My dad went to college at a once-illustrious athletic institution. City College of New York was once a powerhouse, and basketball was their central cog. Their downfall came nearly 70 years ago, as Junius Kellogg, one of the first prominent African-American college basketball players, refused a bribe to shave points and reported the offer to his coach, who referred him to the District Attorney. Wearing a wire, Kellogg helped uncover what would ultimately be a massive point-shaving scandal tied to organized crime. The University of Kentucky would eventually recover as would a few others, but City University, winners of the NIT and NCAA tournaments in the 1949-50 season, saw its program decimated, dismantled, and only much later restored in the slightest capacity.
It’s the type of scenario that I often wonder how I would respond. Kellogg was working for minimum wage at a custard shop, offered life-changing money to alter his game slightly. Perhaps he was naturally suspicious, keeping him from taking the bait. Baseball is no stranger to gambling scandals. The Black Sox linger in infamy, and Pete Rose resides in a Las Vegas mall instead of Cooperstown’s hallowed halls. But the modern game is mercifully free of such suspicions. Hopefully appropriately, the immense sums granted to players, coaches, front offices, and other pertinent individuals are likely influential in keeping betting from being a necessary appeal. Increased scrutiny and surveillance no doubt plays a role as well, as even the NBA’s Tim Donaghy scandal in 2007 seems far removed. The league is flush with illicit activity - some teams even measure the criminality of their own employees - but the wagers in the game these days are made in broad daylight.
Today would’ve been a lovely day for those attuned to the betting side of baseball. With the league’s partnership with MGM, gambling is moving further towards the straight and narrow, and the Mariners sneaking their second straight narrow loss against the Astros is a sensational display of splitting the difference. They did so with a 2019 special: three home runs and a fielder’s choice. Tim Beckham and Domingo Santana took Justin Verlander deep, and Dee Gordon snuck home.
Daniel Vogelbach poked a ball out the other way off Ryan Pressly to tally five runs for Seattle.
It was an impressive offensive display, getting Verlander out of the game in five innings and putting up a run off the gauntlet that is the Astros bullpen.
It was not enough. Yusei Kikuchi was so-so, with shaky command that undid him. But he was sunk a series of defensive miscues, specifically a couple recorded and also mental errors by Dee Gordon.
It was a bad day all around for Gordon, who would be removed mid-game for what Scott Servais called a quad injury. He also was absent for a potential double play or guaranteed double play ball to J.P. Crawford. For all his foibles, lack of effort has not been an issue for Dee. Hopefully he is alright, as his health also accelerates his opportunity to move to a contending roster.
Between walks from Kikuchi and shoddy defense, the Mariners were playing from behind all afternoon. Joe Girardi and Aaron Goldsmith seemed to have a blast all broadcast, as they should’ve in a tightly contested matchup, but as Seattle failed to pull ahead late it seemed certain the outcome would mirror last night’s loss. Sure enough, down to the hitter, Yuli Gurriel smacked a double past a fully extended Mallex Smith, driving home Michael Brantley for a walk-off Astros win. The Astros for the game, and a win for those of you who had the over.