The Tigers launched the 2021 season yesterday at home with a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Baseball Team. It was snowing during the first few innings, becoming nearly a whiteout blizzard a couple of times, including when Miguel Cabrera hit the first MLB home run of the season but couldn’t see that it went out so he slid into second:
Kirk Gibson: “Look at the confetti!” LOL.
Matthew Boyd started for Detroit, and while he wasn’t as flashy as Cleveland starter Shane Bieber, who struck out 12 Tigers, he also didn’t give up any runs and got the victory. The Tigers’ bullpen looked pretty good, too, with José CIsnero and Daniel Norris throwing scoreless innings. New closer Gregory Soto gave up a two-run homer to Roberto Pérez in the ninth but still got the save.
So the trend line is obvious: The Tigers have a perfect record after one game, and therefore will finish the season 162-0. Where do I buy playoff tickets?
A more disturbing trend in baseball, and sports in general, is the rapid encroachment of gambling into the broadcasts and the stadiums themselves. Once upon a time, a connection with known gamblers or gambling interests was enough to even get baseball legends like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle banned from baseball back in the early 1980s for working for casinos in public relations capacities.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law that outlawed sports betting in most states in 2018. Since then, all of the leagues have started to get into the gambling business, initially by accepting sponsorships from sports books and gambling companies, and now actively allowing solicitation of all types of bets in their live broadcasts and on their websites and mobile apps. It’s hard to avoid a pop-up asking you to “bet now” if you visit MLB.com or watch a live telecast; yesterday, ESPN’s coverage included sidebars asking how many runs the Dodgers and Rockies would score after the seventh inning, along with a betting website and a code to use to win $5,000.
The Tigers’ broadcast partner, Fox Sports Detroit, become Bally Sports Detroit on March 31. The name change was needed anyway, as Fox no longer owned the regional sports networks that bore their name, having been bought by Sinclair Broadcasting a couple of years ago. They continued to use the Fox name under license, but needed a new one and the deal was made with Bally’s Corporation, a casino, horse track, and online gaming company (and which started as a manufacturer of pinball machines back in the 1930s). The connection between the games and the gaming is now complete.
Personally, I don’t care what they call the network (I still miss PASS Sports, myself). Sports has always had gambling, legal or not. In some ways, maybe having the whole thing out in the open is better. We’ll see. I’m not opposed to gambling, though I don’t do much myself, an occasional lottery ticket when the jackpot gets ridiculous and some penny ante and no stakes fantasy football and baseball. And people have noted that baseball has long been associated with other less-than-virtuous vices, including tobacco and alcohol.
The difference, as noted by Craig Calcaterra in his excellent “Cup of Coffee” newsletter today, is that baseball is now producing gambling-related programs and content for their websites and channels, which is a far cry from the days of baseball’s cleaner-than-clean Mantle and Mays bans:
I’m concerned, but I’m not going to let it get me down. I love baseball. Yesterday’s game was a joy to watch, especially Cabrera’s homer and his remarkable diving play at first base, where he hadn’t played since 2019. Detroit manager A.J. Hinch claims Cabrera is the best defensive first baseman on the team and that he’ll get to play there a few times per week. We’ll see if his troublesome knee will allow that, but for one day, anyway, it was all smiles for the big guy.
1-0! First place, baby! Enjoy it while you can.