Pete Rose

Pete Rose: “I should have picked alcohol … or I should have picked beating up my wife or girlfriend”


Quote of the Day territory from the All Time Hit King. Pete Rose went on a radio show and talked about his lifetime bad for gambling compared to the PED guys’ suspensions for drugs and ballplayers with other vices. He came out here:

And to be honest with you, I picked the wrong vice. I should have picked alcohol. I should have picked drugs or I should have picked up beating up my wife or girlfriend because if you do those three, you get a second chance. They haven’t given too many gamblers a second chances in the world of baseball,” Rose said.

There is a pretty common talking point among those who, like me, tend to defend the PED guys, and that’s that it’s rather perverse that baseball punishes PED use so severely but doesn’t seem to care if players get DUIs, have a history of domestic violence or find themselves in other sorts of trouble.  I think this often gets misstated, however, and I think Rose is misstating it here too.

I don’t think it’s so clear a case that the league itself is messed up on this subject. Practically speaking it is hard for Major League Baseball to police conduct that does not directly relate to the game. If it were to suspend guys who engaged in criminal conduct or other sorts of moral deviancy it would have to figure out whether to do so upon arrest or conviction, which can often be separated by years. And what to do if there is a plea to a lesser charge. It would have to decide when, if ever, to interview the players involved in such a way as they don’t violate 5th Amendment rights. It would have to decide how to distinguish varying degrees of off-field misconduct. It seems easy to suspend a player who robs a liquor store, but what do you do if he’s, say, accused of tax evasion? And what if he’s just a miserable drunk?

This doesn’t mean the league can’t or shouldn’t at least think about wading into this world — at times I think it should, other times I’m not so sure — but there is no denying the hundreds of thorny issues involved. There are a lot of hard questions and tough choices to be made, all while law enforcement is doing its own thing. It makes the “why suspend Player X for ‘roids when Player Y is a drunk driver?!” rhetoric kind of beside the point, even if it feels satisfying to say it. They are different issues and only one of which is squarely within Major League Baseball’s jurisdiction, at least in the first instance.

Where I do believe that the comparison of PEDs and other bad conduct is apt is when we — usually we in the media — are talking about a player’s character in general.

There have been far more angry words written about Alex Rodriguez being a liar and a cheat, a narcissist and an all-around awful person than there have been sober words talking about the nature of his offense within the context of baseball’s rules. In contrast, we never hear too much said about the character of a player who has done truly awful things in an absolute sense instead of a baseball sense. Not many writers want to condemn the drunk drivers, wife beaters and rapists among the ballplaying class, even if they consider it their sacred duty to question the character of PED users and those players who are up for election to the Hall of Fame. That is where perspective is utterly lost in my view. They freak out about something that is major within the game but minor in life while simultaneously ignoring the transgressions that are major in life. Which is fine if they want to get out of the character assessment business altogether — I’d love it! — but they have no desire to. They still want to say some guys are saints and others are bums. They just don’t want to play fair when they do it.

Back to Rose: no, Pete. You shouldn’t have picked alcohol or drugs or beating your wife. That you didn’t speaks well of you. You were a fantastic baseball player who screwed up royally in a lot of ways, but you’re not worse off for gambling on baseball than you would have been had you been awful in other ways.  There are offenses to baseball and offenses to society. Yours to baseball are way worse than anything you’ve done in society, and you should be satisfied that you only fell so far.

(thanks to Rickset for the heads up)

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.

Quote of the Day: Pete Rose on the PED cheaters

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There are actually a couple of good quotes from Pete Rose in this story from Ted Berg at USA Today. A lengthy one about how, in his view, the PED stuff is bad because it messes with stats and records and that, unlike what he did, what Ryan Braun and the PED cheats have done would “piss off Babe Ruth” and other milestone holders.

Like we’ve said a lot around here, I’m pretty sure that’s what angers people about the PED stuff the most. And what makes people consider PEDs to be a bigger problem in baseball than other sports, even though it’s not at all clear that that is the case. And even though it’s probably the least significant thing about PEDs in baseball.

But the quote I like the most is this one:

“If baseball wants to get you, they’ve got enough resources and enough investigators that they’ll find a way to get you.”

He knows, obviously.

But if you read this whole interview you get the sense that Rose is not merely making a passive observation about the investigative power of MLB. You get the sense that he’s trying to float a narrative about what he did vs. what the PED guys have done which puts him in a better light and maybe, just maybe, gets baseball to think about his case again.

I bet, after a lot of baseball writers get a crack at Rose in Cooperstown over the next three days, we’ll see that argument being made.

Tim McCarver says that MLB frowns on its broadcasters acknowledging Pete Rose’s existence

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I missed this in all of the All-Star stuff, but Tim McCarver was on The Dan Patrick Show on Monday and said that Major League Baseball restricts Fox and ESPN (and presumably TBS) from showing video of Pete Rose. Via Awful Announcing, here’s the relevant snippet:

This during the same week where we noticed that MLB likes to deny the existence of the embarrassing 2002 All-Star Game as well. They rectified that, but it’s not a particularly flattering trait if the league just assumes that, if they don’t acknowledge it, bad stuff goes away.

And heck, in this case it’s not even bad stuff. Pete Rose may have committed a mortal baseball sin when he was the manager of the Reds, but his playing career was amazing and memorable. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a player who defined 1960s-70s baseball more than Pete Rose did. To just airbrush-away his existence as if it were the Soviet Central Committee after a purge is pretty stupid and, frankly, insulting. Does the league think we’ll forget Pete Rose exists if they lean on their rights holders to not show him?

If I run Major League Baseball, I don’t run and hide from my sport’s history. I embrace it like nobody’s business. All of it. Because the bad stuff goes hand-in-hand with the good stuff. If we pretend the Black Sox didn’t happen we forget why we have a Commissioner in the first place. If we pretend the 2002 All-Star Game doesn’t happen we forget why, since then, the All-Star Game determines home field advantage.  If we pretend Pete Rose didn’t dominate baseball for over 20 years we forget that the rules against gambling are so important that even a towering figure like Rose is subject to them.

And if that’s too abstract a line of reasoning, let’s go simpler: if I’m Fox or ESPN and I’m paying Major League Baseball billions of dollars for the rights to show games and promote its sport, I’m promoting all of it, not just the stuff that isn’t embarrassing to some nervous nellies in the league office.