Saturday, April 17, 2004

The Pete Rose Case: One Fan's Opinion by Jeff Herz

It is two days before Pete Rose’s book comes out and he is the talk of the sports world. I was at the gym last night watching (reading the captions of, actually) some talking heads on CNN Headline News discuss this matter. One proclaimed ethics expert spoke of America’s ability to forgive and forget. He was essentially saying that Pete Rose has spent the last 14 years in purgatory and therefore has paid his punishment, deserves to be forgiven by the master asshole himself Bud Selig, and should be reinstated back into baseball.

This schmuck clearly knows nothing about baseball and even less about Pete Rose. First off, there is one cardinal rule in baseball that is made 100% clear in any locker room (or so I am told since I have never been in a major league locker room)—gambling is not allowed. Even today’s whipping boy, illegal drugs doesn’t have the same effect as gambling does. Just ask any of these former players: Steve Howe, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Willie Aikens, Ferguson Jenkins, Otis Nixon, Leon Durham, Vida Blue and Pascual Perez. They were all suspended for drug use and returned to the game after their suspensions.

Not since the “Black Sox” scandal of 1919, has a person associated with MLB returned to the game after being associated with gambling or gamblers. Even Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were asked to disassociate themselves from the Yankees and Giants in the 1980s by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, when they were employed as greeters at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Whether you agree with the precedent or not, gambling is the death penalty in baseball! (Anyone heard from the SMU football team since they received this judgment from NCAA in 1987?) Pete Rose now admits he gambled on baseball while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds. He claims not to have done it from the field, though the Dowd report has wiretaps from the manager’s office to his bookie, he claims not to have used insider information to his advantage, which is impossible considering he is an insider and would know if his closer is tired or his cleanup hitter tweaked a hamstring (Jayson Stark,, January 6, 2004),
and he admits he only bet on the Reds to win, which in my mind contradicts the not acting on insider information statement. By not betting on your team on days you know you are benching certain players is just as bad as betting on your team when all your players are on fire.

After 14 years of lying, he has finally admitted he was gambling. Big fucking deal. To think Rose was not betting on baseball you have to have been living on Mars since 1989 when A. Bart Giamatti, the last real commissioner of MLB (who subsequently dropped dead of heart attack a few days later) suspended Rose for life, with the opportunity to apply for reinstatement after one year. If he has been lying for so long, why should I believe him now?

What I have not seen or heard from him is an apology to the fans, and this gives me no reason to welcome him back to the game. Mike Francesa pointed out on WFAN in NY that Rose is broke and is desperate to get back into the game. Rose has lied for 14 years and he is carefully crafting the book, the interviews, and every other piece of PR for two reasons. The first is to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, which he deserves—in spite of being a slimy creature who should crawl back under the rock beneath which he came. The second is to return to a role in organized baseball. But what role should putz master Buddy S. allow Peter to play?

The ownership of the Cincinnati Reds would hire Rose again in a minute assuming the used car salesman from Milwaukee gives #14 a full reprieve and unlimited entry back into the game. Others have suggested that Rose should be allowed to be a spring training instructor but not allowed to be a fulltime employee of an MLB organization, essentially keeping him away from real games and subsequently keeping him away from temptation. What will the man who decided, “I am going to call the All-Star game a tie,” do? I don’t know, but here is my suggestion.

A (real) commissioner of MLB would lift the banishment for the sole purpose of allowing the BBWA to induct Rose into the Hall of Fame prior to 2006, when his eligibility expires. Let’s face it; there are a lot of nasty folks in that building who did some bad shit. It is a place for the best baseball players of all-time, not a personality contest. And let’s face it, though I have issues with hangers-on (Dave Winfield, Don Sutton), Rose personified baseball in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s with his “Charlie Hustle” style of play. We would be able to celebrate Rose the player, not Rose the manager, not Rose the gambler. He would be in Cooperstown, and then he would go away, off the baseball radar.

If Rose is allowed into Cooperstown, he should not be granted anything else. He should not be allowed to be a spring training instructor, he should not be allowed to be general manager, he should not be allowed to a field manager, he should not be allowed to participate in an old-timers’ game, he should not be allowed to be involved in publicity nights, he should have no contact with the game without expressed written consent of the commissioner of MLB. There has to be some punishment for gambling, and keeping him off the field away from the game is the best way to accomplish that. But that is just me.

Assuming Selig does reinstate Rose in some manner, isn’t it time that Shoeless Joe Jackson also be reinstated? Unfortunately, Joe did less than Rose and has been banned much longer than him. Jackson was a poor Southerner who played in a different age and there is no one left to take up his cause. He received a lifetime ban in 1920, and his lifetime ended in 1951. His still has the third highest all-time average, which to me is a much more substantial record then total number of hits.

It boils down to this—Pete Rose: in Cooperstown, but off the field.

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