San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano has been handed a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball (MLB) due to violations of the league’s strict gambling policies, as announced by MLB on Tuesday. Alongside Marcano, four other players received one-year suspensions: Michael Kelly from the Oakland Athletics, Jay Groome from the Padres, José Rodríguez from the Philadelphia Phillies, and Andrew Saalfrank from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The league’s investigation was initiated after receiving data from a legal sports betting operator, which showed that these players were involved in baseball betting activities. MLB’s regulations permit personnel to engage in legal sports gambling as long as it doesn’t involve baseball or softball. All five players breached this key provision, according to CBS Sports.

Commissioner Rob Manfred emphasized the importance of upholding the integrity of the sport in his statement: “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. 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.”

The Padres released a statement expressing their disappointment and support for the league’s ruling: “We are extremely disappointed with Tucupita’s actions and are fully supportive of Major League Baseball’s ruling. The Padres, along with MLB, the Players Association, and every club, work to ensure all involved within our game are aware of the rules and policies around gambling. While the thorough investigation revealed no evidence of any games being compromised, influenced, or manipulated in any way in this case, protecting the integrity of our game is paramount.”

Banned For Life

Tucupita Marcano, 24, initially joined the Padres as an amateur free agent from Venezuela in 2016. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021 and returned to the Padres via waivers last November. Marcano has been sidelined since July due to an ACL injury.

MLB’s findings revealed that Marcano placed bets totaling over $150,000 on nearly 400 baseball games, including MLB and international contests. Notably, he even wagered on games involving his team, the Pirates. According to MLB, “Almost all of Marcano’s Pirates bets were on which club (the Pirates or their opponent) would win the game or whether there would be more or less than a certain number of runs scored in the game.” Despite his bets, Marcano did not participate in any games due to his injury, and he denied using insider information to influence his wagers. He reportedly won just 4.3% of his bets related to MLB games.

The other players involved—Kelly, Groome, Rodríguez, and Saalfrank—did not bet on games they were directly involved in. However, they did place wagers on games involving their organization’s major-league teams while they were playing in the minors.

Michael Kelly, 31, was part of the Athletics’ active roster this season, with a 2.59 ERA across 28 games. Kelly placed 10 bets on nine MLB games, including three involving the Astros while he was with their Triple-A team. His bets totaled $99.22, resulting in a net win of $28.30.

Jay Groome, who played for the Red Sox’s High-A team, made 32 bets on MLB games between July 2020 and July 2021, including 24 bets on Boston games. He wagered $453.74, losing $433.54, with payouts on only two bets.

José Rodríguez, from the Phillies’ Double-A team, placed 31 bets on baseball games, including several college baseball games, betting a total of $749.09, with $724.09 on MLB games.

Andrew Saalfrank, on the injured list with the Diamondbacks’ Low-A team, made 28 bets on MLB games and one on college baseball, totaling $445.87. He incurred a net loss of $272.64 on MLB bets, winning only five of his bets and losing his $1.80 college bet.

MLB’s gambling policies permit personnel to bet on sports where it is legal, provided the sport is not baseball or softball. The players’ suspensions were due to violations of Rule 21, which has two key points:

  1. “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 no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.”
  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.”

In addition to these recent suspensions, earlier this season saw other gambling-related incidents. Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter of Shohei Ohtani, the star of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was charged with stealing nearly $17 million from the player to pay gambling debts. On June 4, 2024, Mizuhara pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud and admitted to stealing the money – as reported by the Associated Press. Additionally, Braves minor-leaguer David Fletcher is under investigation for placing bets with the same illegal bookmaker. Neither Mizuhara nor Fletcher bets on baseball, but using illegal betting channels is strictly prohibited by MLB.