pete rose getty

The Pete Rose rehabilitation begins, as scheduled

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Last week Pete Rose made a case, however much he soft-peddled it, that given how bad the PED guys are, he should be considered for reinstatement. I predicted at the time that that talking point would come out of induction weekend in Cooperstown. And it did. Here’ Joe Morgan:

“Braun has $117 million coming to him and had to give only three million back. Is the risk worth the reward for cheating the game?” asked Joe Morgan. “Tell me how that works. We thought the Hall of Fame was going to be detriment enough for these guys. Obviously, it’s not. They’re still doing it. That’s because there’s so much money. Pete did a bad thing, I’m not saying he didn’t. He broke baseball’s cardinal rule. And he shouldn’t have taken 10 years to come clean. But he never cheated the game. Yet he’s out 24 years as opposed to Braun getting 65 games? That just doesn’t seem right to me.”

There was a time when there wasn’t a bigger threat to the very existence of baseball than gambling. For that reason, baseball implemented its most severe and most clearly-stared rule of all: gamble on the game, banned permanently. It is literally written on the walls of every clubhouse. Pete Rose knowingly broke that rule and willingly accepted the punishment.

Say whatever you want about PED users. Say they too should be banned permanently. Say they should be drawn and quartered and their heads put on pikes. But don’t suggest for one second that that has any bearing on baseball’s anti-gambling rules or its punishment of Pete Rose. Don’t suggest that it renders his behavior any less odious.

Pete Rose is seen by many as a sad clown now, but when he was suspended he was one of 26 baseball managers. He probably had more power over the day to day operations of the Cincinnati Reds than any manager in the game had at that time. While the story has come down that he only bet on the Reds to win that is not anywhere close to being firmly established. Conveniently, it is most often cited by people trying to excuse Rose’s behavior as an extension of his win-first mentality, forgetting that Pete Rose wanted to win at gambling just as much as he wanted to win at baseball and thus very well could have “won” by losing. It also is beside the point. PED guys take stuff because they want to win too. We don’t go any lighter on them because of it.

PEDs and Pete Rose are separate issues. To the extent they are conflated it is done so by people who are either ignorant of baseball history or who are banking on you being ignorant of baseball history.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.