RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.
*Written in 2015.
Pete Rose is one of the greatest players to ever play the game of baseball. He is the all-time hits leader with 4,256, as well as games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and singles (3,215). He also has 1,314 RBIs and a career batting average of .303 over 23 seasons in the majors. Then there are also his three World Series rings with the infamous “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati team of the 1970s. He also has three batting titles, one MVP, two Gold Gloves, was the Rookie of the Year and also made 17 All-Star appearances playing five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B, and 1B).
The word “legend” is almost too small for Pete Rose.
The problem is that he’s banned from the sport of baseball because he bet on games during his time as a player and a manager with the Reds. Due to being banned, he cannot go into the Hall of Fame and cannot participate in any Major League Baseball activities. He’s been exiled from the sport for decades and the league has been pretty adamant about their decision.
Rose’s situation has been pretty controversial since this all went down in 1989.
Back then, he was questioned by MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth. Rose denied the allegations and it was dropped. Ueberroth’s successor, Bart Giamatti decided that the matter needed to be investigated further. As the facts came out, Rose continued to deny the allegations. Eventually, it was proven that he had gambled but he still refused to admit to the crime. Although in August of 1989, he voluntarily accepted a permanent place on the MLB’s ineligible list because he really didn’t have much of a choice.
For some time, the debate as to whether or not he ever bet for or against the Reds went unresolved. In the end, it was discovered that he did but it wasn’t until years later that he finally admitted to it. Long-standing MLB commissioner Bud Selig often times entertained the possibility of Rose’s reinstatement but nothing ever happened during his tenure.
Now, with a new commissioner in power, Pete Rose has applied for reinstatement.
Will he get reinstated? I doubt it. And frankly, that is a shame.
What Pete Rose did was wrong, as it went against the rules of the game. Regardless of that, there probably aren’t many players in the entire history of the sport who haven’t broken a few rules. That’s not to excuse what he did but to bring to light the harshness of the punishment and ridicule he has had to endure for decades.
Worst-case scenario, Rose directly had a negative impact on the integrity of baseball – something the purists and old school nerds hold as ultimately sacred. However, there has never been any proof that Rose deliberately sabotaged games as a player or manager in an effort to make personal profit. People can speculate on that and they have for years but Pete Rose lives in a land of innocent until proven guilty and correlation isn’t causation.
How many baseball players have gambled throughout history? That’s impossible to answer but one doesn’t have to go far to make a comparison.
Babe Ruth, considered to be the greatest baseball player of all-time by most, gambled a lot. Did he bet on baseball? And furthermore, did he bet for or against his team? No one knows for sure. But considering his questionable moral character, it does raise speculation. But as I said before, correlation isn’t causation. And the difference here, is that Rose got caught: Ruth didn’t. Or at least, people were willing to turn a blind eye to Ruth’s antics in his day. The same way they turned a blind eye to racism, drinking on the job and douchebags like Ty Cobb who would maim opposing players deliberately.
Looking at the Hall of Fame, I already wrote extensively about the lack of character many of its inductees have displayed in my monster article about PEDs (see here). I’m not going to rehash all of that but feel free to read it. The point is that there are many players who are honored and held in high regard but their highly questionable antics are worse than Pete Rose having an addiction to gambling. If anything, Rose needed help.
I get it though, it is about the integrity. But it is hard to preach integrity when most of those doing the preaching are guilty of something.
New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, when asked about Rose’s recent request to be reinstated, said, “I think the gambling rule is so fundamental to the integrity of the game that it should always stay where it is.” He also said that PED offenses were treated too harshly and that gambling was a bigger offense (article here). Manfred sounds like he’s a member of the old guard and not very progressive in regards to the changing times and evolution of the sport and the world in general. Somewhat hypocritically, when asked about the MLB’s partnership with DraftKings.com, a sports gambling site, Manfred said that fantasy sports are not the same as gambling, even if there is money involved. Yeah, okay, bro.
So why is this so important now?
Well, as stated earlier, Rose requested his reinstatement once again. Considering that there is a new commissioner of baseball, it is now the decision of that new head honcho. Additionally, this year’s All-Star Game is being hosted by the Cincinnati Reds. So what better venue and place is there to finally bring Pete Rose back into the Major League Baseball fold? And think about the press and attention it would bring to that event. People may actually take baseball a bit more seriously and respect how the sport is ran if Rob Manfred can show that it isn’t some archaic bureaucratic shit show anymore.
But more importantly than all of that, Pete Rose deserves recognition. He deserves to stand among his peers, many of whom he is better than. Considering his crime in comparison to the crimes of many of his peers, he has served his time and his debt to the sport has been paid ten fold.
If the answer is “no”, then Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball are just being uptight jackasses. And ultimately, they are denying fans what they want, denying Pete Rose what he deserves and proving that they are cherry-picking hypocrites.