Today Buster Olney (Insider only; sorry) argues that Rob Manfred should reinstate Pete Rose:
More than 25 years has passed since Bart Giamatti announced that Pete Rose had accepted lifetime banishment from baseball.
That’s long enough.
No real purpose is served by keeping him locked away from the sport anymore. The time has come for Major League Baseball to find some middle ground with Rose — to let him back in, in some way, to create a loophole within the rules they control.
We’ve been over this a million times here, of course. And my position, while evolving a bit over the years, is still generally the same: reinstate Rose if you want to. He’s past the point now where any team would give him a job in baseball operations, so the risk that he’d do any harm is pretty minimal. Fans would like it and want to see it. He could very likely serve an excellent philanthropic role if baseball forced him to as a condition of his reinstatement. If Rob Manfred does decide to do it, I won’t get too bent out of shape. It’ll be a thing that happens and life will go on.
But I do get a tad irked at the rhetoric such that Olney deploys here. “That’s long enough.” The idea that Rose has served ample time and is deserving of baseball’s mercy. Or that, as some people put it, it is incumbent upon baseball to reinstate Rose. As if it’s a problem that baseball has to solve. The “time has come?” How, exactly? What has happened that has changed anything?
On the last point: no, it’s not a problem baseball has to solve, actually. Baseball banned him permanently. It can, in all good conscience, keep him banned. There is nothing forcing baseball’s hand here. Yes, some fans would like to see the gesture, but it’s not as if Pete Rose is unavailable to them. Hell, he’s more available than most ballplayers. He has made appearances at Reds games. He’s on TV and signing autographs all the time. Really, life will go on quite nicely for baseball if Pete Rose is never reinstated. The circumstances surrounding Pete Rose’s status are not exigent to anyone but Pete Rose.
As to the point of mercy: I wish the people who argue for Rose’s reinstatement — those who claim he has served “long enough” — would remember a few things about the time Rose has served. That his sentence was one he agreed to, voluntarily and with full knowledge that it was intended to be permanent. That he has served a ban at which he constantly thumbed his nose while lying to both those who had his potential reinstatement in their hands and the fans who were played for idiots for years until Rose finally, and calculatedly, decided to come clean in 2004. That his coming clean was to sell books. I’m all for mercy. But there aren’t a lot of inmates serving life sentences who have their time commuted to 25 years. There are even fewer of them who get that treatment after failing to serve their time with good behavior. That’s where Rose is.
Which isn’t to say that baseball shouldn’t reinstate him. Again, no real harm will be done if it did. But let us not pretend that baseball owes Pete Rose anything or that Pete Rose deserves anything. If baseball were to reinstate him it would be a 100% free, selfless and charitable act. The sort of act with which Pete Rose is not, as far as can be told, personally familiar with.