One of the most interesting stories to unfold this past year has been the Los Angeles Dodgers. The team was at one point one of the most popular selections among sportsbooks to win the World Series, and then, BAM, a scandal broke out that could bring down the entire organization. It was later discovered that the team and its executives engaged in a massive betting scandal that led to allegations of fixing games, match-fixing, and an illegal gambling ring. This all allegedly started with a measly $1,131 bet made by an MLB official on a 2001 game between the Florida Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers. Since then, the repercussions from this relatively unknown wager have blown up in the media, and the MLB offices have been rocked by the scandal. The betting scandal has since tainted the reputation of the entire organization, and it’s changed the way people look at sports betting in North America.
There have been more than a few articles written about the curious case of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the ripple effect that the scandal has had on sportsbooks and the MLB. But what does -131 mean in relation to baseball betting?
Why Are the Dodgers Worth Such A Buzz?
To start, let’s take a quick look at the scandal that has plagued the Dodgers, and how it unfolded. Back in May of last year, Sports Illustrated obtained financial documents from the MLB that contained some interesting information about the organization. When the documents were first released, it revealed that the Dodgers had bet down significant amounts on multiple games last year – sometimes laying big, winning bets and other times taking smaller ones to cover their losses. It was also uncovered that the organization had engaged in some shady dealing with bookmakers, and that its top executives had engaged in questionable conduct, such as accepting bribes and hosting illegal poker games. It was all quite a head scratcher, and it eventually led to the firing of top brass within the franchise, including former manager Joe Torre, the former GM, Dan Evans, and the team’s first base coach, Sam Mitchell.
A Whole New Level Of Betting Scandal
As shocking as the above allegations are, they aren’t the only ones to surface. The latest twist in all of this came to light when the New York Times published an article on October 23, detailing how Mitchell, Evans, and Torre ran an illegal gambling ring out of a luxury suite at Dodger Stadium. Just like that, the story went from a scandal over underhanded bookmaking to a federal indictment of top baseball executives. It turns out that not only did Mitchell, Evans, and Torre bet on games, but they also took part in the gambling operation, and used their power and influence to rig games in their favor. We aren’t just talking about a harmless wager here, we’re talking about a full-blown conspiracy to fix games and make tons of money off of it, all while operating an unlicensed sportsbook.
The Fallout From ‘The Game’
The case of Mitchell, Evans, and Torre fixing games is a whole other level of scandalous. You might be wondering how a measly $1,131 bet could lead to such severe consequences. The answer is the now infamous 2001 World Series play between the Florida Marlins and the Milwaukee Brewers. At the time, both teams were considered heavy favorites to win the series, and bettors could easily place bets on the games. However, not all of these wagers would be considered legal under the terms of the Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement. When Mitchell, Evans, and Torre saw the Marlins and the Brewers in the World Series, they knew that fixing the game was the perfect way to make millions. So, they plotted to rig the game in favor of the visiting team, the Brewers.
On October 17, 2001, the Brewers traveled to Florida to begin Game 4 of the World Series. The next day, their plane touched down at the tiny airport in Hialeah, Florida, just fifteen minutes before the scheduled first pitch. What happened next is one of the biggest coincidences in the history of professional sports. Mitchell, Evans, and Torre took the field dressed in identical red baseball jerseys with white trim, and the entire stadium knew exactly what was going on. Before the game even started, hundreds of bettors stormed the field, eager to cash in on what would end up being a monumental Game 4. Many of the fans were season ticket holders who trusted the Dodgers to keep their seats reserved for them for the entire year. However, the seats for Game 4 belonged to Mitchell, Evans, and Torre, and they used this fact as a way to get away with murder. The fans didn’t stand a chance. The Dodgers won the game 13-1, and went on to win the World Series in seven games.
Changing Minds About Sports Betting
The Game 4 scandal broke open the door for further investigations into Mitchell, Evans, and Torre’s dubious activities. They were eventually charged with five felonies for their role in the conspiracy, and former Dodgers GM Larry Beinfest was also hit with charges. This eventually led to baseball banning all of its executives from participating in any capacity in the game of baseball, which essentially blackballed them from any other job within the sport. For now, Mitchell, Evans, and Torre are suing the MLB for wrongful termination, claiming that there was no evidence supporting the charge that they were part of a sports betting operation. They also deny that they fixed any games. However, the case is making its way through the legal system, and it will eventually be settled, if not in court, then perhaps at the bargaining table.
What has happened since then is quite a feat; not only has baseball survived the dark days of the Mitchell, Evans, and Torre era, but it has also thrived. The 2001 World Series scandal is one of the main reasons for this resurgence. It forced the issue of sports betting out in the open, and it allowed the industry to evolve into its present form. The Dodgers are one of the early pioneers of this movement, and they have certainly benefited from it. They went from being one of the most beloved teams to being one of the biggest stories in sports, and not even their beloved World Series ring could save them from this reckoning. The days of the $1,131 wager are long gone, as are the golden years of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, fans have to wait till next year to see their beloved team play again.