Craig Calcaterra

Did Rob Manfred give the Hall of Fame the go-ahead to put Pete Rose on the ballot?

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While it’s not a good day for Pete Rose and while Rob Manfred blasted him to the stone age in his decision declining reinstatement, part of me wonders if Manfred also didn’t give Rose a glimmer of hope, at least as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned, today.

The glimmer: Manfred made great pains in his decision to make a distinction between Pete Rose as a threat to baseball due to his gambling and Pete Rose’s legacy as a great player. Specifically, he said this:

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It is often forgotten that Rose is not being punished simply to punish him. He is banned to that he cannot be near the game and cannot, through his actions and motivations as a gambler, influence the outcome of games. In the legal theory business, which the lawyer Rob Manfred knows well, they call this “incapacitation.” The other basis for punishment are still present — “retribution” (i.e. pure punishment) and “deterrence” (i.e. serving as a warning to others) — but Manfred here is clearly talking about Rose’s ban being driven by the practicality of keeping him from violating Rule 21 again.

In this — and in allowing him to broadcast for Fox and show up at the All-Star Game — he is avoiding doing what many have done over the past 26 years in painting Rose as some sort of shamed, pariah-like figure. He is simply saying that Rose can’t work on the side of the game where outcomes can be influenced. He is also, in his reference to “that organization,” making a clear distinction between MLB and the Hall of Fame, which determines who can be and who can’t be on the ballot.

Practically speaking MLB and the Hall of Fame are close, with Manfred, Bud Selig and many others in the game serving on its board. It is also thought that the Hall’s 1990s rule-change to keep banned players off the ballot was done as a favor to MLB so that it would not be embarrassed by Rose being inducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America. But here — and in some past interviews — Manfred seems to allow for a separation. Maybe it’s just a buck-passing, maybe it’s something more.

His words are, however, quite consistent with (a) wanting to appear strict with Rose; while (b) allowing for him to be put on the Hall of Fame ballot without that strictness being undercut.

Maybe I’m just imagining that and maybe the Hall does nothing. But if they do something, it won’t be seen as an insult to MLB. Manfred’s own words ensure that.

Rob Manfred blasts Rose to the stone age in his decision declining reinstatement

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Major League Baseball released the full written decision of Commissioner Rob Manfred declining Pete Rose’s reinstatement. To say it is damning is to fail to do it justice.

In in Manfred clearly and calmly lays out the procedural posture of Rose’s case, explains the reasons for Rule 21, baseball’s anti-gambling rule, and makes it clear that his decision is not about Rose’s legacy, his Hall of Fame case or anything like that. Rather, that it’s solely about Rose’s risk of violating Rule 21 again if he were to be reinstated. He notes that Rose’s representatives submitted polygraph testing which were either inconclusive or not useful and notes that Major League Baseball conducted a thorough review of Rose’s case, complete with new evidence considered and even psychological testing. Rose, likewise, met personally with Manfred late this summer.

His decision makes it abundantly clear that Rose (a) clearly lied about betting on baseball as a player as opposed to just while a manager; (b) has no apparent understanding of how serious his past violations of Rule 21 were; (c) has done absolutely nothing to change his habits as a person which would suggest he would not violate Rule 21 in the future.

Indeed, Manfred specifically cites the facts that Rose continues, to this day, to gamble on baseball where it is legal and that, while he admitted to a gambling addiction in his 2004 book, Rose has undergone no treatment for it. He is a man who clearly has no grasp that what he did was wrong within the context of baseball and has done nothing to show that, were he to be reinstated tomorrow, he would not gamble on baseball again. In light of this, Manfred reasons, his very limited power to re-consider the mandatory lifetime ban under Rule 21 will not be wasted on Pete Rose.

In the interests of completeness, below is the entire decision from Rob Manfred:

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Rob Manfred decides not to reinstate Pete Rose

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Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times reports that Commissioner Rob Manfred has decided not to reinstate all-time hit king Pete Rose. The decision from Commissioner Manfred can be read here.

Rose has been permanently banned from baseball since August of 1989 in light of overwhelming evidence that he bet on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds. This came following a seven month investigation. It also came after Rose himself signed a document stating that he would neither admit or deny he had gambled on baseball, but that he would agree to be banned from the game for life, providing he would be given the opportunity to apply for reinstatement. Most Rose supporters conveniently forget that part, of course. Nonetheless, earlier this year, Manfred agreed to re-hear his case. There was, apparently, nothing new to change his and Major League Baseball’s mind on the matter.

Rose’s ban has, perversely, kept him in the news far more than he likely would’ve been had he never been banned. Since 1989 Rose and his supporters have waged a unceasing yet frequently-shifting public relations war against the game. At first the allegations were denied. Then, when it behooved Rose financially, in the form of a tell-all book, he admitted to gambling. At various times he has claimed contrition over his transgressions only to turn on a dime and claim that while what he did was bad what others had done was worse. The only constant in these efforts is Pete Rose doing what, at the time, seemed best for Pete Rose.

This year Rose had kept a lower public profile as Manfred looked at the issue anew. He also, slowly, began to re-emerge on the baseball side of the game, appearing at official functions at the ballpark in Cincinnati during the All-Star Game in July and then, in the postseason, taking a temporary job as an analyst for Fox Sports broadcasts. One got the sense during this time that, while Rose was once the source of impassioned support, perhaps that support has gone a bit colder than it used to be. Todd Frazier‘s ovations during All-Star festivities were far, far louder than Rose’s were. And Rose’s performance as a TV analyst was universally panned. Perhaps Rose’s time as a baseball personality who inspired passion had passed. Even in Cincinnati.

What has not and will never pass, however, is Rose’s status as a historical figure. And here is where Manfred’s decision has the most impact. While Rose, at 74, is likely too old and too far removed from baseball to take a critical job in the game, his continued suspension — and the Hall of Fame’s decision to make eligibility for induction contingent on not being on baseball’s restricted list — keeps him from being considered for the Hall of Fame. On a personal level, we find the Hall of Fame component of that to be unfortunate. Rose was one of the best players in the history of the game and his off-the-field perfidies do not change that. While there is no compelling reason, it would seem, to make him eligible to work for a team again, The Hit King’s failure to ever be fairly considered for Cooperstown is regrettable.

Of course, it’s only regrettable to a certain degree. Rose was in a purgatory of his own creation for the past 26 years. And now, given the unlikelihood that his case will ever be considered again in his lifetime, his baseball damnation is assured.