Ex-Minor League Pitcher Remains on MLB’s Banned List for Betting on Baseball

Peter Bayer, a former minor league pitcher, has spent the past two seasons on the MLB’s banned list for betting on baseball. The Commissioner’s Office recently denied Bayer’s latest request for reinstatement, which means he will not be eligible to apply again until after the 2023 World Series.

According to The Athletic, Bayer’s story of what happened varies greatly from the findings of an investigation launched by the MLB. Bayer wrote on Twitter that he placed wagers through legal sportsbooks on MLB games during the canceled 2020 minor league season. He claimed that the extent of his baseball-related betting was fewer than 20 wagers in July and August of the COVID-shortened schedule. However, he upped that number to 30 in a later interview. Bayer was pitching in the Oakland Athletics farm system at the time. He stated that only two of his bets were on Athletics games and estimated that his wagers mainly ranged from $20 to $50 but “never more than $100.”[1]

A letter to Bayer from Commissioner Rob Manfred chronicles very different events. League investigators collected data that showed Bayer placed over 100 baseball-related wagers from May through August of 2020, including at least 12 wagers involving the Athletics and 25 wagers of $1,000 or more. The letter also accused Bayer of attempting to obstruct the league’s investigation.[2]

Bayer has maintained that he did not make that number of bets for those amounts. He stated that the MLB “did not prove any of that, and [he] did not admit to any of that.” Bayer cites the letter as a source of “inaccurate information.”[3]

A league spokesperson issued a statement that Bayer “repeatedly bet on baseball in violation of Major League Rule 21 and [the] MLB’s Policy on Sports Betting and engaged in other misconduct that was not in the best interests of baseball.”[4] Major League Rule 21(d)(1) asserts that “any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.” If the bettor had a duty to perform, then they “shall be declared permanently ineligible.”[5] As noted in Manfred’s letter to Bayer, each bet constitutes a separate violation of Rule 21.

The legalization of sports betting across the United States presents an immense opportunity for baseball. However, it may also pose unique challenges. Cases similar to Bayer’s could become more common as sports betting becomes increasingly accessible. The MLB and some individual clubs now have official gaming partners, including recently announced deals with sportsbooks such as FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM.

Bayer placed the bets in Colorado, where a gaming official confirmed that his wagers on baseball violated the state’s sports betting regulations. The Colorado Division of Gaming ruled that Bayer’s relationship with the MLB made him a prohibited bettor. Therefore, they were obligated to report his infractions to the league.[6]

Manfred’s letter contended that Bayer “engaged in conduct not in the best interests of baseball.” The allegations put forth by the MLB went beyond gambling. Bayer was accused of lying about betting on baseball to state regulators and to an unnamed baseball executive, attempting to obstruct the MLB’s investigation by threatening a state regulator, and admitting to MLB investigators that he submitted a false “chargeback” claim to recover the funds that he wagered (i.e. disputing a transaction with his bank to have the charge reversed).[7]

Peter denied threatening the state regulator and said that his credit card number was compromised around the time in question. He continues to say that he legally bet on games in 2020 once the minor league season was canceled but “never once bet on baseball when physically playing.”[8] Bayer had been with the Athletics in minor league spring training when the pandemic forced camps to close in mid-March. He argues that the uncertain nature of his employment status in the summer of 2020 should be a mitigating factor in his punishment because minor league contracts were suspended at the end of March.[9]

The suspended contracts impacted regular pay and provided minor leaguers a measly $400 weekly stipend from their organization. Furthermore, the suspended contracts did not sever a player’s employment with a club, which meant that they were still subject to policies concerning performance-enhancing drugs, domestic violence, and sports betting.[10]

MiLB did not have a season in 2020. This left minor league players without a job, benefits, or a livable income. At the same time, the entire system underwent a restructuring that eliminated two minor league classifications and 42 affiliate teams.[11] To make matters worse, the Athletics were the first, and one of the few, teams that announced that they would stop paying their minor league players at the end of May. Bayer spoke out against the decision and told The Wall Street Journal that he “completely lost respect for everyone” in the A’s organization who was involved.[12]

