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MLB umpire Pat Hoberg is facing possible disciplinary action over gambling allegations

A week after Major League Baseball banned its first player in 30 years for betting on baseball, a renowned umpire is facing disciplinary action for undisclosed violations of MLB’s gambling policy. That umpire, Pat Hoberg, is calling on the discipline, the extent of which the MLB says it cannot yet share.

“During this year’s Spring Training, Major League Baseball initiated an investigation into a possible violation of MLB’s sports betting policy by umpire Pat Hoberg,” MLB said in a statement.

“Mr. Hoberg was removed from the field during the pendency of that investigation. Although MLB’s investigation found no evidence that the games developed by Mr. Hoberg had been compromised or manipulated in any way, MLB determined that discipline was warranted Mr. Hoberg has chosen to appeal this decision. Therefore, we cannot comment further until the appeal process has been completed.”

Whenever that process concludes, the key sentence in the tally of charges and discipline will almost certainly be the one that suggests that “no games worked by Mr. Hoberg have been compromised or manipulated in any way.”

MLB used similar words last week when it announced discipline against five Major and Minor League players who gambled on baseball. One of those players, 24-year-old Tucupita Marcano, received a life ban. It used similar words when discussing allegations against Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, who was embroiled in a sports gambling scandal and pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud charges earlier this month.

Federal documents indicated Mizuhara kept his bets on other sports, but as gambling scandals mount, the priority remains the same: MLB doesn’t want anyone to worry about the league’s integrity, even as evidence that players, officials and team employees are vulnerable for the temptations of gambling are increasing.

Hoberg, known for getting every ball and strike correct in a 2022 World Series game, has yet to umpire a game this year as the MLB investigation continues. The 37-year-old has been a full-time MLB umpire since 2017.

“I look forward to the appeal process and I am grateful that the Major League Baseball Umpires Association is supporting me in the appeal,” Hoberg, who could not be reached for comment late Friday evening, told Athletic.

That officials join players and clubhouse staff in almost weekly gambling scandals illustrates the danger the league faces in an era when sports betting has never been easier.

Allegations against Mizuhara opened the floodgates in March, when the closest confidant of the game’s brightest star was accused of siphoning millions from Ohtani to pay off massive sports gambling debts.

The cracks widened last week when MLB announced a lifetime ban for Marcano, a San Diego Padres infielder who gambled on the Pittsburgh Pirates while injured as a member of their Major League roster. Four other players were banned for one year for betting on their major league teams while in the minors.

But officials represented a group still unsullied. Not since NBA referee Tim Donaghy resigned in 2007 after allegedly manipulating the point spread has an official in major North American sports come under such scrutiny.

MLB umpires are subject to the same rules as major league players: if someone bets on “a baseball game in which the bettor has a duty to perform,” he or she is subject to a lifetime baseball ban. Until earlier this month, the most memorable offenders included the 1919 Chicago “Black Sox” and all-time baseball leader Pete Rose.

What exactly Hoberg is accused of remains unclear, and it’s worth noting that none of the players that MLB disciplined last week chose to appeal their suspensions, as Hoberg has done. Yet the specter of gambling only grows, and despite its efforts to downplay it, the MLB stands firmly in its shadow.