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MLB infielder Tucupita Marcano faces possible lifetime ban for alleged gambling

San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano is under investigation by Major League Baseball for allegedly betting on baseball and could be subject to a lifetime ban, according to a person familiar with the probe.

MLB is looking into allegations Marcano bet on games involving the Pittsburgh Pirates while on the team’s injured list last season, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Marcano could be the second pro athlete banned for life over sports betting this year after the NBA punished Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter in April following a league probe that found he disclosed confidential information to sports bettors and wagered on games.

It’s believed that no active MLB player has been banned for betting on baseball since 1924. Pete Rose was retired when he agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989.

Marcano, 24, has not played since tearing his right ACL last July 24. He was claimed by the Padres off waivers on Nov. 2 and placed on the 10-day injured list March 19.

MLB’s investigation was first reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal, which also reported four other players were under investigation for betting on baseball while in the minor leagues.

“We are aware of an active investigation by Major League Baseball regarding a matter that occurred when the player in question was a member of another organization and not affiliated with the San Diego Padres,” the team said in a statement. “We will not have any further comment until the investigative process has been completed.”

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“We are aware of the matter that’s under investigation and are fully cooperating,” Pirates senior vice president of communications Brian Warecki said in a statement. “We will refrain from further comment at this time.”

Marcano’s agent, Michel Velasquez of Rimas Sports, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. The Major League Baseball Players Association declined to comment.

Rule 21

Major League Rule 21, posted in every clubhouse, states betting on any baseball game in which a player, umpire, league official or team employee has no duty to perform results in a one-year suspension. Betting on a game in which the person has a duty to perform results in a lifetime ban.

In addition, betting on other sports with an illegal bookmaker is subject to discipline deemed appropriate by the baseball commissioner.

Rose, baseball’s career hits leader, agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989 after an MLB investigation concluded he bet on Cincinnati Reds games while managing the team.

The last active MLB player suspended under the gambling provision appears to be New York Giants outfielder Jimmy O’Connell, banned for life along with coach Cozy Dolan in 1924 for offering a $500 US bribe to Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Heinie Sand to throw a game that Sept. 27.

Marcano made his major league debut on April 1, 2021, and has a .217 average with five homers, 34 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 149 games. He has played in both the infield and outfield.

U.S. sports leagues have increased monitoring over gambling since the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018 struck down a federal law that had barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states. Sports books have opened at stadiums across the country across the major U.S. pro sports.

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Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers after the season opener on March 21 when a federal gambling investigation became public. Mizuhara agreed to plead guilty to bank and tax fraud in a sports betting case in which prosecutors allege he stole nearly $17 million from the two-time AL MVP to pay off debts.

Battling prop bets

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said last month that the sport’s department of investigations deferred to the government probe. He noted that MLB has superior methods of monitoring potentially illicit bets with legal sports books than with illegal bookmakers. It is not clear how Marcano might have made his alleged bets.

MLB’s top concern with legal sports betting is on action besides the score or outcome, known as prop bets. For instance, wagers that a certain player would steal at least one base in a given game.

“There are certain kinds of prop bets that are of concern to us and continue to be of concern to us,” Manfred said. “Obviously, the potential for something happening in the game that nobody notices is much higher with a lot of kinds of prop bets and you could see where a player would be more tempted to — all you need to do is miss three free throws; it doesn’t necessarily change the outcome of your game. Your team may pick you up and life moves on. It’s just easier to have a problem on a prop bet. I think it’s just human nature. So, yeah, we remain concerned about them and have lobbied for certain types of prop bets not to be allowable.”

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