Q&A: What does the new Pete Rose news mean?

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The news that Pete Rose bet on baseball as a player, not just as a manager, has people talking. Of course any Pete Rose does that, so I suppose it’s not that different than anything else. But after chatting with a lot of folks about this I feel it’s worth hashing out exactly what it all means, practically speaking.

To do this, let’s play Q&A!

Q: Is it really news that Pete Rose bet as a player? 

A: Not exactly. The news is that ESPN has copies of the actual documents proving it, not that we’re hearing it for the first time. John Dowd, baseball’s investigator in the original Pete Rose case heard testimony from a bookie back in 1989 saying Rose bet on baseball when he played. They just had no documentation of it.

Q: So, does the documentation change Rose’s punishment?

A: Nope! Betting on baseball is betting on baseball. It doesn’t matter if you did it as a player or a manager. He’s still permanently banned. He can not be more permanently banned.

Q: OK, then, so what is the significance does this new documentation?

A: Data point 1,356 that Rose is a liar who moves the goal posts whenever he’s caught. For years he said he never bet on baseball, then he admitted it. After that he said he only bet as a manager, now that’s shown not to be true. He currently claims that he never bet against his own teams — and no evidence currently exists showing that he did — but if we’ve learned anything in the past 25 years it’s that Rose’s word is worthless.

Q: Would it matter if we found out he bet against his own team? 

A: It would certainly shock a lot of people, as many believe it to be a fundamentally different sort of transgression to bet against one’s team than on one’s team. But, in reality, Major League Baseball makes no distinction along these lines. Nor should they. Sure, it’s easier to make a case that someone is throwing a game if they bet against themselves, and throwing games is the problem baseball’s rules are designed to prevent.

But what happens if someone bets on oneself 15 times in a row and then on day 16 doesn’t bet at all? Could that not be evidence that they’re going to throw game 16? What if one is a manager and he bets on his team to win on Monday and he pulls out all the stops, has guys steal bases like crazy and burns the bullpen out as if it were Game 7 of the World Series? Does that not negatively impact a team’s chance to win on Tuesday?

Baseball’s view here is that gambling is insidious when it comes to the game, and it doesn’t matter if you gamble on yourself or against yourself, it’s equally bad and equally punishable.

Q: OK, so he’s still a liar. Does that even matter?

A: Not in terms of judging him personally, if you’re so inclined. We’ve always known Rose is a liar. But he does have a fresh, new appeal pending against Major League Baseball. If he has made any statements, either himself or through counsel, about the nature of his gambling and he turns out to have lied, you’d have to think baseball won’t like it and will look on his appeal unfavorably. And even if he hasn’t made any statements, as we said above, Pete Rose news is always big news and this generally makes Rose look bad. Major League Baseball is no different than any other business or sports league and bad press isn’t gonna make them happy.

My view — and the view of most people, I imagine — is that Rose has been punished a long time and is pretty much incapacitated from ever affecting the outcome of a game, thereby rendering his reinstatement pretty harmless. Businesses which have P.R. people on staff may not think the same way.

Q: Does this affect his Hall of Fame case? Should it? 

A: He has no Hall of Fame case now, because people who are banned are not allowed to be on the ballot. If and when he is reinstated, he will be subject to the same sort of scrutiny any player is when considered for the Hall. Part of that scrutiny is the so-called character clause. As it was, some voters were probably going to hold Rose’s gambling history against him and make his Hall case, if he ever gets one, tougher than it should be. With new evidence that Rose’s lying didn’t end years ago when he finally copped to betting on baseball, it may turn a few more minds against him.

Personally speaking, I think the character clause is dumb and I’d put Rose in the Hall immediately. There are a lot of liars and cheats in there. None of them is the all-time hits leader.

Q: Got anything else, smart guy?

A: Just one observation: Pete Rose politics are dumb. There is no reason why people who think he should be back in the game or in the Hall of Fame have to believe he’s a great guy or that he’s a truth-teller. Those are not mutually-exclusive categories. Yet for years, including the past ten minutes, I have heard people believe that it is. That if you think Rose is a liar, you MUST be against him for all purposes, or that if you think Rose should be reinstated and enshrined in Cooperstown that you MUST believe everyone is out to get him and that he’s a choir boy.

That’s silly, of course. Rose is a liar. That’s pretty clear. He got a punishment he richly deserved and, because of the nature of that punishment (i.e. it’s permanent) — Major League Baseball is doing him a gigantic favor by even reviewing his case again. If they told him to pound sand, there wouldn’t be a great argument for him or any of his partisans to lodge in his favor. But you can also, like I do, think that Rose is a liar who should be in the Hall of Fame. And one that, at this point in his life, could be reinstated without much harm happening. It would make a lot of people happy to boot.

This new news — or this new corroboration of old news and the bad P.R. that attends it — could be bad for that reinstatement case. There’s no getting around that unless and until MLB says it doesn’t care.

Justin Verlander changed his mechanics to prolong his career

Justin Verlander mechanics
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Last week, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reported that Astros starter and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander changed his mechanics in order to prolong his career. Specifically, Verlander lowered his release point from 7’2″ to 6’5″.

As Brooks Baseball shows, Verlander drastically altered his release point after being traded to the Astros from the Tigers on August 31, 2017. The change resulted in a huge bump in his strikeout rate. Verlander’s strikeout rate ranged between 16% and 27.4% with the Tigers, mostly settling in the 23-25% range. With The Tigers through the first five months of 2017, Verlander struck out 24.1% of batters. In the final month with the Astros, he struck out 35.8% of batters. He then maintained that rate over the entire 2018 and ’19 seasons with respective rates of 34.8% and 35.4%. Just as impressively, the release point also resulted in fewer walks. His walk rate ranged from 5.9% to 9.9% with the Tigers but was 4.4% and 5.0% the last two seasons with the Astros.

Verlander finished a runner-up in 2018 AL Cy Young Award balloting to Blake Snell before edging out teammate Gerrit Cole for the award last season. Despite the immense success, Verlander described his mechanics as unsustainable. Per The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan, Verlander said, “I changed a lot of stuff that some people would think was unnecessary. But I thought it was necessary, especially if I want to play eight, 10 more years.”

Verlander is 37 years old, so 10 more seasons would put him into Jamie Moyer territory. Moyer, who consistently ranked among baseball’s softest-tossing pitchers, pitched 25 seasons in the majors from 1986-2012.  He threw 111 2/3 innings with the Phillies in 2010 at the age of 47 and 53 2/3 innings with the Rockies in 2012 at 49. But aside from Moyer and, more recently, Bartolo Colon, it’s exceedingly rare for pitchers to extend their careers into their 40’s, let alone their mid- and late-40’s.

The Astros have Verlander under contract through 2021. The right-hander will have earned close to $300 million. He’s won a World Series, a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, two Cy Youngs, and has been an eight-time All-Star. Verlander could retire after 2021 and would almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2027. That he continues to tweak his mechanics in order to pitch for another decade speaks to his highly competitive nature.