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Padres’ Tucupita Marcano banned for life for betting on baseball

                                Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Tucupita Marcano throws to first base, in July 2023, to retire San Francisco Giants left fielder Austin Slater during the first inning at PNC Park.
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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Tucupita Marcano throws to first base, in July 2023, to retire San Francisco Giants left fielder Austin Slater during the first inning at PNC Park.

Major League Baseball today announced a lifetime ban for Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano, who bet on hundreds of baseball games while he was on the Pirates’ injured list — many involving his own club.

The first active player suspended for violating Rule 21 (d)(2) of the league’s betting policies in 100 years, Marcano bet more than $150,000 on baseball over two periods between October 2022 and November 2023, the majority of which occurred while he was a member of the Pirates and receiving medical treatment at PNC Park after suffering a season-ending knee injury.

Marcano’s suspension was the result of an investigation that included interviews and significant cooperation from the league’s legal sportsbook partners. MLB also announced four players, including Padres minor league pitcher Jay Groome, received one-year bans for unrelated violations of MLB’s sports betting policies.

None of the players ensnared in the investigation are appealing their suspensions.

Sports gambling is legal in 38 states and Washington D.C., the result of a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a federal law banning it. However, MLB rules prohibit players, umpires, club officials, league officials and employees from betting on baseball. And Rule 21 (d) (2) states that anyone who bets on “any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

While the sport was rocked by Shohei Ohtani interpreter Ippei Mizuhara’s gambling revelations in March, no active player had been banned for gambling on baseball since the Giants’ Jimmy O’Connell offered Phillies shortstop Heinie Sand $500 to throw a game in 1924. Pete Rose’s lifetime ban was the result of betting on games while managing the Reds.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Like Marcano, Groome’s suspension relates to activity that predates his Padres tenure. He was found to have placed 32 MLB-related bets from July 2020 through July 2021, with 24 of those bets on Red Sox games while he was assigned to high Single-A Greenville in the Boston organization. Groome bet a total of $453.74, an average of $15.12 per bet; he lost all but $20.20 of it.

Other one-year suspensions announced by MLB include Athletics pitcher Michael Kelly, a former Padres minor leaguer; Diamondbacks minor league pitcher Andrew Saalfrank; and Phillies minor league infielder Jose Rodriguez.

The Padres provided the Union-Tribune with the following statement:

“We cannot comment on violations that occurred outside of our organization. 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.”

Signed for $320,000 out of Venezuela as part of their 2016-17 international amateur spending spree, Marcano debuted with the Padres in in 2021 and was ultimately traded to the Pirates that summer as part of the deal that netted All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier.

The 24-year-old Marcano hit .221/.267/.334 over parts of two seasons with the Pirates. Marcano’s 2023 campaign was cut short in July, when he injured his knee while playing for the visiting Pirates at Petco Park.

With his season over, Marcano’s betting activity — 387 baseball bets, including 231 MLB-related bets and other wagers on international baseball games through a legal sportsbook — increased.

MLB’s investigation revealed that Marcano’s wagers were generally parlays that sometimes included multiple MLB-related and non-MLB legs. Of the more than 200 MLB bets placed by Marcano, 25 were on Pirates games while he was assigned to the big league club. Marcano did not appear in any of those games as he was on the injured list.

Almost all of Marcano’s Pirates bets were on which team would win and the over/under on runs scored in the game. He ultimately lost all of his parlays and collected money on just 4.3% of his MLB-related bets.

There is no evidence to suggest that any outcomes in games that Marcano bet on were compromised, influenced or manipulated in any way, according to MLB’s investigation.

The Pirates waived Marcano in November, when the Padres claimed him and brought him to spring training to continue his rehab work. He did not appear in any spring training games, but he was nearing a rehab assignment when the Wall Street Journal first reported MLB’s investigation into Marcano and the four other players on Monday.

Marcano’s path back to the majors as a bench bat was significantly hindered by the additions of Donovan Solano and David Peralta, both of whom have turned minor league deals into major league roster spots.

Groome, on the other hand, tweaked a quad while trying to force his way back into the rotation/bullpen competition in spring training. The Padres lost both Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove to season-ending injuries last year, but Groome’s 8.55 ERA over 30 starts at Triple-A El Paso left him entirely out of that conversation last year and far off the radar this year even with both Darvish and Musgrove back on the injured list for the second time this season.

Acquired from the Red Sox in the Eric Hosmer trade in August 2022, Groome had pitched in one game at Triple-A El Paso this year (5 IP, 2 ER) and was on the injured list himself for a second time when MLB announced his suspension.

Groome is also out of options after this season.

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