Last week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred denied Pete Rose’s application for reinstatement into baseball. Naturally, the decision launched much debate, with strong arguments on both sides. I for one, agree with Manfred’s call, wholeheartedly. Here’s why:
- The rule was not just broken, it was shattered. Rule 21 is pretty clear. Rose bet on the game both as a player and manager. Repeatedly. He then lied about it and tried to cover it up. Repatedly. He continued for many years to deny it. Repeatedly. He only officially came clean when there was a chance for money to be made (book deal, appearances, et. al.) Repeatedly.
- He hasn’t followed the path that now three different commissioners have laid out for him to likely earn reinstatement. He has failed, for nearly three decades, to “reconfigure his life” in a manner that shows honest remorse, or an attempt to convey honesty. He still in fact, gambles on baseball. For better or worse, he has not changed.
- “What about all the PED users?” you’ll hear people ask. Comparing gambling to PED users is apples to oranges. Both are evil acts, yes. But whereas a PED user, although cheating, is simply trying to improve himself to the point of winning games or breaking records, those who bet on the game have too much control over the game itself – and therein lies the danger. They can manipulate, in very subtle ways, how the game is played and thus directly affect the outcome. A PED user still must play with all the inherent natural randomization of the game itself, despite the physical enhancements the drug may provide. A gambler can de-randomize everything and change any aspect from a single pitch to an entire game. Integrity, honesty and chance are all sacrificed in the world of betting, and this is why baseball does not trust Pete Rose. He hasn’t earned it.
- Baseball has a richer, more ghostly history than any other sport. To go back on a ruling(s) that has sparked so much debate, would take away some of that deep folklore. Though this is purely intangibile and speculatory on my part, it’s something to consider. It’s for reasons like this that players like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver (of 1919 White Sox infamy, a topic for a later post) will likely never be reinstated. To do so would remove the tragic hero and replace him with just another great ballplayer. This may be just, but it would essentially bring the baseball ghost back to life, and lessen the forlorn tale.
- Rose is not the victim here. His wounds were and are, purely self-inflicted. While he was one of the all-time greats, and has Hall of Fame worthy statistics, he is not a tragic hero. His case is not an injustice. He destroyed the integrity of the game, and for 26 years since his banishment has not even attempted to redeem himself, despite clear instructions on how to do so from the baseball powers-that-be.