Pete Rose holds a press conference. There were no surprises.

29 Comments

A day after Rob Manfred declined to reinstate Pete Rose, the Hit King held a press conference. Rose has never cared much about optics and now that it basically doesn’t matter what he does, it should not be at all surprising that he held his press conference in Las Vegas. With cheerleaders. Which, as far as I’m concerned is all aces. There’s something liberating about having nothing to lose, and at least as far as organized baseball is concerned, Rose has nothing left to lose. Be yourself, hombre.

As for the substance, Rose had nothing new to add. He continues to draw false equivalencies between gamblers and steroid users as it suits him. He continues to self-promote, saying “to be honest with you I should be the commissioner of baseball the way I sell and talk about the game.” Not that honesty is his strong suit, at least according to Commissioner Manfred’s decision yesterday. To that point, Rose said “I tried to be as honest as I could with the Commissioner and I think he appreciated that.” That’s a telling comment, even if it was unintentional. It’s not that he was honest. Or that he even attempted to be actually honest. He merely tried to be as honest as he could. There are some limits, here. Mrs. Rose didn’t raise no fools.

The thing is, there was really nothing new to be honest about. Rose’s record of gambling and lying about it and changing his story here, there and back again over the past 26 years is an open book. Rose himself had done nothing special or different to inspire Manfred to reopen his case. It was a gift from Manfred, really. A fresh opportunity for Rose to give a new commissioner a chance to do something that would be popular right out of the gate. Maybe it was always doomed. Maybe Rose simply whiffed on a grooved fastball. Watching Rose speak a few minutes ago, I don’t think Rose himself even knew.

That’s admirable in some twisted way. Rose mentioned, several times, that he is just living the life he has. That he’s being himself. That betting on a game once in a while because it brings him enjoyment. I believe that. I certainly believe that more than I believed Rose when he claimed to realize he had a gambling addiction ten or eleven years ago. For a minute or two there it seemed like he was willing to play along with the redemption story as most would author it. Then he stopped doing that and now takes the view that he doesn’t have a problem and who is Rob Frickin’ Manfred to say that he does?

I actually don’t begrudge him that. While, if he truly is an addict I would hope that he seeks help for it at some point, he’s an American citizen with some means and the right to do anything legal he wishes to do. Including gamble on sports. If he stays within the law and doesn’t harm others we’re in no position to tell him what’s better to do with his life, even if we personally find it regrettable.

It’s just that Rose living his best, chosen life is totally incompatible with being reinstated to baseball given his past transgressions. And that he either can’t understand or refuses to accept that is the reason he’s not in baseball anymore. Not anything Rob Manfred or anyone else has done to him.

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

22 Comments

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:

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 1.27.10 PM

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 decides not to reinstate Pete Rose

60 Comments

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.