MGM Resorts named first-ever ‘Official Gaming Partner of MLB’

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Major League Baseball has, historically, been as anti-gambling as a business can be. Indeed, one can argue that modern baseball would not exist if it were not for its strong reaction to gambling in the wake of the Black Sox scandal in 1919.

The Black Sox led to the creation of the Commissioner’s Office which led to a much more unified ownership group which shaped the business and competitive landscape for years. It also led to the imposition of the harshest anti-gambling rules of any sport, with players being barred completely from gambling under penalty of a permanent ban from the game. Major League Baseball has, as you know, permanently banned its all-time hit leader as a result of it. It even temporarily banned two of its greatest ever players for a couple of years — Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays — for merely associating with casinos. As recently 2012, Bud Selig and Major League Baseball sued in the State of New Jersey to block legalized gambling from expanding outside the State of Nevada.

Things have changed rather radically in a very short period of time, however. Casino and gambling sponsorship is commonplace in ballparks. The league partnered with one of those daily fantasy sites which is, despite what they want to call it, are gambling websites. More recently, once they realized they were going to be on the wrong side of the decision in the New Jersey case, MLB and the other leagues switched sides and have worked hard to try to get a cut of legalized gambling in various states. We’ve talked A LOT about that over the past year. This partnership, then, should not be seen as a major shock, even if it might make Judge Landis roll over in his grave.

As for the specifics of the partnership, I’ll turn it over to Mr. Press Release:

As an official sponsor of Major League Baseball, MGM Resorts will domestically promote its brand and gaming options across MLB’s digital and broadcast platforms, including MLB Network, MLB.com, the MLB At Bat app and additional fan engagement offerings to be jointly developed.

MGM Resorts will be identified as an MLB-Authorized Gaming Operator and utilize MLB’s official statistics feed, on a non-exclusive basis, throughout its digital and live domestic sports gaming options.  MLB will also make enhanced statistics available to MGM on an exclusive basis. In addition, MGM Resorts and MLB will work together on comprehensive responsible gaming measures and work to protect the integrity of the game both on and off the field.

This is all pretty interesting, actually. As we’ve written about at length this year, MLB has made efforts to get the various states to give them a cut of their legalized gambling operations, basing it mostly on some nebulous intellectual property arguments. The states have mostly balked because, really, why should MLB get a cut? It has seemed mostly like opportunism by MLB. Basic rent-seeking.

This deal, however, seems more like carrot than stick. It’s signaling to anyone with some skin in the game that, sure, you can shut MLB out of your gambling operations, but anyone who lets MLB in will get some advanced analytics and other goodies out of it. Might those advanced analytics — which MLB has increasingly made proprietary and has kept from the public — help sports books set better lines that give the house an edge? I’m no gambling expert, but I can’t see how that information wouldn’t be very valuable to MGM.

In related news, the Winter Meetings start in 13 days. They’ll be taking place at Mandalay Bay resort and casino. An MGM property.

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

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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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.