Charlie Blackmon - Maximbet

  • Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon signed the first-ever agreement between an active player and a sportsbook – MaximBet – this week.
  • The MLB’s rise in sports betting partnerships puts baseball in a difficult position regarding Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader serving a lifetime ban for betting on baseball in 1986.

NEW YORK – On August 23, 1989, Pete Rose – the MLB’s all-time hit leader – was served a lifetime ban by then-commissioner Bartlett Giamatti as a part of a punishment deal for allegedly betting on baseball as an active player-manager for the Cincinnati Reds in 1986.

Despite pleas from the fans and the media to un-ban the MLB’s all-time hit leader for him to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the MLB has refused to overturn the decision, and Rose remains a pariah.

Charlie Blackmon First Active MLB Player With Sportsbook Partnership

However, in 2022, that sentiment may be shifting. This week, veteran Colorado Rockies outfielder and four-time National League All-Star Charlie Blackmon inked a deal with MaximBet for the first-ever official partnership between an active MLB player and a sportsbook operator.

As a part of the agreement between Blackmon and MaximBet, Blackmon will be used in marketing materials and campaigns to drive traffic to the sportsbook.

However, while Blackmon will be permitted to appear in various advertisements and promotions for the sportsbook, he will not be able to bet on baseball.

This is according to Major League Rule 21, section D, subsection 2:

“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 disconnect between the growing pro-gambling sentiment in Major League Baseball and Pete Rose’s lifetime ban for the very same activity is leading fans to question both.

Blackmon is the first active MLB player to accept such a partnership agreement with a sportsbook; however, he is far from an isolated example of MLB’s newly-liberal views on gambling.

At the club level, the Washington Nationals have partnered with BetMGM, and the agreement is to include a BetMGM sportsbook on-site at Nationals Park. The Chicago Cubs inked a similar deal with DraftKings.

The New York Mets recently signed a partnership agreement with Caesars Sportsbook. In Arizona, professional sports teams themselves – in this case, the Arizona Diamondbacks – are permitted to offer their own sportsbook skins.

More are expected to follow as owners scramble to increase profits in the wake of diminished ticket revenue during the 2020 COVID-shortened season.

This begs the question: what is Major League Baseball’s official stance on sports betting? It is unlikely that the league fully approves sports betting for players, for integrity reasons – if not for fairness to Rose.

But the wave of MLB-approved sportsbook partnerships tells the story of a league completely leaning into the United States’ precipitous rise in sports betting. Meanwhile, Pete Rose remains banned for life.

How Does MLB Reconcile New Sports Betting Support With Rose’s Ban?

Baseball is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one end, Major League Baseball essentially has no choice but to lean into sports betting.

MLB has long faced the issue of an aging user base and is constantly looking for ways to make the game more exciting and attractive to younger fans.

Distancing themselves from sports betting would be an enormous mistake in this regard, as young people are more passionate about sports than ever, largely as a result of the increased availability of legal sports betting.

Moreover, modern sports betting – live betting, in particular – is especially well-suited for baseball, with its natural breaks in action.

Turning their collective backs on sports betting could greatly limit franchises’ earning potential, indirectly decreasing the quality of the product on the field. Not that they really could turn their backs anyway – with several teams contractually obligated to sportsbook operators, that ship seems to have sailed a few years ago.

On the other hand, if Major League Baseball continues to lean into sports betting while one of their greatest players remains banned – for that very activity – they risk losing legitimacy as a governing body.

Fresh off of the MLBPA CBA debacle that led to the shortening of Spring Training, not to mention their botched handling of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing saga, the MLB is not in a position to make any unpopular decisions.

Presenting themselves as unabashed hypocrites in the sports betting arena by allowing teams and players to continue to align themselves with sports betting products despite the game’s all-time hit leader remaining permanently banned for sports betting is undoubtedly an unpopular decision.

Since distancing the league from sports betting seems to be off the table, Major League Baseball has but one option: reinstate Rose, and remove his lifetime ban.

While this will likely do little to resurrect Rose’s reputation, it will at least make Major League Baseball’s stance on the issue clear.

There are already rules in place to punish any athlete who would be foolish enough to bet on their own games today – the league does not need a cautionary tale as well.

For his part, Rose is certainly deserving of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. In his 24-year career, Rose hit over .300 15 times and led the league in batting average three times. He is a career .303 hitter, the all-time leader in games played as well as hits, walked more than he struck out in his career, scored over 2,100 runs, stole nearly 200 bases, and hit almost 750 doubles. He is – barring, perhaps, Barry Bonds – the most deserving player to not be enshrined in Cooperstown.

The time has come to remove Rose’s ban – the league’s reputation may depend on it.

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