New Jersey legislators call MLB’s request for cut of gambling proceeds ‘laughable’

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As we’ve noted in multiple posts in recent weeks, the legalization of sports gambling across the country is imminent. Indeed, it could come as early as next week, once the Supreme Court rules on the case brought by New Jersey to overturn the decades-old sports gambling ban.

As we’ve also noted, MLB and the other leagues are pressuring states to get a cut of the proceeds once gambling is legalized. Their argument — which is spurious in the extreme — is that the leagues will have a much harder time maintaining the integrity of their sports once sinful gambling comes out of the dark and into the light. As such, they argue, it’s morally incumbent upon the states to throw some of that money to the leagues so they can, I dunno, hire chaperones or den mothers or something. It’s all very vague, but the leagues are calling their sought-after cut “integrity fees,” and they’re lobbying state legislatures hard to get the new gambling laws written to include them.

Last month I wrote about how in West Virginia, Rob Manfred’s effort to get that cut wasn’t going so well. Today at NJ.com, Brent Johnson writes about how things are going in New Jersey:

[New Jersey] legislative leaders have balked at the leagues’ request for a fee, three sources with knowledge of the situation told NJ Advance Media. One source called the proposal “laughable.”

This is shocking. I mean, what are the odds that a Park Avenue lawyer couldn’t walk into New Jersey and successfully shake down guys for gambling money? Woulda thought that’d go super successfully, actually. I’ve gotta rethink everything TV and movies have taught me about trying to get gambling money out of dudes from Jersey.

Laughs aside, in the end I suspect Manfred’s gambit will pay off in more places that it doesn’t, mostly because public officials have always been sort of star struck and strangely intimidated by professional sports figures. Many states will kick back some of that gambling loot to the leagues and the leagues, in turn, will kick it back to the team owners, because that’s where all of the money goes, always.

But I do hope state legislators continue to at least make it hard and somewhat embarrassing for Manfred and his friends to get their share. In the words of noted gambling expert Bernie Bernbaum,  “I wanna watch you squirm; I wanna see you sweat a little, and when you smart me… it ruins it.”

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

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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.