News item: Major League Baseball has accepted an $80-million sponsorship designed to promote betting on its games.
Fan reaction: So, is Pete Rose welcome back?
In a word: No.
The reaction is entirely understandable, though. Rose was banned for betting on baseball. Now, after almost a century of standing firm against anyone betting on baseball, MLB is cashing in.
With the Supreme Court granting each state the authority to legalize sports betting, MLB wants to share in the money generated by gambling. It is not inconceivable that ballparks eventually could have betting windows, just as British soccer stadiums do now.
So how could the league not lift Rose’s lifetime ban?
That’s an easy question, actually. With the league in business with its first “official gaming partner,” MLB is putting millions in jeopardy if it cannot convince would-be bettors that its games are on the level.
By partnering with gaming outfits, the league will access additional resources to monitor possible betting irregularities. If sports betting really is going to be a golden goose, nothing would kill it more quickly than the perception that the games are somehow rigged, perhaps by a player or manager betting on a game in which he is a participant — as Rose did, repeatedly.
Rose’s lifetime ban from baseball did not necessarily mean the all-time hit leader should remain banned from the Hall of Fame, as Manfred wrote in 2015. Rose then asked the Hall of Fame to let him stand for election; the Hall denied the request.