Revisiting Pete Rose

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Since it was so much fun the other day, let’s run out one more ground ball on the whole Pete Rose/reinstatement/Hall of Fame discussion.

A clear majority of the 134 and counting comments to that article were in favor of Pete Rose being reinstated and voted into the Hall of Fame.  A majority of those comments — echoing Mike Schmidt’s own defense of Rose — trotted out some variation of “how can you not let Pete in when all of the evil, evil steroids users are allowed to live and play baseball and eat pie and kick puppies and do all of the awful things they do?!!” [note: people didn’t actually say that; most comments were far more impassioned].

Lost in all of this — and brought to my attention by reader Jason Fisher — is the fact that Pete Rose is not some being separate and apart from the business of steroids.  Or do you not remember Tommy Gioiosa?

Gioiosa says Rose listened with glee whenever his bodybuilder buddy talked about the fights he started in ‘roid rages. Rose also would watch him shoot up and ask questions about what he was using. Good stuff, Gioiosa would reply. Parabolin. Human growth hormone. A German extract from the pituitary gland of monkeys. Pete had been tempted to take a shot himself, especially in 1985 and 1986 when he was losing bat speed. But he told Gioiosa it was too late to try something new. (Rose, through a spokesman, declined comment.)    

How about Paul Janzen, the steroids dealer who, according to the Dowd Report, became Rose’s primary bet-placer?

In the middle of February 1987, Rose invited Janszen and Marcum to come to his home in Florida while he was at Spring training. Janszen and Marcum accepted the invitation . . . They stayed for six weeks at Rose’s rented house in Tampa, Florida.  Janszen had quit his job at the Queen City Barrel Company and was essentially living off the proceeds of his steroid business.

I have no idea if Rose ever used steroids as a player.  In fact, I actually kinda doubt that he did for the same reason Gioiosa says Rose declined to shoot up: he was too old and even Rose knew it would be too little too late.

We do know, however, based on ESPN’s reporting and the Dowd Report, that he worked out at a gym that he knew to be a hub of steroids users and dealers, many of whom he was very close friends with. One of the dealers was such a close friend of Rose’s that he actually lived in Rose’s house and was entrusted with running Rose’s illegal gambling and tax evasion activities (Janszen placed bets for Rose and brought him his unreported cash in brown paper bags from card and autograph shows).  We also know, again, based on the same sources, that Rose turned a blind eye to steroid use on the Reds teams he managed, going so far as to openly joke with unnamed steroid user on his team, telling him in front of reporters that he should talk about “what steroids can do for you.”

Maybe this doesn’t change anyone’s ultimate opinion regarding whether or not Pete Rose should be reinstated or allowed entry into the Hall of Fame.  It should, however, make you think twice about casting Rose as some greater moral and ethical actor than ballplayers who have been associated with steroids.  He was around it. He tolerated it. He joked about it. His close friend said he was even tempted to use.

To Pete Rose, steroids appeared to be just another one of those illegal things with which he had a certain comfort level.  How, then, they can be employed as the definitive moral differentiator between Rose and, say, Barry Bonds is beyond me.

UPDATE:  Some further discussion of all of this from Mr. Fisher can be found on this blog post, under the Barry Bonds heading.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.