Major League Baseball continues to see morality questions fall along the slippery slope of the in-between. The steroid era, largely blasted after the fact as the epitome of greed in both players and owners, now sees softening as highly suspected steroid user Ivan Rodriguez will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as well as the commissioner of the era, Bud Selig.
Now, a report from Yahoo Finance indicates that current Commissioner Rob Manfred might be softening his stance on legalized gambling.
“We are reexamining our stance on gambling. It’s a conversation that’s ongoing with the owners. Sports betting happens. Whether it’s legalized here or not, it’s happening out there.”
Of course this is quite true, and Manfred has made it clear from day 1 of his tenure that he hopes to decrease the speed of games and find more ways to get the newer generation involved in the game. Is gambling the best way though?
Let’s not forget that gambling holds a special place in baseball as a special kind of crime.
The Black Sox Scandal of 1919, where 8 Chicago White Sox were allegedly involved in fixing the World Series stands out as a serious scandal – even though most were acquitted in an actual court of law including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, baseball’s first commissioner, was not so kind and banned them all. Buck Weaver was included in the list even though he didn’t take any money or play badly, but he knew about the fix and didn’t report it.
Pete Rose of course eventually admitted to betting on games he played in and managed, and has remained banned from baseball and subsequently looks like he will never be admitted into the Baseball Hall of Fame despite being MLB’s all time hits leader.
So what does baseball do now? Daily Fantasy Games like Draft Kings and FanDuel came under intense scrutiny last year and have been banned in several states, but it also shows our strange sense of morality when it comes to gambling.
Lotteries are state funded in many states, certainly season long fantasy sports is generally accepted, as well as weekly office football pools.
Why do we have such a low opinion of more active gambling, when as the Commissioner says, we know it is happening. Manfred went on to frame it this way:
‘Are we better off in a world where we have a nice, strong, uniform, federal regulation of gambling that protects the integrity of sports, provides sports with the tools to ensure that there is integrity in the competition … Or are we better off closing our eyes to that and letting it go on as illegal gambling? And that’s a debatable point.
The NBA has recently come out in support of legalized gambling, and like many other issues it might actually help protect some of the negatives that are associated with gambling.
Age limits would be easier to enforce when the industry is enforced stronger. Helping track people who are gambling too much and losing their homes or life savings might be more automated because now it will all be “above board”, not done in back alleys with shady characters.
In the end though, I think MLB has to realize that if it accepts this idea it has to finally put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame. I also believe that a professional sports league shouldn’t be the entity to encourage legalized gambling like this. Let someone else come up with it, but don’t be the front runner.
The hardest part with gambling is thinking that the players are involved and actively shaping the outcome. Everyone has seen a college basketball game that sees the refs call more fouls near the end and watch the score hit the “over”, or a favorite cover the spread at the last moment. That is no fun.
Sports in theory provides the truest sense of competition, and to have people at a game rooting for two more runs to cover the over instead of the home team to win(you can tell I’m a Padres fan when I assume the home team is losing). Would that pure sense of competition be lost if the scoreboard included the spreads and not just the score?
Let me know what you think in the comments.