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Perrotto: Empathy in Short Supply for Former Pirates Teammate Tucupita Marcano

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PITTSBURGH – There was some empathy for former teammate Tucupita Marcano in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ clubhouse. But not a lot.

Manager Derek Shelton and the Pirates’ players admitted they felt bad that Marcano received a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball on Tuesday for betting on games involving the Pirates last year while on the injured list recovering from knee surgery. The Pirates lost the 24-year-old to the San Diego Padres on a waiver claim on Oct. 2 when they dropped him from the 40-man roster.

“Sad. Anybody that spent time around Tuca, he was a good kid, so sad when I heard the news,” Shelton said before the Pirates beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series at PNC Park.

Added designated hitter Andrew McCutchen: “I mean, nobody’s perfect. It’s very unfortunate.”

However, it was clear that the Pirates weren’t all that sympathetic to Marcano having his professional baseball career end at 24 years old. Nor should that have been.

“This is the one non-negotiable rule we have in our sport,” Shelton said. “It’s the one rule that we stand up at the beginning of spring training and Rule 21 is read to every player. It’s posted in our clubhouse. There’s a standard to being a major-league player. This is one of the gold standards if not the gold standard and I think that’s why we’ve seen the punishments that have happened over the course of time that have had the severity that they’ve had.”

However, no active MLB player has received a lifetime suspension for betting on baseball in 100 years. The New York Giants’ Jimmy O’Connell and coach Cozy Dolan were banned for life in 1927 after offering a $500 bribe to Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Heinie Sand to throw a game.

Marcano did not commit the ultimate sin of competitive athletics by trying to fix a game. However, the second-biggest sin in baseball is betting on games involving your team.

That is why all-time hits leader Pete Rose received his lifetime ban in 1989. It was proven he bet on the Cincinnati Reds while serving as their manager.

Marcano doesn’t have a high profile like Rose. He wasn’t a high roller like Rose, who bet thousands of dollars on games.

However, Marcano made 25 bets on the Pirates late last season with a legal online sportsbook. It wasn’t a one-off.

“What you do in the dark will come to light, I guess, and you’ve got to deal with the consequences of poor choices,” McCutchen said.

Sports gambling has become so prevalent in the United States in recent years that it is now an acceptable part of the American culture. Heck, an advertisement for MGM Grand’s sportsbook is on the left-center fence at PNC Park.

So, it is easy to see why players may not take MLB’s gambling rules seriously. However, McCutchen isn’t buying the idea that the current climate should seduce players into betting on baseball.

“It should be obvious already,” McCutchen said. “It shouldn’t have to be for something like this to happen to understand the rule. Everyone knows the rule. Everyone.”

If anyone in the Pirates’ organization did not understand the rule before Tuesday, Shelton is certain they do now.

“I think the awareness level, that provides in and of itself, and we’re talking about a 24-year-old kid that’s been banned for life, I think that’ll resonate extremely hard in our clubhouse,” Shelton said.

You bet it should. No pun intended.

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