Pete Rose is back in the news. More on that in a moment. It's a big deal.
As great a player as Pete Rose was, even to the point of legendary, the most hits ever by a player in the history of baseball, I've tended to side with those who have supported his lifetime ban from the sport. The argument of "he's paid his dues" never held much with me, since the penalty was "lifetime." Not "Lifetime until he's been penalized enough."
And as much as Rose has tried to make the case that his penalty was worse than those convicted of drug issues, his transgression was for the #1 rule that all players know from the moment they enter professional baseball at the minor league level -- no gambling on baseball, period. Or your banned for life. This is drilled in them on a regular basis. And it's #1 because violating it calls into question the integrity and trust of the sport. Baseball almost came to ruin after the 1919 Black Sox Scandal with gambling and fixing games. It's what lead to the creation of the Commissioner's Office with its almost all-encompassing powers.
Another of Pete Rose's arguments is that he "only" bet on baseball when a manager. But the bylaws don't apply only to active players. And a manager arguably has an even far greater opportunity to adjust the results of a game. Nor does his case that he said he only bet on his teams to win -- if you lose your bets and made them with "unsavory" characters, they suddenly hold sway with you. (In Mr. Rose's case, he apparently owed $400,000 to underworld figures. That's a lot of sway...) And further, especially as a manager, even if you "just" bet on your team to win, you can make a lot of adjustments in order to win that game, to win your bet, that potentially risk hurting the team in the long run, just to win your bet.
Then there's the matter that Pete Rose lied to baseball and the public for a decade-and-a-half about his gambling, insisting for 15 years that he did no such thing, and would go out of his way to cram himself in baseball's face by year-after-year going to Cooperstown on Hall of Fame Weekend to sign autographs, often signing copies of the Down Report, the document that made the case for banning him. All this before finally, a few years ago in 2004, to help promote his new book, saying, "Yeah, okay, all the years I swore I never gambled on baseball, and the commissioner was screwing me...well, okay, I lied about that. I did gamble when I was a manager. Sorry."
It was pretty thin.
And baseball players hated him for it. Because they knew the cloud that gambling on the sport put baseball under, and knew it was the #1 Rule of what not to do. Years ago, some of the most renowned players in the Hall of Fame got together and decided that if Pete Rose was ever allowed in the Hall of Frame, they wouldn't attend.
And even after finally, grudgingly admitting that he "only" bet on baseball as a manager, he still insisted as recently as just two months ago in a radio interview with Michael Kay of ESPN Radio New York that he never bet on baseball when a player. Adding emphatically that "That's a fact."
Well...facts have a funny way of coming back to bite you on the posterior.
Today, an Outside the Lines report on ESPN said that new documentation has been found that proves Pete Rose bet on baseball when he was a player.
This is known as the "Oops" moment.
It turns out that in 1989, an intermediary between Rose and the mob had had notebooks seized by the Post Office in a case having nothing to do with baseball. And those notebooks, which were just uncovered, show written evidence of Rose making bets in 1986, when he was a player. The intermediary was known to baseball at the time, and the Dowd Report mentioned its suspicions, but didn't have the documented evidence.
The evidence now exists.
Rose has applied to the baseball commissioner's office for reinstatement, which would be the first step to eligibility for being on the ballot for the Hall of Fame, and new commissioner Rob Manfred has said he'll look at the case with an open mind. And from all accounts, he's been doing that.
But this can't help. This seemingly is the nail in the coffin. John Dowd, the author of that original report 26 years ago, says that this is the final proof in the case. The problem for Rose isn't just the documented fact, which of course is the core issue, but Rose's lying denial for 26 years, which is as big an argument against rehabilitation as there is.
It also helps support the position I've been arguing for years, much to the consternation of some of my more lenient friends on the matter.
It should also be noted that though Pete Rose has been banned from baseball, he has been hired as a commentator by Fox Sports. I'm sure they thought it was a very edgy thing to do. Swell. Way to go for your credibility.
Here's the Outside the Lines report.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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