Peter Bayer’s Journey After Betting on Baseball

Peter Bayer’s Journey After Betting on Baseball

March 12, 2020, Major League Baseball announced the cancellation of the remainder of Spring Training and the delay of the season due to the Covid 19 pandemic. For Colorado native Peter Bayer, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for his playing career. He was a ninth round pick out of Division II Cal Poly Pomona by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016 and signed for just $7,500. These selections are often used by MLB teams as a cost saving measure to reallocate draft funds to be spent on more high profile prospects. In just a few years, he had elevated himself from a cost saving draft pick to a guy invited out to throw innings in big league games that Spring and likely headed to Double-A come the start of the season. 

Instead Bayer, now with the Oakland Athletics after a 2018 trade that sent Wilmer Font to Tampa Bay in return, went home to Colorado after he was told the Minor League Baseball season was canceled. His contract, along with those of all other minor leaguers, would be suspended for the year and he could apply for unemployment benefits. He did just that, as the Athletics initially announced that they would not pay their minor league players during the pandemic – something they eventually changed in part due to public outcry and outspoken players like Bayer. While he did collect a paycheck from Athletics, his contract was still suspended and his monthly pay was only about $300 a month. 

During this time, he also received confirmation of a massive contraction across Minor League Baseball. This resulted in 40 fewer teams and, as a result, fewer roster spots for MLB teams to fill in their MiLB affiliates. Bayer was informed once this change was finalized in the off-season, he was going to be among those cut. 

The then 25 year old Bayer goes from the high of pitching against big leaguers and getting ready to head out to Double-A, just two levels away from realizing his lifelong dream of being a MLB player, to back at, world shut down, his career in question with a suspended contract. In Bayer’s mind, he was no longer considered an employed baseball player. 

In that time of uncertainty, Bayer did what so many sports fans in the state of Colorado did, logged onto one of the many legal online sports betting apps and started to place a few bets. He bet on soccer. He bet on tennis. He bet on baseball. 

Coming into the 2021 season, Bayer signed a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds and was looking forward to getting back on the mound. All that changed shortly thereafter when he received word that he was under investigation for betting on baseball. He was told that the investigation would last “a few weeks to a few months”, and that his contract with the Reds was voided, as he could not play during the investigation.

Those said weeks turned to months on end, with little to no communication from the league on their progress. This led Bayer to hire an attorney to assist in receiving communication from the league, that amounted to discovering that they were still investigating without a timetable. Bayer stated that he was asked multiple times by the league “who else do you know is betting?”

This wasn’t some big criminal organization running a sports betting ring, this was a bored 25-year-old who was under the impression he was not under contract placing some bets on the game he loves while stuck in his home, like so many others did during such a trying time in our world.  

The investigation that began in January 2021 was finally completed in April 2022. At this time Bayer was informed he was formally suspended for the season and that he could apply for reinstatement following the completion of the 2022 World Series. Anticipating being reinstated, he applied, as he was told, and began preparing for the 2023 season. 

Bayer felt he didn’t violate any rules given his suspended contract and the fact he was collecting unemployment. Begrudgingly he accepts there is a Rule 21 in baseball, which prohibits betting on the game. However, even that hasn’t necessarily been followed in the execution of Bayer’s punishment. Rule 21 Section D-1 states “Any player, umpire, Club or League official, or employer 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.”

So, here we are with Bayer staring down the fourth consecutive season he will not be able to participate in – one due to the pandemic; one due to an investigation; and two due to a league bylaw that clearly states should only carry a one year punishment. Bayer claims the league added “conduct detrimental’ to the language in the suspension because he bet on other sports in addition to baseball – which is not against any published rule by MLB. His outspoken reaction about the A’s initial decision not to pay their minor league players during the pandemic, and the fact that he let it publicly known he started driving for DoorDash to make ends meet, between the delay of the season and the eventual cancellation of the MiLB season, may have played a role in the “conduct detrimental” claim as well. 

Bayer is eligible to apply for reinstatement again upon the completion of the 2023 World Series, but by then he will be a 29-year-old pitcher who hasn’t thrown a pitch in affiliated ball for four seasons. In 2022 he did pitch in Mexico and in the independent Pioneer League, which is an interesting situation in itself. Remember the MiLB contraction? Well, the Pioneer League was one of the leagues that fell victim to it and was no longer affiliated with Major League Baseball. However, this said league was named a MLB Partner League, which is plastered all over the Pioneer League’s website, as well as each of the team websites. So Bayer was not permitted to play in any affiliated MLB leagues, but was allowed to pitch in a partner league?

Although Bayer is keeping up with his conditioning for his pitching development, should an opportunity to play present itself, he has come to terms that his playing days may very well come to an end. Currently Bayer is enjoying coaching kids on pitching development skills. Should the uncertainty of his reinstatement back into MiLB and the ongoing investigation saga continue, Bayer plans to turn his coaching pursuit to the college ranks where he feels he can be a valuable asset. 

Whenever he goes home or talks to his friends, the first question always seems to be “how are you holding up?” He is tired of answering that question, he just wants to move on. His frustration stems from the three years of limbo that have prevented him from being able to take that next step in his career, whatever it may be. His reputation damaged, as he has been labeled “that guy” who bet on baseball. Something done with his understanding that he was no longer an actively employed baseball player given his suspended contract. He fully admits he bet on baseball in 2020, however also states he has not bet on any sport, baseball or other, before or after the time in question. 

Multiple attempts to contact the MLB Commissioner’s office for comment on this story were met without response.

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