NEW YORK - MARCH 1:  A man holds his betting slips and money at an Off-Track Betting (OTB) parlor in Midtown Manhattan March 1, 2008 in New York City. The board that oversees New York City's OTB operations voted last week to close all 71 parlors by mid-June since the city does not want to subsidize the gambling outposts. State officials are contesting the ruling.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Rob Manfred seems pretty gung-ho about legalizing sports gambling

22 Comments

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.

Mike Matheny tried to have his own son picked off at first base

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 26: Manager Mike Matheny #26 of the St Louis Cardinals looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 26, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks 3-1. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Ralph Freso/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has a son, Tate, who was selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2015 draft out of Missouri State University. Tate, an outfielder, spent the 2015 season with Low-A Lowell and last year played at Single-A Greenville.

Now in spring camp with the Red Sox, Tate is trying to continue his ascent through the minor league system. On Monday afternoon in a game against his father’s Cardinals, Tate pinch-ran after Xander Bogaerts singled to center field to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. Mike wasn’t about to let his son catch any breaks. Via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

That’s right: Mike tried to have his own son picked off at first base. That’s just cold, man.

Tate was erased shortly thereafter when Mookie Betts grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Tate got his first at-bat in the seventh and struck out.

Do we really need metal detectors at spring training facilities?

sloan-metal-detector-1
Craig Calcaterra
7 Comments

MESA, AZ — Over the past couple of seasons we’ve, more or less, gotten used to the sight of metal detectors at major league ballparks. And the sight of long lines outside of them, requiring us to get to the park a bit earlier or else risk missing some of the early inning action.

Like so much else over the past fifteen and a half years, we’re given assurances by people in charge that it’s for “security,” and we alter our lives and habits accordingly. This despite the fact that security experts have argued that it’s a mostly useless and empty exercise in security theater. More broadly, they’ve correctly noted that it’s a cynical and defeatist solution in search of a problem. But hey, welcome to 21st Century America.

And welcome metal detectors to spring training:

scottsdale-metal-detector

Beginning this year, Major League Baseball is mandating that all spring training facilities use some form of metal detection, be it walkthrough detectors like the ones shown here at the Giants’ park in Scottsdale or wands like the one being used on the nice old lady above at the Cubs facility in Mesa.

I asked Major League Baseball why they are requiring them in Florida and Arizona. They said that the program was not implemented in response to any specific incident or threat at a baseball game, but are “precautionary measures.” They say that metal detection “has not posed significant inconvenience or taken away from the ballpark experience” since being required at big league parks in 2015 and believe it will work the same way at the spring training parks.They caution fans, however, that, as the program gets underway, they should allow for more time for entry.

And that certainly makes sense:

sloan-metal-detector-2

I took this photo a few minutes after the home plate gate opened at Sloan Park yesterday afternoon. As I noted this morning, the Cubs sell out every game in their 15,000-seat park. That’s a lot of wanding and, as a result, it could lead to a lot of waiting.

But the crowds here all seemed to get through the line pretty quickly. Perhaps because the wanding is not exactly a time-consuming affair:

Not every security guard was as, well, efficient as this guy. But hardly anyone walking through the gate was given a particularly thorough go-over. I saw several hundred people go through the procedure soon after the gates opened and most of them weren’t scanned bellow the level of their hip pockets. I went back a little closer to game time when most people were already in the park and the lines were shorter. The procedure was a bit more deliberate then, though not dramatically so. This is all new for the security people too — spring training just started — and it’s fair to say that they are trying hard to balance the needs of their new precautionary measures against the need to keep the lines moving and the fans happy.

On this day at least it seemed that fan happiness was winning. I spoke with several fans after they got through the gates and none of them offered much in the way of complaint about being wanded. The clear consensus: it’s just what we do now. We have metal detectors and cameras at schools and places of work and security procedures have been ratcheted up dramatically across the board. That we now have them at ballparks is not surprising to anyone, really. It’s just not a thing anyone thinks to question.

And so they don’t.