Major League Baseball announces sports betting violation suspensions

Date:

Major League Baseball placed Padres infielder/outfielder Tucupita Marcano on the permanently ineligible list Tuesday for violating the league’s sports betting rules and policies. Four other players received one-year suspensions for other gambling-related violations.

Athletics right-handed pitcher Michael Kelly received a one-year suspension, as did Minor Leaguers Jay Groome (Padres left-handed pitcher), José Rodríguez (Phillies infielder) and Andrew Saalfrank (D-backs left-handed pitcher). The five players were disciplined for unrelated violations of the league’s gambling policy following investigations by MLB’s Department of Investigations.

Under Major League Rule 21, “Any player, umpire or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.” The rule also states that betting on any baseball game “in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.”

None of the five players played in any game on which they placed a bet, the league said, and all denied having any inside information relevant to the bets.

According to MLB, the betting data does not suggest that any outcomes in the games bet on by these players were compromised, influenced or manipulated in any way.

“The strict enforcement of Major League Baseball’s rules and policies governing gambling conduct is a critical component of upholding our most important priority: protecting the integrity of our games for the fans,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “The longstanding prohibition against betting on Major League Baseball games by those in the sport has been a bedrock principle for over a century. We have been clear that the privilege of playing in baseball comes with a responsibility to refrain from engaging in certain types of behavior that are legal for other people.

“Since the Supreme Court decision opened the door to legalized sports betting, we have worked with licensed sports betting operators and other third parties to put ourselves in a better position from an integrity perspective through the transparency that a regulated sports betting system can provide. MLB will continue to invest heavily in integrity monitoring, educational programming and awareness initiatives with the goal of ensuring strict adherence to this fundamental rule of our game.”

None of the players are appealing their discipline.

The league’s investigations included interviews, thorough review of the available information in each matter and significant cooperation from MLB’s legal sportsbook partners.

In March 2024, a legal sports betting operator made MLB aware that it had identified past baseball betting activity from accounts connected to multiple Major and Minor League players. MLB obtained data from that operator and other sportsbooks, including authentication data for bets.

Betting data shows that from 2022-23, Marcano placed 387 baseball bets, including 231 MLB-related bets, through a legal sportsbook. Marcano’s MLB bets were generally parlays. Some included multiple MLB-related legs. Others included both MLB-related legs and non-MLB legs.

In total, Marcano bet more than $150,000 on baseball, with $87,319 of that on MLB-related bets. Of the MLB bets Marcano placed over this period, 25 of those bets included Pirates games while he was a member of Pittsburgh’s Major League club. Marcano did not appear in any of the games on which he placed bets, however, as he was on the injured list after suffering a season-ending knee injury last July 24.

Marcano played parts of three big league seasons (2021-23) with the Padres and Pirates, posting a .217/.269/.320 slash line with five home runs. He hasn’t appeared in an MLB game since his ACL injury last July. He was claimed off waivers by the Padres last November.

The Pirates issued the following statement following MLB’s announcement: “We are extremely disappointed in Tucupita’s actions and are fully supportive of Major League Baseball’s ruling. The Pirates, along with MLB, the Players Association, and every Club, work to ensure all involved within our game are aware of the rules and policies around gambling. While the thorough investigation revealed no evidence of any games being compromised, influenced, or manipulated in any way in this case, protecting the integrity of our game is paramount.”

Kelly was found to have placed 10 bets involving nine Major League games between Oct. 5-17, 2021, while assigned to the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate in Sugar Land, Texas. Kelly’s bets included wagers on outcomes, over/under on the number of runs scored and on an individual pitcher’s strikeout total — three of those games involving the Astros’ Major League club.

Kelly bet a total of $99.22 on MLB games, winning five of those wagers for a net win of $28.30. He did not appear in any of the games on which he bet, and he did not make any bets involving his assigned team.

Following MLB’s announcement of Kelly’s suspension, the A’s released the following statement: “The A’s were disappointed to learn of the matter involving Michael Kelly. While we cannot comment on the details, this violation occurred prior to Michael joining the A’s organization, and we fully support MLB’s sports betting policy and the need to adhere to all provisions of Rule 21. We will continue to educate all members of our organization regarding their obligations under the policy.”

Groome was found to have placed 32 MLB-related bets from in 2020-21, 24 of those involving the Red Sox Major League club while he was assigned to the organization’s High-A affiliate in Greenville, S.C. All 24 of those bets were on the final outcome of the games.

In total, Groome bet $453.74 on 30 MLB game-related wagers, incurring a net loss of $433.54 on those bets. Groome did not appear in any of the games on which he bet, and he did not make any bets involving his assigned team.

Rodríguez placed 31 baseball bets in 2021-22, including 28 MLB-related bets and three on college baseball games, all while on a Minor League contract with the White Sox.

His MLB bets included seven involving the White Sox Major League team while he was assigned to the club’s Double-A affiliate in Birmingham, Ala. Two club-related bets involved the outcomes, while the others were on the over/under for runs scored in the game.

Rodríguez bet a total of $749.09 on baseball, with $724.09 of that placed on MLB-related wagers. Rodríguez did not appear in any of the games on which he bet, and he did not make any bets involving his assigned team.

Betting data shows that from 2021-22, Saalfrank placed 29 baseball bets, including 28 MLB-related bets and one parlay on college baseball. He was on a Minor League contract with the D-backs at the time, placing all of his MLB-related wagers — including four involving the D-backs — while on the injured list of Arizona’s Single-A affiliate.

Saalfrank bet a total of $445.87 on baseball, with $444.07 of that on MLB-related bets, taking a net loss of $272.64 on those MLB wagers. Saalfrank did not appear in any of the games on which he bet, and he did not make any bets involving his assigned team.

MLB requires its personnel to participate annually in sports betting education programs that emphasize the policies applicable to respective groups. Each Spring Training, all Major League and Minor League players must attend in-person sessions that specify the requirements of Major League Rule 21 and MLB’s Sports Betting Policy as well as other best practices.

MLB hosts a wide array of other English- and Spanish-awareness programing that reaches players as they begin their professional baseball careers, as they near the Major Leagues, and as they begin each new season. MLB’s efforts also include in-person sessions for Minor League players and other baseball employees on avoiding gambling-related harms in their professional and personal lives.

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