Players Association releases a statement laying claim to gambling revenue

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We’ve talked a great deal about Major League Baseball’s newfound interest in sports gambling. To bring you up to speed in case you forgot, sports gambling is illegal in every state except Nevada, but a case was argued in front of the Supreme Court late last year that will likely overturn that law, opening the door for legalized sports gambling everywhere. In anticipation of that decision, which could come any day now, a lot of states are drafting laws to implement and regulate sports gambling so that they can be ready to go soon as it’s legalized.

While sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, had long been on record opposing legalized sports betting, they’ve recently changed their tune because (a) it seems inevitable that we’ll have sports betting soon; and (b) if we’re gonna have it, they want to make money off of it too. To that end, MLB and the other leagues are pressuring states to get a cut of the proceeds. I discussed all of the ins-and-outs of that here last month.

Today the sports unions, including the Major League Baseball Players Association, released a statement in which they made it clear that, if the leagues are going to get in on the gambling gravy train, so too should the players:

It’s not all about wanting a cut, of course. Those comments about the “costs” are legitimate, I think. Players’ medical records and other stuff is going to become part of the vested financial interests of a lot more people than they currently are once gambling is legalized, for example. Make no mistake, however, this is mostly about claiming a cut of whatever the leagues are able to claim from gambling proceeds wherever it’s legalized.

As I argued last month, I’m skeptical of any claim by the sports leagues on state gambling revenue. It seems like a shakedown to me, and the fact that Rob Manfred and the other commissioners are using super disingenuous arguments in order to stake their claim should set off your b.s. alarm.

That said, if the leagues are going to realize gambling revenue — and it sure seems like they are, thanks to their high-powered lobbying operation — it stands to reason that the players should get some of it too. That money is 100% a function of their athletic exploits and there is no coherent argument Rob Manfred or the 30 owners can make that entitles them to it that does not also justify sharing it with the players.

Either way, the unions are smart to stake a claim here. The last time there was a novel revenue stream of substantial size in baseball was when the owners got together and created MLBAM, baseball’s internet operation. At the time, it was 100% a function of baseball, with ballplayers’ highlights and statistics forming the foundation and proof-of-concept for what became a multi-billion dollar business the owners just sold to Disney. The players missed out on that because they did not negotiate a stake in it at the bargaining table in 2002 or beyond, when they could’ve. Once it grew beyond baseball to include all manner of other entertainment and video products, the ship had sailed.

They appear to be unwilling to make the same mistake again. That’s smart. Now let’s see if they can get that cut they want.


Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.