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In age of widespread gambling, more and more baseball players fear for their safety

The age of legalized sports wagering creates plenty of potential pitfalls for players who might be inclined to place a legal wager or two. It also gives rise to plenty of risk for players who fail to help fans win their own legal wagers.

A lengthy and compelling item from Bob Nightengale of USA Today includes a wide range of quotes from MLB players who have become increasingly concerned about their safety, given the things that fans are saying and doing — during and after games.

"You hear it all, man," Arizona Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald told USA Today. "You blow a save, you don’t come through, you get it all. 'Fuck you. You suck. You cost me all of this money.'

“'Fuck you. Fuck your family. I’m going to kill you and then kill your family.'"

Sewald had sensed the shift in fan mindset.

"It used to be fans who were upset because you blew the game for the team, but now it’s gambling," Sewald said. "These people don’t really care about the Diamondbacks. They just care about their bets, and we’re talking about money they don’t have that they are losing. So, it’s a very scary spot."

Diamondbacks reliever Logan Allen said that, while playing for Cleveland, a fan followed him home and yelled at him for costing the fan money. Other players are being harassed in social-media DMs.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Logan Webb said that, during games, fans will harangue him about hitting his over-under props.

"'Hey, I got money on you for strikeouts. Are you going to hit it?’," Webb said. "I always look up and say, 'Probably not.’ There are times it gets pretty serious."

The issue is both wagers made before games — and the variety of real-time bets made during games.

Giants reliever Tyler Rogers said fans found him on Venmo and demanded payment after he blew a game.

"It definitely gets people a lot more upset than it used to," he said.

Just as it was inevitable that players in major-league sports would be banned for life due to gambling (two of them have been in recent weeks, Jontay Porter by the NBA and Tucupita Marcano of the MLB), it's inevitable that a fan is going to do something more than make threats.

Even if it doesn't happen, the mere existence of the threats is a problem. And it's something that everyone should have seen coming the moment athletes were transmogrified into the cards on a blackjack table, the dice in a craps game, and/or the steel ball on a roulette wheel.

The difference is that, when you lose in a casino, there's no point in yelling at the inanimate devices that caused it. When you lose by betting on sports (particularly prop bets), it's very easy to direct the anger at the walking, talking gambling implement that failed to perform well enough to deliver a win.

Is there a solution to any of this? Probably not. The states who legalized betting, the sports books who are capitalizing on it, and the leagues that are stuffing their pockets with money won't want to change the way things are.

Which means that players will have to assume the risk of threats and people acting on them, the same ways players assume the various other risks associated with playing their sport.