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.
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.
“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
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:
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.
On the unwritten rules of baseball:
I used to get screwed when we had a seven- or eight-run lead, because I couldn’t bunt for a single or I’m “showing up the opposition.” … Guys that are home run hitters can continuously just swing from their ass and trot around the bases. I remember one time we had a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning in Houston, and J.R. Richard was pitching. I hit a single to right-center and I went to second. He threw at the next two hitters because I was showing the team up! What am I supposed to do when I got a 10-run lead, just go up there and strike out?
On Ben Davis breaking up Curt Schilling’s perfect-game attempt in 2001 with a bunt single:
[The unwritten rules] are stupid. Who cares if you bunt for a base hit? The only guys who criticize him on that are losers. Now if it had been 10-1, maybe. But down 2-0? I’d bunt, too.