Major League Baseball on Wednesday announced a new policy regarding the way it will collect and share information about team lineups and umpire assignments. The goal, MLB says, is enhancing integrity, however the net effect of the changes, the actual intent and how it might impact sports bettors, sportsbooks and fantasy players alike, is as yet not completely clear (to this author, at least).
ESPN’s David Purdum posted MLB’s statement, which reads:
“We are updating a number of our procedures to reduce integrity risks associated with the expansion of sports betting in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling last May. One new procedure is that we now ask Clubs to submit starting lineups in a uniform fashion in order to reduce the risk of confidential information being ‘tipped.’ This approach mirrors those of international sports leagues in more developed betting markets.”
Longtime, respected baseball writer-reporter Peter Gammons, shared earlier:
Per MLB's gambling deal, managers have been told their daily lineups must 1st go to Commissioner's Office, not to PR, not to media. "I'm really bothered by this," one manager says. It's OK to not field he best team, for service time reasons, but lineups 1st must go to Vegas.
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) March 6, 2019
A source says MLB objects to the notion that the change is “per” MLB’s deal with MGM Resorts International, which designated MGM as the league’s official gaming and entertainment partner. However, signs point to the reality that this move may be motivated by the MGM deal, as well as the commercial deal MLB executed with sports betting data provider Sportradar in February. Through the deal, MGM sportsbooks will have access to MLB’s official data feed, provided by Sportradar.
The flow of MLB official data
MLB insists the lineups will be published to everyone — the media and gaming entities alike — at the same time. But what does this mean?
The new procedure requires that clubs submit the lineup card directly to the league, before publishing it anywhere else. Fifteen minutes later, teams are free to publish lineup information in the fashion they choose, which may be the same as it always has been — on social media.
So, those with access to the feed — MGM and other sportsbook clients, as well as media members who work alongside a team’s PR staff — will be the first to know lineups and umpire assignments. MGM and other sportsbooks paying Sportradar (or subsidiary Betradar) may adjust their betting lines and prices accordingly. Of course, team officials providing the lineup info, indeed useful information to bettors and fantasy players, will obviously also know what’s in the lineup cards.
A source says the public will learn lineup information at the same time as gaming partners, but there’s a built-in disconnect here. The public will be dependent upon media member(s) to get the information out. So that doesn’t change for the public. But Sportradar clients, i.e. oddsmakers, will never be at the mercy of another individual to relate the information. And from what I have gathered, bettors will not be able to purchase the feed. So that provides a clear advantage to Sportradar partners, such as MGM, which appears to be the point of this whole change.
The old days
In previous seasons, fans, bettors, and sportsbooks alike would monitor beat writer social media feeds and teams for lineup information. If a pitcher or position player is scratched, that changes, to a degree, the game’s outlook. Sure, this new policy standardizes things, but will lineup information be any less susceptible to being compromised now as a result of the change? It only creates a different universe of people with access.
Further, Action Network’s Darren Rovell reports that per sources, the “exact flow of how it will all operate is still being worked out.”
Sportradar employees will have early access to the data now. That has proven problematic in the past. Beat writers, I presume, will still see players stretching, or in the training room, or in the locker room, or not. Anyone in the chain between managers and the commissioner’s office will now have access, as well as anyone at an MGM book, and anyone else with a Sportradar feed (or from another non-exclusive MLB partner, of which there will be more).
Sportadar’s feed is much more valuable today than it was yesterday. Simple as that. Why? Because Sportradar is paying to be the league’s official partner.