Manfred's comments about gambling show Rothstein was on to something

Manfred's comments about gambling show Rothstein was on to something

So maybe Arnold Rothstein wasn’t such a villain for fixing the 1919 World Series after all. Maybe he was just 98 years ahead of his time.

Oh, don’t get us wrong, Rothstein was an awful human being on any number of fronts, and if there is a hell, he’s working on one of the coal-fired boilers.

But Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s latest attempt to introduce a more earnest discussion about legalized sports betting (hint: MLB has equity in DraftKings) is a sign that Rothstein was on to something – but just took it a bit too far.

(We will now pause while you consider how Michael Lerner’s portrayal of him in Eight Men Out was superior to Michael Stuhlbarg’s version in Boardwalk Empire).

Manfred spent time on a panel with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and  is doubling down on remarks he made last year about looking at baseball’s relationships with legalized gambling, but added the notion of what he calls “a federal framework” for sports betting that would expand current law prohibiting single-game betting outside Nevada.

Baseball has already put one foot in the water by allowing casinos to advertise in their ballparks – money in – and their investment in DraftKings suggests that after an idiotic attempt to seize the proprietary rights to baseball statistics – money out – that they are planning to get back ahead of the gambling curve – money back in.

It is difficult to quantify if this will get younger people with younger disposable income more interested in the sport, but it is an undertapped market, and you know how entrepreneurs hate an untapped market.

That’s what Rothstein saw in 1919, after all, when the scheme to fix the Series was brought to him, after all. He could not have known, for example, that his work would inspire the making of almost certainly the best baseball movie of all time, but he knew a fast buck when he saw one.

In fairness, Manfred is not saying he is going to steer right toward legalized single-game wagering. Among other things, there is the matter of repealing PAPSA, the law that prohibits such betting outside our neighbor to the east, and repealing a law takes years (as opposed to executive orders, which can be dashed off without a moment’s thought).

In addition, it would be exceedingly difficult to actually fix a game given the levels of money it would take to buy off an influential principal (say, a manager or umpire, let alone a player). I mean, in case you were worried that there are budding future Rothsteins out there – besides, most of them are more prone to get into hedge fund management.

But Manfred, like Silver, is acknowledging that betting goes on – as opposed to NFL harlequin Roger Goodell, whose industry generates the most gambling money of all – and that if there is money on the table to be had, they’d both be very much in favor of having it.

Of course, this opens mild debates on whether the potential Hall of Famers who have been kept out because of gambling, most notably Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, but while that would greatly amuse the chattering classes who love Hall of Fame debates because of the way it eats up time that would otherwise be wasted on loved ones and charity work, that’s not what this is about.

This is about the accumulation of a share of the as-yet-undercharted gambling world, and now that the NHL is invading Las Vegas and the NFL is considering it, the anachronism of denying its impact sits poorly both with Silver and Manfred.

Besides, the fleeting notion of Arnold Rothstein being inducted into the Hall of Fame some day is simply too delicious not to promote. Michael Lerner can accept the award on his behalf, and can designate Michael Stuhlbarg to present him. That way, nobody’s feelings get hurt, and everyone goes away slightly wealthier for the Bizarro World experience.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”