Pete Rose is doing that publicity stunt managerial gig tonight, and since it’s about the publicity he’s doing interviews. And, since he’s doing interviews, he’s waxing optimistic about his chances to get back in the game:
Really, where I belong is back in baseball. I still believe it can happen.”
Yes, he’s talking within seven months, before Commissioner Bud Selig leaves office Jan. 24, 2015.
“To be honest with you,” Rose says, “I really haven’t given up on Bud giving me a second chance.”
I used to laugh at this sort of thing, as baseball has never shown any intention of reinstating Rose. But part of me is starting to wonder if Selig won’t issue a pardon as he leaves office. For a couple of reasons. First, to keep the Rose issue from being one that bothers his successor every couple of years. Second, and more importantly, for legacy reasons.
I never would’ve thought that Selig would have pursued the Biogenesis case in the aggressive and arguably extra-legal manner in which he did. But Selig was a motivated man. Motivated to make A-Rod, and not himself, the face of steroids in baseball. That’s a man who is conscious of his legacy. Rose is obviously a different case — he was his predecessors’ issue — but he is still an immensely popular figure among fans. Imagine what the stories would look like if Rose were reinstated as Selig leaves baseball. He enters amid labor turmoil, fan indifference and drug abuse. He leaves with baseball riding high, the druggies cast out and as the man who brought Pete Rose back. And hell, maybe Shoeless Joe. It’s feel-good stuff for people who either don’t know or don’t care about the history of gambling in baseball. It’s a huge boon to the Hall of Fame too.
Is it likely? I don’t know. I’m assuming Major League Baseball would say it’s preposterous and that Rose is delusional. But I can’t shake the idea that someone close to Selig is at least suggesting how the politics of reinstating Rose and/or Jackson might look as a career-capper. While some of us would be turned off by it, I bet way more people would eat it up.
In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.
In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.
Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.
If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.
Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.
Upton had another tweet for the occasion: