MLB owns a stake in daily fantasy sports

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You may be familiar with the relatively new business segment of daily fantasy sports. Run by companies such as FanDuel* or DraftKings, players of daily fantasy draft a team of actual athletes who then score fantasy points according to set scoring rules specific to the site. As far as that goes, it’s just like regular fantasy sports.

The difference: instead of having your team all season and trading with other players in a league, the daily fantasy sports player plays his team for just one day. Generally, you pay an entry fee or set up an account and collect winnings at the end of the day. In this way it has an awful lot in common with sports gambling but, based on certain rules and definitions contained in federal law, it is not classified as gambling. It’s legal in 45 states as well. While the segment was just invented in 2009, it’s a huge, huge business which is growing rapidly. At present, Over 3 million people play daily fantasy games.

Sports leagues have taken notice. And not, as one may have assumed several years ago, because it has some elements of gambling to it and the leagues view it as a threat. Rather, the leagues have viewed it as a hot business with which to get involved. From the Washington Post:

In 2013, with no fanfare, Major League Baseball purchased a financial stake in DraftKings. Last summer, the NBA announced a partnership with FanDuel that, according to a person familiar with the terms, gave the league an ownership stake greater than 2.5 percent of the company.

Which means when you plunk down your money on a FanDuel fantasy contest, a small portion trickles back to the real league.

The article quotes one sports law expert as saying “Depending on how broad your definition of gambling is the NBA runs a sports book.”

Maybe that’s putting it too strongly — again, federal law views this differently because actual game outcomes are not wagered on, even if individual performances are, however indirectly. But it is an interesting development, particularly for baseball, which has always been way, way, way more wary of gambling than any other sport.

Just another data point to throw into the general conversation about baseball and gambling. A conversation which seems to come up more and more often these days. And one which, it seems, is turning away from the idea of sports leagues keeping gambling away and more towards figuring out how to get in on some of the action.

*Full disclosure: NBC has an ownership interest in FanDuel and FanDuel has, in the past, advertised on HardballTalk and other NBC Sports sites. 

The umps have dropped their Ian Kinsler protest

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Over the weekend the World Umpires Association — the umpire’s union —  launched a protest in response to what it feels is Major League Baseball’s failure to adequately address the “escalating attacks” on the men in blue. They were specifically upset that Ian Kinsler didn’t get suspended for his remarks in which he said that Angel Hernandez should get out of the umpiring business because he’s terrible. Apparently to umpires truth is no defense. In any event, they wore white wristbands Saturday night as a sign of solidarity or whatever.

Now that’s over, it seems. At least for the time being. The Association released this statement yesterday afternoon:

“Today, WUA members agreed to the Commissioner’s proposal to meet with the Union’s Governing Board to discuss the concerns on which our white wristband protest is based. We appreciate the Commissioner’s willingness to engage seriously on verbal attacks and other important issues that must be addressed. To demonstrate our good faith, MLB Umpires will remove the protest white wristbands pending the requested meeting.”

As many noted over the weekend — most notably Emma Span of Sports Illustrated — this protest was, at best, tone deaf. While officials are, obviously, due proper respect, a player jawing at an umpire is neither unprecedented nor very serious compared to, well, almost anything that goes on in the game or in society. At a time when people are literally taking to the streets to protest white supremacy, Neo-Nazis and the KKK, asking folks to spare thoughts for some people who sometimes have to take guff over ball and strike calls is not exactly a cause that is going to draw a ton of sympathy. And that’s before you address the fact that the umpires are not innocent when it comes to stoking the animosity between themselves and the players.

I wouldn’t expect to hear too much more out of this other than, perhaps, a relatively non-committal statement from Major League Baseball and a relatively detail-free declaration of victory by the umpires after their meeting.

 

Minor league teams prepare for a “total eclipse of the park”

Salem Volcanoes
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The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are a class-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Today, the path of totality of the big solar eclipse we’re not supposed to look at will pass right through the ballpark in which they play. What’s better: the Volcanoes are playing a game against the Hillsboro Hops as it happens.

This was by design: the team’s owner requested this home game when the schedule was made up two years ago specifically to market the heck out of the eclipse. They’re starting the game at 9:30 this morning, Pacific time, in order to maximize the fun. Spectators will receive commemorative eclipse safety glasses to wear. The game will be delayed when the eclipse hits and a NASA scientist named Noah Petro, who is from the area, will talk to the crowd about what is going on.

Salem-Keizer isn’t the only minor league game affected, by the way. There are six games in all which will feature a “total eclipse of the park.” Turn around, bright eyes.

There are no home MLB games going on in the path of totality, but MLB has put together a helpful guide in order to maximize your baseball and eclipse pleasure. If you line up some good beer with that you’l have your very own national pastime syzygy.