The Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper murdered a bunch of baseballs in the Home Run Derby on Monday night as part of the festivities at the All-Star Game.
One little hiccup though: Harper and the pitcher throwing him batting practice — his Dad — apparently weren’t following the rules.
I’m not here to breathlessly defend the rules of an event that’s just supposed to be a lot of fun. But it does have implications for the world of sports betting.
Yes, there are rules for the HR Derby
This might shock some of you, but there are actually rules for the derby. I mean, we all know the basic ones, like you have to hit out of the park, time limits, etc.
One of the less known ones, though, is that a ball has to hit the ground before another pitch can be thrown to the contestant. It makes some sense, and clearly if not everyone is following that rule, someone gets an advantage. Enter Bryce Harper, whose dad started throwing pitches pretty quickly near the end of the final round:
Again: Who cares if the rules are bent? It’s just the Home Run Derby, not something important like electing a president or regulations on polluting the water.
The only part you and I should care about it is when sports betting becomes involved.
Betting on the HR Derby
The Home Run Derby is fun to watch. But you know what makes it more fun to watch? Betting on it. The game was booked in Nevada and at least some places — including at the FanDuel Sportsbook — in the New Jersey sports betting market.
Some people obviously bet on the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber, the other finals participant to win the event, and seeing Harper win it with a loose interpretation of the rules didn’t go over well in some portions of sports (and sports betting) Twitter:
When you bet on Schwarber to win the HR Derby and you just watch Harpers dad throwing baseballs like this while you’re supposed to wait for the balls to land. pic.twitter.com/aYiJIHrNn1
— Brad Pinkston (@Bpinkston27) July 17, 2018
That is correct and everyone who bet on Schwarber should feel cheated. Where was the integrity in that contest? A hot topic on @VSiNLive tomorrow morning.
— Matt Youmans (@mattyoumans247) July 17, 2018
So the Derby is all in fun. I understand that.
Ball has to land before next pitch thrown, right?
Might want to check the tape on Harper’s last SEVERAL pitches.
— Andrew Belleson (@ChicagoCubsPA) July 17, 2018
As some have pointed out, Schwarber also looked like he was breaking a similar rule in an earlier round.
Still, this is where it can get tricky for Major League Baseball.
The potential problem for MLB
It’s well-known MLB wants to be directly involved in sports betting regulation in the US in myriad ways, including integrity fees/royalties and limits on what can be wagered on. Would it want to have betting on the Home Run Derby, or would it even have control over whether that betting can happen? (In all the states that have legalized sports wagering so far, MLB has no say.)
If MLB is involved, and it is setting the rules for the Home Run Derby, then MLB is suddenly in a bad spot. Does MLB take a draconian approach to enforcing the rules for the HR Derby to protect its “integrity?” Or does it carry on like it does today, knowing betting goes on on the event and shrugging its shoulders?
It can do the latter if it’s not directly involved in sports wagering at the state level. But if it is involved, it becomes a lot more difficult for it to ignore the rules for something seemingly as innocuous and fun as the Home Run Derby.