We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.
There’s an argument to be made that Pete Rose became more famous as a result of his being permanently banned from baseball in 1989 than he would’ve been if he never broke baseball’s gambling rules. Eventually, as all managers are, he would’ve been fired. Maybe he’d get one more job someplace outside of Cincinnati, but by the turn of the century or so he’d likely be some special assistant for the Reds, showing up at spring training and public events and the like. He’d be the Midwestern Tommy Lasorda. It’s a nice gig if you can get it, but it’s not the sort of thing that leads to big headlines, books and the rapt attention of radio listeners and readers of sports news. To this day Rose still gets that sort of attention, however, and it’s largely a function of his 26-year fight to be reinstated.
For a long time Rose claimed he was an innocent man. Then, when there was book money to be made, he admitted he was not an innocent man, but stopped short of admitting he bet on baseball as a player. Eventually news came out that, yeah, he probably bet on baseball as a player too. All the while Rose alternated between lamenting and making money off of his infamy. Not an ideal, but for Rose, also a good gig. At least a lucrative one. His autograph and appearance fees are much larger than they would’ve been if he was like any other old ballplayer.
Early this year Rob Manfred took over as baseball’s new commissioner and, unlike the old one, declared that he would give Rose a shot at reinstatement. Not a great shot, really. Manfred was under no obligation to review Rose’s case and made no suggestion that it was likely Rose’s ban would be overturned, but it was more of a shot than Rose had gotten since 1989.
Manfred’s decision made it abundantly clear that Rose, as recently as this summer, when his case was being reviewed, continued to lie about betting on baseball as a player as opposed to just while a manager. He said that Rose has no apparent understanding of how serious his past violations of baseball’s anti-gambling rules were and that he had done absolutely nothing to change his habits as a person which would suggest he wouldn’t continue to break those rules if he were reinstated.
Rose responded defiantly to all of this in a Las Vegas (natch) press conference the following day, but added nothing new. After so many years in the wilderness — almost as many years as he spent in Major League bBaseball, actually — he probably doesn’t know how else to respond.
And so Pete Rose beats on, a sternwheeler gambling boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.