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MLB umpire disciplined for violating gambling policy

| By Jess Marquez
On Friday (14 June) Major League Baseball (MLB) announced it had disciplined umpire Pat Hoberg for violating the league's sports gambling policy. Hoberg has appealed the decision, which was first reported by The Athletic.
mlb investigating five players

The exact details of Hoberg’s penalty are unknown, but he has not appeared in a game this season. In its statement on Friday, MLB said Hoberg did not directly manipulate games, but did not rule out him betting on baseball.

Per league rules, betting on baseball is punished with a year-long ban. Betting on games in which one is playing, coaching or officiating results in a lifetime ban.

Hoberg is appealing the decision.

“During this year’s spring training, Major League Baseball commenced an investigation regarding a potential violation of MLB’s sports betting policies by umpire Pat Hoberg,” the statement read. “Mr Hoberg was removed from the field during the pendency of that investigation.”

Despite there not being “any evidence that games worked by Mr Hoberg were compromised or manipulated in any way,” MLB determined that “discipline was warranted”. It did not comment further.

Hoberg became an MLB umpire in 2014 and began full-time work during the 2017 season. He was selected for post-season games in every season from 2018-2022. Per accuracy analyst Umscorecards.com, his performance in Game 2 of the 2022 World Series was perfect. Hoberg called all 129 balls and strikes accurately.

Suspension would be first for umpire post-PASPA

If Hoberg’s discipline is upheld, he would be the first MLB umpire to be sanctioned for betting since the US Supreme Court’s repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)/’jih in 2018.

There hasn’t been a high-profile gambling-related scandal involving an official among the major US professional leagues since 2008, when ex-NBA referee Tim Donaghy got 15 months in prison for committing wire fraud and transmitting betting information.

Donaghy was found to have bet on NBA games over a period of four years, and shared inside information with bettors. At that time, sports betting was federally prohibited and only legal in Nevada.

League continues to grapple with betting scandals

The latest announcement adds to the litany of gambling scandals that MLB is currently dealing with.

Nine days ago, the league banned former Padres’ infielder Tucupita Marcano for life and suspended four others. Marcano bet on Pittsburgh Pirates games when he was still a member of that team in 2021. He was the first to receive a lifetime ban for gambling since Pete Rose in 1989.

The other four – Oakland A’s pitcher Michael Kelly and minor leaguers Andrew Saalfrank, Jay Groome and Jose Rodriguez – received one-year suspensions for betting on baseball.

Ippei Mizuhara, former interpreter for two-time MVP Shohei Ohtani, pleaded guilty on 4 June to stealing $17m from Ohtani to cover gambling debts. Mizuhara bet and lost hundreds of millions with an illegal bookmaker. He is awaiting sentencing.

Ohtani’s former Los Angeles Angels teammate David Fletcher, is also under investigation for betting. Fletcher, who is now a member of the Atlanta Braves’ Triple-A affiliate, reportedly bet with the same illegal bookmaker as Mizuhara.

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