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Q&A: What does the new Pete Rose news mean?


The news that Pete Rose bet on baseball as a player, not just as a manager, has people talking. Of course any Pete Rose does that, so I suppose it’s not that different than anything else. But after chatting with a lot of folks about this I feel it’s worth hashing out exactly what it all means, practically speaking.

To do this, let’s play Q&A!

Q: Is it really news that Pete Rose bet as a player? 

A: Not exactly. The news is that ESPN has copies of the actual documents proving it, not that we’re hearing it for the first time. John Dowd, baseball’s investigator in the original Pete Rose case heard testimony from a bookie back in 1989 saying Rose bet on baseball when he played. They just had no documentation of it.

Q: So, does the documentation change Rose’s punishment?

A: Nope! Betting on baseball is betting on baseball. It doesn’t matter if you did it as a player or a manager. He’s still permanently banned. He can not be more permanently banned.

Q: OK, then, so what is the significance does this new documentation?

A: Data point 1,356 that Rose is a liar who moves the goal posts whenever he’s caught. For years he said he never bet on baseball, then he admitted it. After that he said he only bet as a manager, now that’s shown not to be true. He currently claims that he never bet against his own teams — and no evidence currently exists showing that he did — but if we’ve learned anything in the past 25 years it’s that Rose’s word is worthless.

Q: Would it matter if we found out he bet against his own team? 

A: It would certainly shock a lot of people, as many believe it to be a fundamentally different sort of transgression to bet against one’s team than on one’s team. But, in reality, Major League Baseball makes no distinction along these lines. Nor should they. Sure, it’s easier to make a case that someone is throwing a game if they bet against themselves, and throwing games is the problem baseball’s rules are designed to prevent.

But what happens if someone bets on oneself 15 times in a row and then on day 16 doesn’t bet at all? Could that not be evidence that they’re going to throw game 16? What if one is a manager and he bets on his team to win on Monday and he pulls out all the stops, has guys steal bases like crazy and burns the bullpen out as if it were Game 7 of the World Series? Does that not negatively impact a team’s chance to win on Tuesday?

Baseball’s view here is that gambling is insidious when it comes to the game, and it doesn’t matter if you gamble on yourself or against yourself, it’s equally bad and equally punishable.

Q: OK, so he’s still a liar. Does that even matter?

A: Not in terms of judging him personally, if you’re so inclined. We’ve always known Rose is a liar. But he does have a fresh, new appeal pending against Major League Baseball. If he has made any statements, either himself or through counsel, about the nature of his gambling and he turns out to have lied, you’d have to think baseball won’t like it and will look on his appeal unfavorably. And even if he hasn’t made any statements, as we said above, Pete Rose news is always big news and this generally makes Rose look bad. Major League Baseball is no different than any other business or sports league and bad press isn’t gonna make them happy.

My view — and the view of most people, I imagine — is that Rose has been punished a long time and is pretty much incapacitated from ever affecting the outcome of a game, thereby rendering his reinstatement pretty harmless. Businesses which have P.R. people on staff may not think the same way.

Q: Does this affect his Hall of Fame case? Should it? 

A: He has no Hall of Fame case now, because people who are banned are not allowed to be on the ballot. If and when he is reinstated, he will be subject to the same sort of scrutiny any player is when considered for the Hall. Part of that scrutiny is the so-called character clause. As it was, some voters were probably going to hold Rose’s gambling history against him and make his Hall case, if he ever gets one, tougher than it should be. With new evidence that Rose’s lying didn’t end years ago when he finally copped to betting on baseball, it may turn a few more minds against him.

Personally speaking, I think the character clause is dumb and I’d put Rose in the Hall immediately. There are a lot of liars and cheats in there. None of them is the all-time hits leader.

Q: Got anything else, smart guy?

A: Just one observation: Pete Rose politics are dumb. There is no reason why people who think he should be back in the game or in the Hall of Fame have to believe he’s a great guy or that he’s a truth-teller. Those are not mutually-exclusive categories. Yet for years, including the past ten minutes, I have heard people believe that it is. That if you think Rose is a liar, you MUST be against him for all purposes, or that if you think Rose should be reinstated and enshrined in Cooperstown that you MUST believe everyone is out to get him and that he’s a choir boy.

That’s silly, of course. Rose is a liar. That’s pretty clear. He got a punishment he richly deserved and, because of the nature of that punishment (i.e. it’s permanent) — Major League Baseball is doing him a gigantic favor by even reviewing his case again. If they told him to pound sand, there wouldn’t be a great argument for him or any of his partisans to lodge in his favor. But you can also, like I do, think that Rose is a liar who should be in the Hall of Fame. And one that, at this point in his life, could be reinstated without much harm happening. It would make a lot of people happy to boot.

This new news — or this new corroboration of old news and the bad P.R. that attends it — could be bad for that reinstatement case. There’s no getting around that unless and until MLB says it doesn’t care.

Report: Pete Rose bet on baseball as a player, not just as a manager


For years one of the primary defenses of Pete Rose has centered on the notion that he only bet on baseball as a manager, not as a player. ESPN’s Outside the Lines is reporting, however, that that is not the case:

But new documents obtained by Outside the Lines indicate Rose bet extensively on baseball — and on the Cincinnati Reds — as he racked up the last hits of a record-smashing career in 1986. The documents go beyond the evidence presented in the 1989 Dowd report that led to Rose’s banishment and provide the first written record that Rose bet while he was still on the field.

“This does it. This closes the door,” said John Dowd, the former federal prosecutor who led MLB’s investigation.

The documents — which you can see via the ESPN link above — were part of a separate organized crime investigation which had nothing to do with Rose specifically or gambling. The records have been sealed for years and even Dowd was unable to get them for the original Rose investigation. He had testimony of an organized crime figure at the time, but no corroboration.

The bets tend to be around $2,000 a game. He bet on multiple games a day for multiple days in a row at a time, his addiction to gambling made plain.

The documents do not provide any evidence that Rose bet against the Reds. Worth noting, however, that baseball’s rules against gambling do not make a distinction, and the competitive integrity of a game can be compromised whether one bets for or against oneself. Also worth noting that, for years, Pete Rose has steadfastly denied betting on baseball while he was still an active player.

Rose is currently appealing his banishment from the game, with Commissioner Rob Manfred stating that he will give Rose’s case a full and fresh review. Some have speculated that his reinstatement could come at the time of the All-Star Game in Cincinnati next month, or soon after. As it is, he has been given permission to participate in on-field activities during the All-Star festivities. One would have to think, however, that this new information will put a serious damper on his appeal.

Video: Debating Pete Rose’s possible reinstatement

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I was on MSNBC’s Shift LIVE today, talking about Pete Rose’s reinstatement along with Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas, who has sponsored a resolution asking Major League Baseball to reinstate the Hit King and Best-selling MLB author Kostya Kennedy.

We all generally agree that Rose will likely be reinstated and try to read Rob Manfred’s mind about it. I got a bit feisty at the end when PEDs and gambling were equated, but hey, that’s just what I do.