Athletics owner John Fisher changed his position a few weeks later and agreed to pay his minor leaguers. Nevertheless, Bayer believes being outspoken against the league and some teams for refusing to pay or cutting back on minor league salaries may have factored into his discipline. He was also an active proponent in efforts to unionize the MiLB.[13] The MLB Players Association eventually agreed to represent MiLB athletes. This alliance resulted in an official union and higher wages for minor league players. If Bayer received backlash for his role in advocating for players’ rights, the National Labor Relations Act may provide him with an avenue to file a claim against the MLB. Under U.S. law, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who assert workplace rights.

Sports Illustrated documented Bayer working as a DoorDash delivery driver during the pandemic to make extra income. He estimated that he earned only $1,500 per month before taxes in 2019 for an entire season in High-A. Peter owed roughly $200 per month in clubhouse fees and pocketed about $6,200 for the year, which had to cover housing, food, insurance, car payments, and student loans. Bayer was effectively laid off. Players could collect state unemployment, but they did not receive health benefits from the league.[14]

In October of 2020, the Athletics officially released Bayer. The Cincinnati Reds signed Bayer in January of 2021, but he was contacted soon after by the MLB and told that he was under investigation for sports betting. Bayer was placed on a “Restricted/Investigative List,” which prevented him from signing or being a part of any MLB organization in 2021. He was subsequently moved to the “Ineligible List,” where he remains today.[15]

Peter Bayer Pitching for the Stockton Ports (High-A) in 2019 – Image from Sports Illustrated

Bayer, now 27 years old, signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016 as a senior out of Cal Poly Pomona for $7,500 as a ninth round selection in the draft. After being traded to Oakland in 2018, Bayer posted a 3.38 ERA in 37 appearances out of the bullpen in High-A.[16] Peter seeks reinstatement because he wants to coach organized baseball. In the offseason, Bayer would coach at an indoor baseball facility near his home in Denver and do remote coaching at a performance center called Driveline.[17] The right-handed pitcher was still playing in 2022, splitting his time between the Pioneer League and Mexican League. Bayer’s story provides a glimpse into the difficult journey of a minor leaguer. His tale also imparts a costly lesson for players navigating the gray areas of the evolving legal sports betting space.

[1] https://theathletic.com/4254474/2023/02/27/mlb-minor-leaguer-gambling-ineligible/?source=pulsenewsletter&campaign=6279476

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] http://content.mlb.com/documents/8/2/2/296982822/Major_League_Rule_21.pdf

[6] https://theathletic.com/4254474/2023/02/27/mlb-minor-leaguer-gambling-ineligible/?source=pulsenewsletter&campaign=6279476

[7] Id.

[8] https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10066961-report-former-minor-leaguer-peter-bayer-made-over-100-baseball-related-bets-in-2020

[9] https://theathletic.com/4254474/2023/02/27/mlb-minor-leaguer-gambling-ineligible/?source=pulsenewsletter&campaign=6279476

[10] Id.

[11] https://www.playcolorado.com/mlb-bans-player-for-colorado-sportsbook-gambling/

[12] https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2893815-as-prospect-peter-bayer-ive-completely-lost-respect-for-team-after-pay-cut

[13] https://www.outkick.com/why-is-mlb-still-banning-minor-league-player-over-sports-betting-when-there-was-no-season-in-2020-mike-gunzelman/

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2893815-as-prospect-peter-bayer-ive-completely-lost-respect-for-team-after-pay-cut

[17] https://www.si.com/mlb/2020/03/14/minor-leaguer-doordash-coronavirus

Photo Credit:

Peter Bayer – https://sports.yahoo.com/door-dash-gyms-and-uncertainty-coronavirus-upends-the-life-of-a-minor-leaguer-195011291.html

Peter Bayer Pitching for the Stockton Ports – https://www.si.com/mlb/2020/03/14/minor-leaguer-doordash-coronavirus

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