Rays Tales: How betting changes things in the clubhouse

For example, Kevin Cash’s lineups now have to go to MLB before players, media can see them.
Lineups will soon be come proprietary information.  [MARC TOPKIN | Times]
Lineups will soon be come proprietary information. [MARC TOPKIN | Times]
Published March 9, 2019|Updated March 9, 2019

PORT CHARLOTTE — The radical rule changes Major League Baseball has asked the independent Atlantic League to experiment with, such as computerized ball/ strike calls, pushing back the mound two feet, a three-batter minimum for pitchers and a ban on shifting, got plenty of attention last week.

But word also filtered out about a seemingly small, bookkeeping-type change affecting the big-league teams that actually carries considerable significance.

Before manager Kevin Cash’s lineup can be posted for that day’s game in the Rays clubhouse, or forwarded to media or fans via the team PR staff, it must be submitted to MLB, with up to a 15-minute hold before it can be made public.

Why? Because of the impact of gambling on games.

With sports betting now legal in a growing number of states, with MLB now in business with MGM Resorts International as its “official gaming and entertainment partner” and exclusively with betting data provider Sportradar, the starting lineups are now considered part of MLB’s “official data” and released accordingly.

The purpose is to reduce the value of inside information gleaned in the clubhouse that could be used to impact betting, such as a key hitter or defender not playing or a change in the scheduled starting pitcher, or opener.

MLB said in a statement the changes were “to reduce integrity risks associated with the expansion of sports betting” and that submitting lineups “in a uniform fashion” is to “reduce the risk of confidential information being ‘tipped’ ‘’ and is similar to what is done in pro leagues in other countries.

Details of the information flow have not been released, but there’s chatter that MGM’s oddsmakers or Sportradar subscribers will get it first. MLB is reportedly keeping umpiring assignments confidential for a similar reason, and discussing how to handle decisions by official scorers (which, for example, could impact over-under hit and prop bets).

Cash said he won’t do anything different, still planning to tell players, in the clubhouse with others around, if they are slated for action the next day. And since he usually has the lineup made and shipped it to video coordinator Chris Fernandez by early afternoon for printing and distribution, there may not be much noticeable impact.

“I’m going to do what I’ve always done: Take a picture of it and text it to Chico, and he can handle the rest,’’ Cash said.

But what about a day when a player isn’t sure if he’s healthy enough to go until taking batting practice? Or when someone feels sick just before game time?

There will be questions about how that info is to be handled, or whether the lineup should be released until they know for sure. And on many other things.

In betting, information is king. And if MLB is going to be in the business, there are a lot of things that may have to change.

“It is weird,’’ Cash said. “And it’s probably more eye opening. You don’t think about that. But the way (MLB officials) kind of laid it out, they have legitimate reasons to be consuming themselves with this new protocol. …

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“It’s all a different era. Everything is.’’

Rays rumblings

Communications manager Ryan Sheets, who performed the Heimlich on a choking fan last week, was at least the fourth Rays employee to save a distressed person, joining Michael Weinman (twice), Dukes Knutson and Dave Wills. … Original Devil Rays GM Chuck LaMar, who’d been pro scouting for Toronto, got a special assignment role with the Padres. … Non-roster infielder Keon Wong had a rare treat on Monday’s off-day, sitting in the stands to watch his brother, Kolten, play for the Cardinals, who were in Lakeland. … For what it’s worth to the conspiracists thinking the Rays are bolting town soon, senior VP Chaim Bloom and Cash both recently bought pricey houses in St. Petersburg. … Congrats to Knutson, who stepped down after 12 years working the scorer’s table for USF hoops games but, thankfully, will continue to run the Trop press box. … Also to the always witty Rick Nafe, who has retired, at least from a full-time role, after 21 years as Rays VP of operations, 40 in the area sports market. … Chris Archer said he and Corey Dickerson had something to do with the Pirates adopting a more Rays-like relaxed and open approach during spring training. … USF coach Billy Mohl said he’d be all for an annual exhibition with the Rays, as the Bulls played last week. … The Giants, conveniently, are giving out Evan Longoria bobbleheads at the April 6 game against the Rays. … Former Rays infielder Josh Wilson just moved into scouting with the Tigers.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTImes_Rays