be permanently banned due to gambling in the history of the sport.

Pitcher Michael Kelly of the Oakland Athletics was given a one-year suspension for wagering on baseball while in the minor leagues. Additionally, infielder José Rodríguez of Philadelphia and pitchers Jay Groome of San Diego and Andrew Saalfrank of Arizona were also prohibited from wagering on big league games for a year. All four of those players made bets of less than $1,000. Rodríguez and Saalfrank were major league players once.

“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 baseball comes with a responsibility to refrain from engaging in certain types of behavior that are legal for other people.”

Marcano became the second athlete in North America to be banned for gaming in a short time. In April, the NBA handed a lifetime ban to Toronto’s Jontay Porter after it was determined he had given bettors access to private information and placed wagers on games, including ones in which the Raptors were supposed to lose.

Marcano is the first active major league player to be banned for life under the sport’s gambling laws, a tradition dating back to 1924 when New York Giants outfielder Jimmy O’Connell received the same punishment. In 1989, Pete Rose, the all-time leader in hits in baseball, accepted a lifetime ban following an investigation that found he had placed bets on Cincinnati Reds games while managing the team.

Marcano spent parts of the past three major league seasons with Pittsburgh and San Diego, which signed him as a teenager in 2016. He made his major league debut with the Padres in 2021 before they traded him to the Pirates later that year.

Marcano suffered a tear to his right ACL on July 24 and has not played since. Though he has not played for San Diego due to his knee injury, the Padres picked him up off waivers from Pittsburgh in November of last year.

Marcano only ever met the current Padres during spring training; neither new San Diego manager Mike Shildt nor most of the current team ever shared a dugout with him.

Before the Padres’ game against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, Shildt stated, “I got to know him as a person, and I think the person is a good one.”

“It’s something that baseball takes very seriously, as they should,” Shildt added. “There are always consequences to your actions. But in my understanding and my relationship with him, which is very limited, he’s a fine young man. We make mistakes in life, and I don’t think he’s running from them. He’s going to be punished for it. I just hope it doesn’t interrupt his life, because again, in talking to him, he’s a good guy, and we all make mistakes. He doesn’t need to be labeled or anything for one mistake.”

Major League Rule 21 stipulates that wagering on a baseball game in which a player, umpire, league official, or team employee is not required to perform could result in a one-year suspension and is posted in every clubhouse. If someone bets on a game where they have to perform, they will be banned for life.

An authorized sports betting provider reportedly alerted the MLB about the betting activity in March. Speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Tuesday, a person familiar with the investigation revealed that new monitoring procedures implemented with MLB and the sportsbook caused these wagers to be flagged for attention. This information was not disclosed.

All of the punished players denied having inside knowledge about their wagers or the games they gambled on to MLB; MLB claimed that their statements were consistent with information obtained from the sportsbook. None of the players participated in any games in which they placed bets.

The MLB listed all of the alleged wagers for every player in its announcement.

Marcano bet $87,319 on 387 baseball bets between October 16–23, 2022, and July 12–November 1, 2022, including 231 MLB wagers and international games. He played in 25 of those games while he was a major league player for the Pirates. He was getting medical attention at PNC Park last year, despite his injuries.

Marcano placed nearly all of his bets on game results, winning only 4.3% of his MLB wagers. He lost all of his parlay bets involving the pirates.

Marcano is a career. 217 hitter with five homers, 34 RBIs, and seven stolen bases, playing in both the infield and outfield.

“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 Pirates said in a statement.

The games featuring their designated teams were not bet on by the other four players.

A minor league player was assigned to Houston’s Triple-A Sugar Land farm team, and from October 5–17, 2021, Kelly placed ten bets on nine major league games. The wagers included over/unders on runs, outcomes, and the number of strikeouts a particular pitcher would record. The Astros played in three of the nine games in the major leagues. His wagers brought in a total of $99.22, and he won $28.30.

The 31-year-old Kelly last pitched for the A’s on Saturday against Atlanta, where he was 3-2 with a 2.59 ERA in 28 games this season. Over the last three seasons, the former first-round draft pick has made 46 appearances in games.

In a quick chat, Oakland manager Mark Kotsay expressed his wishes for Michael’s success.

“There’s an opportunity, with the year that he had, for Michael to have that chance and pitch in the big leagues again,” Kotsay added. “We’ll have to see what happens when that decision needs to be made when he has the opportunity to come off of a suspension. I do believe in people being given a second chance.”

Saalfrank, 26, pitched in 21 games for Arizona last year between the regular season and postseason, including three World Series games, and two this year before he was optioned to Triple-A Reno on May 1.

He placed 29 baseball bets from Sept. 9 through Oct. 29 in 2021 and on March 9, 2022, including 28 on MLB and one parlay on college baseball. He placed four bets on the big league Diamondbacks while on the injured list of their low-A farm team. His baseball bets totaled $445.87 on baseball, including $444.07 on MLB, and he lost $272.64 on MLB bets and $1.80 on the college wager. He won just five of 28 MLB bets, which included outcomes, runs, and pitcher strikeouts.

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said Saalfrank “made a bad decision,” and the suspension is “all anyone is talking about” in the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse.

“What I do know about is the human being,” Lovullo added. “I know Andrew is remorseful. He knows he made a mistake. I haven’t talked to him, but people have explained to me what he said, and he feels terrible, but he’s going to pay the correct consequences.”

This season, 23-year-old Rodríguez has been at Double-A Reading. On September 30, 2021, and between June 5 and July 30, 2022, he wagered 31 times on baseball, with 28 of those wagers on Major League Baseball and three on college ball. When he was assigned to the Chicago White Sox’s Double-A team in Birmingham, Alabama, that total included seven games against the team. The White Sox wagered on runs scored in two of the wagers, and outcomes in the other. His total baseball wager was $749.09, of which $724.09 came from parlay-related MLB wagers.

The 23-year-old Dominican, who was acquired by Philadelphia in April, according to manager Rob Thomson, is not someone he knows.

“I really can’t comment on it, other than I know that everyone in the major leagues and minor leagues is required to understand Rule 21, and that’s through Major League Baseball, the rules on gambling,” Thomson said.

From July 22, 2020, to July 24, 2021, Groome, a 25-year-old who had been placed on the minor league injured list since mid-April, wagered on 32 MLB teams, 24 of which were on the major league Boston Red Sox, while he was assigned to Boston’s High-A team in Greenville, South Carolina. He lost $433.54 after wagering $453.74 on 30 MLB games, with only two of his wagers yielding payouts, according to the sports details. He wagered with parlays.

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