Home » Rob Manfred Says ‘Integrity of the Game’ Is MLB’s No. 1 Issue amid Betting Scandals

Rob Manfred Says ‘Integrity of the Game’ Is MLB’s No. 1 Issue amid Betting Scandals

Rob Manfred Says ‘Integrity of the Game’ Is MLB’s No. 1 Issue amid Betting Scandals

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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that the “integrity of the game” is the league’s No. 1 issue right now amid multiple gambling scandals involving both players and staff members this year.

Manfred made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

“It’s important to say that our No. 1 issue, the single thing on which there is no compromise, is the integrity of the game on the field.

Manfred then spoke about MLB’s attempts to stop sports betting in New Jersey before admitting that he doesn’t foresee those states’ decisions on legalization going backwards in any way. He then added:

“But on the integrity front, we evaluate at the end of each year what programs we had in place and what we can do to make those programs even better. In the era when all sports betting was illegal, it was impossible to monitor. Right now, because most sports betting is legal, we have extensive monitoring in place.

“And, in fact, those monitoring systems resulted in [resolving] all of the incidents we’ve had this year. Our ability to monitor is one of the positives that comes with legalization. In the old days you didn’t have gambling scandals. It didn’t mean they didn’t have gambling. You just didn’t know about it.”

Manfred’s remarks were in response to this question from Grant: “The gambling scandals this year involving staff and some players are disconcerting. How does MLB ensure integrity of the game as ties between the league, its clubs and the gambling industry grow deeper? Is there any turning back on that road?”

The highest-profile scandal this year involved Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, illegally transferring nearly $17 million out of Ohtani’s account to fund his sports betting activities with an illegal bookmaking operation.

In June, MLB banned San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano for life after an investigation revealed he placed 387 baseball bets via a legal sportsbook, including bets on his own team when he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ronald Blum of the Associated Press also outlined more infractions.

“Oakland Athletics pitcher Michael Kelly was suspended for one year for betting on baseball while in the minor leagues, and three minor leaguers also were banned for one year for betting on big league games: pitchers Jay Groome of San Diego and Andrew Saalfrank of Arizona, and infielder José Rodríguez of Philadelphia. Each of those four players wagered under $1,000. Saalfrank and Rodríguez played previously in the majors.”

MLB’s gambling rules state that any player who bets on baseball is ineligible for a year. Any player who bets on a game in which they participated in is banned for life.

Baseball has seen two massive gambling scandals rock the sport in the past.

In 1919, members of the Chicago White Sox were paid to throw games in the World Series. In 1989, Pete Rose was banned for life after an investigation revealed that he bet on baseball, including wagers on the team he managed and previously played for (the Cincinnati Reds) to win.

It’s understandable why Manfred sees the integrity of the game as the sport’s No. 1 issue given the issues recently but also the scope of the Black Sox and Rose scandals in years past. And it could obviously be an issue going forward, even though it’s clear that MLB is ready and willing to levy stiff penalties for players who violate the league’s gambling policy.