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Rob Manfred seems pretty gung-ho about legalizing sports gambling

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Rob Manfred was at a business summit put on by Yahoo yesterday when the topic of legalized sports gambling came up. Baseball’s commissioner had this to say:

“There is this buzz out there in terms of people feeling that there may be an opportunity here for additional legalized sports betting,” Manfred said. “We are reexamining our stance on gambling. It’s a conversation that’s ongoing with the owners.”

He went on, in his typical Manfredian way, of clearly signaling his views on the matter in a manner that might allow him to later say he has no set opinion. The upshot, though: everyone’s gambling already, so isn’t it better if it was legalized and regulated? One might surmise that he, like other sports executives like NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who has signaled his eagerness for legalized sports gambling, are also wondering how they could get a piece of that sweet, sweet action, but I suppose that’s a separate discussion.

Major League Baseball’s views have certainly evolved over the years in this regard. In 2012, Major League Baseball — then led by Bud Selig — sued in an effort to block legalized sports wagering in New Jersey, saying it would raise doubts about the integrity of the game. I guess they got all of that sorted out in the past five years.

I tend to think Manfred is right that people are gambling anyway, so why not bring some of it into the light. I’m not personally a gambler and, though many people gamble responsibly and get enjoyment out of it, I tend to think that gambling has a negative net impact on society. Prohibitions, however, tend to be self-defeating and ineffective. Better to regulate a potentially harmful activity in a manner that discourages it than to engage in the folly of thinking people won’t do it if you make it illegal across the board.

As for the baseball-specific angle: the harm of players throwing games like the 1919 White Sox is far less now than it once was given the lower financial incentives in play. Players make a lot more money now and the cost of getting them to risk their careers and integrity over a ballgame or seven seems pretty prohibitive. I’d be more worried about umpires, managers and coaches and, if sports gambling was legalized everywhere, I would hope MLB would be sure to increase its scrutiny of its people’s activities in this regard.

As for baseball gambling in general: have fun, everyone, but know that anyone who bets on a single game or even a single series needs to have their head examined. Baseball is way too random for that.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.