Craig Calcaterra

Rob Manfred decides not to reinstate Pete Rose


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.

Time to get your offseason cliche bingo cards ready!

Jeff Samardzija
Associated Press

We here at HBT are well-known chroniclers of players who claim to be in The Best Shape of Their Lives, We don’t post about those guys because there’s anything inherently interesting about the state of a player’s physical fitness, however. Rather, we latched on to the dynamic a few years ago when we noticed that, most of the time, a player claiming to be in the Best Shape of His Life (BSHOL) had a an interest in claiming he was in the BSOHL.

Mostly to explain away a bad year as an anomaly. By claiming in the dead of winter that he is in great shape and implying that, last year, he was out of shape and that the coming year will be different. By doing so, he — or his team or his agent, as many of these stories seemed to be planted — shape the coverage of the guy as he enters spring training, inspiring reporters to talk about “The New Joe Shlabotnik,” instead of dwelling so much on the previous season. And of course reporters love these things too. There isn’t much going on in baseball before pitchers and catchers report and any chance to file something — anything — during this fallow period isn’t passed up.

These stories, once you start to pay attention to them, begin to seem silly. Sometimes we see players claim to be in the Best Shape of Their Lives in consecutive years, last year bulking up with weight training, this year getting lean with cardio to enhance his “athleticism.” Russell Martin is the all-time champion at this. He did this five freakin’ times in a row! And of course, attention paid to the pre-and-post BSOHL statistics have revealed only the weakest pattern of improvement from guys who made a big show out of hitting the gym. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It’s pretty random and pretty modest.

Over the past couple of years true, unadulterated BSOHL stories have become rare things. Thanks to our gentle mocking of it, players and reporters have become aware of the meme and have either gone meta with it, making self-aware BSOHL jokes, or have eschewed it altogether. You still see references to weight gain, weight loss and increases in muscle mass and stuff, but it’s rare these days for a player to explicitly and unironically claim to be in the Best Shape of His Life. It’s sad, really. We blame ourselves for the demise of this once-prevalent bit of silliness.

There are still other offseason cliches, however, all of which serve the same purpose as BSOHL.

One of my favorites is “I was tipping my pitches.” Jeff Samardzija offered that one at his introductory press conference with the Giants last week. I’m sure pitchers tip their pitches sometimes and I’m sure it’s a problem for them. It’s also the fact that you hear about this an inordinate number of times in the offseason when it’s convenient for a pitcher to explain away past ineffectiveness and when, unlike in the middle of the season, it cannot be immediately addressed. But, man it’s a good thing he wasn’t injured or beginning to show the tell-tale signs of decline! How lucky it was just tipping!

Injuries are an interesting offseason topic as well. Did you ever notice that, during the season, you hear about injuries constantly? Indeed, by volume, I am certain they are the leading baseball news item by a factor of ten. Which makes sense. Reporters are in the clubhouse every day, one of the first things they ask the manager each day is who is healthy and who is not and, of course, the lineup card makes it plain when someone is hurt. You would think, therefore, that no truly significant injury could go unnoticed and unremarked upon between April and October.

Yet, in the offseason, we are frequently informed that a guy who we all thought to be merely a bad player was suddenly suffering from an injury that sapped his performance. He’s much better now, of course, and his health should in no way hinder his status as a free agent or trade chit and in no way should anyone ask about whether he’s washed up. He was merely injured. Brett Gardner is the most recent case. His second half was miserable and both he and his manager constantly claimed he was not hurt all year. Now, however, he was hurt. By a pitch which hit him in the first half, weeks before his effectiveness began to wane. How . . . unfortunate.

It’s not just individual players who, during a long December, tell us that there’s reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last. Clubs too traffic in offseason cliches. A favorite one of mine is when they say that, this coming year, the club really plans to emphasize the running game. Dusty Baker has said this about the Nationals in 2016. He won’t be the first. He won’t be the last. He won’t even be the last to do so with respect to an aging team which hits a lot of homers and whose youngest, fastest players are ones you really don’t want to risk on the base paths all that much. But that kind of broad strategy is one of the few things the manager can talk about during the offseason which is in his control. It’s not like he can say “well, what we do next year depends on whether my GM can get me some better players than the bums my predecessor had last year.” That would make news.

There is really no end to these sorts of offseason cliches. Indeed, they’re so prevalent and familiar that you can practically make a game out of them.

  • “Shalbotnik has remade himself, slimming down to emphasize athleticism”
  • “Jorgenson has added a pitch. He’s been working on his cutter since November”
  • “Manager Moltenbrey says that the change of scenery following the trade and being around veterans like Shlabotnik and Jorgenson will really help Jackson mature as a player and finally tap into the potential he showed when he first broke into the league”
  • “After a 2015 in which Haybury suffered through nagging injuries which, to his credit, he never used as an excuse and about which we never knew, he’s looking forward to a healthy and productive 2016”


Tommy Hanson died of a cocaine/alcohol overdose

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson (48) works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Atlanta, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012. The Braves won 6-2. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Associated Press

Tommy Hanson, the former Braves and Angels pitcher, died in early November at the age of 29. At the time the police report of his death listed “overdose” as a possible factor in his death. Toxicology reports came back late last week and have confirmed that as the cause of death.

It was an accidental overdose, it appears, with Hanson suffering from a delayed reaction of cocaine and alcohol. The story at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Hanson appeared fine in the late night/early morning he was was drinking and using cocaine, but the next morning he was found unresponsive and 9-1-1 was called.

The results of the toxicology report are not, based on earlier reports, surprising, but they are no less sad.