MLB Has a Sticky Matter on Its Hands that Could Divide the Sports Gambling Space

For as long as there has been baseball, there have been pitchers who wanted to find a way to make their sliders slide more and their fast balls fly faster. They have used spit, mud, pine tar, lubricants and other substances to try to give themselves an edge, despite the fact that MLB has strict rules against the use of foreign substances (although it’s debatable how “foreign” spit might be). Estimates say that around 60% of pro pitchers have, at some point, resorted to the use of foreign substances, and MLB is now going to try to do something about it. It will begin taking a closer look at baseballs during live games, but this might ultimately have an unexpected and negative impact on baseball sports gambling. 

Baseballs to Be Targeted By Umps

Going forward, MLB umpires have received a mandate to start to inspect baseballs during games. They are expected to stop play about eight to ten times a game to look at the ball being thrown, which will ultimately lead to games running slower. This is counterproductive to several changes MLB made ahead of the start of the recent season, all of which were designed to speed up the game.

The change in the pace of the games will alter in-play wagers, as well as props, especially if an ump believes a ball has been illegally manipulated. This will change how sportsbooks cover themselves in posting odds and whether they will have more latitude in canceling certain wagers. They could also impact other gambling markets, as well as skew gambling data.

The announcement has already had some impact on MLB odds, with pitcher Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees seeing a huge change in his odds to win this year’s Cy Young award for the American League. On FanDuel, he was the favorite at -140 two weeks ago but now sits at +100 after being called out for allegedly using a substance called Spider Tack. Shane Bieber, the right-handed pitcher of the Cleveland Indians, improved from +600 to +450 over the same period. He won the Cy Young award last year and is now the favorite after Cole dropped down.

New Rule Not Tied to Integrity

According to one MLB player, the new rule has little to do with the integrity of baseball and more to do with the league’s view of free agents. According to the Associated Press, Pete Alonso of the New York Mets has asserted that MLB executives are manipulating the ball more than the pitchers and that their goal is to have a negative impact on the earning potential of free agents and players who are eligible for arbitration. The first baseman has been in the league since 2019, playing for the Mets the entire time.

Alfonso made his remarks in a press conference ahead of yesterday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles (the Mets ran away with the game, 14-1). He asserts that the league is constantly changing the weight of the balls and these changes happen to coincide with free agency classes, arguing that the balls are “friendlier” to hitters in those years ahead of league pitching leaders heading into free agency and less friendly when they’re not.

If it were up to Alfonso, pitchers would be able to use whatever they wanted on the mound. He told reporters during the interview, “Whatever they want to use to help control the ball, let them use it, because for me, I go in the box every single day, and I see guys throwing harder and harder every day, and I don’t want 99 slipping out of someone’s hand.”