By: Paul DiSclafani
With MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred rejecting Pete Rose’s application for reinstatement in the game of baseball and his removal from the “Permanently Ineligible” list, most pundits, fans and even Rose himself began to dust off the same arguments that have been going around since 1991.
I’ve asked a number of writers from the MLB blog site “Around The Horn Talk” and the NL Central Discussion (NLCD) group what they think about all this and the answers are both passionate and compelling. But before we get into their opinions (and mine), let’s take a look at the facts as we know them.
Rose agreed to be banned from baseball in 1989, but it wasn’t until 1991 that the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors voted to ban any player on baseball’s permanently ineligible list from appearing on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. That, of course, makes it impossible for Rose to be considered for induction into the hallowed Hall.
But through all the years and all the arguments, there was always one consistently undeniable fact – Pete Rose bet on baseball. At first he denied the findings of the Dowd report, then admitted he did bet on baseball, but never on his team. Then he admitted that he did bet on the Reds, but only on them to win (like that made a difference). Earlier this year, a notebook surfaced that showed he placed a LOT of bets on baseball, including the Reds.
And now the 74 year-old Rose seems to be at peace with the final decision, acknowledging in a press conference on Monday that he put the Commissioner is a difficult place in trying to decide his fate. Rose said:
“I’m disappointed, obviously disappointed. But I will continue to be the best baseball fan in the world. … I’m a baseball player. I’m a baseball person, and that’s never gonna change.”
What doesn’t ever seem to change is who Pete Rose is. A great ballplayer, maybe one of the greatest to ever play, but he loved to gamble. I’m not going to preach that he has a gambling problem or that he should have stopped gambling to appease the Commissioner and get back into the game he loves. Can anyone really change who they are? I know I can’t.
You think because my son gets drafted by the Yankees, I’m going to turn in my Orange and Blue Mets gear and begin wearing pinstripes? I’ll always be a Mets fan and any baseball fan worth their salt will always root for their team. It’s who we are, it’s part of the fabric of our being.
Pete Rose is a gambler – and that’s not a bad thing. He loves it, he’s not hurting anyone, it’s his choice.
He just can’t be an employee of Major League Baseball. Ever.
He is a private citizen and can legally bet on baseball, but according to Manfred’s report, it would be an “unacceptable risk” to let him back into the game.
“Mr. Rose’s public and private comments, including his initial admission in 2004, provide me with little confidence that he has a mature understanding of his wrongful conduct, that he has accepted full responsibility for it, or that he understands the damage he has caused.”
The Commissioner softened the ban a bit, allowing Rose to participate in ceremonial activities he pre-approves and “that present no threat to the integrity of the game”.
Now what about his Hall of Fame eligibility? For the first time, we are getting an understanding that his banishment from baseball and his being ineligible for the Hall of Fame are two entirely different things.
Manfred made a point to put the ball in the Hall’s court, effectively letting MLB off the hook on the “If Rose should be in the Hall of Fame or not” question. The Hall of Fame is a separate entity from MLB and can independently makes its own rules and bylaws. Manfred made it quite clear when he said:
“In my view, the considerations that should drive a decision on whether an individual should be allowed to work in Baseball are not the same as those that should drive a decision on Hall of Fame eligibility. Any debate over Mr. Rose’s eligibility for the Hall of Fame is one that must take place in a different forum.”
Now that is a curveball none of us saw coming.
We all know that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) is responsible for voting players into the Hall of Fame. Now we know that the HOF Board of Directors control who is and is not on the ballot. Since 1991, they have decided to enforce baseball’s Permanently Ineligible list. That also means they can choose to ignore it as well.
Now it’s time for my two cents.
If the HOF trusts the writers to make the decision on which players they elect into the HOF every year, why not let them decide on Rose? Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa haven’t been voted in yet, have they?
Pete rose and his accomplishments on the field will always be a part of the HOF. The question is, does he deserve to be enshrined? Not every great player on the field is enshrined with a bust in the HOF. It’s not based solely on statistical achievements or Dave Kingman would have a plaque. It’s the character of the player and how he not only played, but represented the game of Baseball.
I’ve taken my boys to the Hall of Fame and brought them into the hallowed gallery with all the plaques. It’s almost a religious experience and far different from the rest of the museum, where baseball’s accomplishments on the field are celebrated in giant displays along with sounds of the game. This gallery is a solemn place. A place to slowly make your way through while paying homage to the greatest men that played the game. To read their plaques, which are filled with accomplishments that transcend statistics, to understand their character and what earned them the right to grace this gallery.
And one other thing. I’m not buying the argument that the HOF might have members that were later found out to be racists, gamblers and other players that have committed crimes against humanity, so why ban Rose? Here’s a litmus test for you:
If the World of Comedy started their own Hall of Fame tomorrow, would you vote for Bill Cosby? I’m sure 75% of you wouldn’t. But if that same World of Comedy were voting five years ago, Cosby’s a first ballot Hall of Famer.
This is no different. You don’t review all the enshrined members of the Hall of Fame every year to make sure they are keeping their noses clear and adhering to your voting standards, then vote them off like “Survivor”. But if you have this information before you vote, it makes a hell of a difference.
Pete Rose bet on baseball.
Of course, I’m just one baseball fan. Albeit a fan with a voice (and a column). Here’s what some of the other writers had to say. We seem to fall into three categories:
- Rose is getting what he deserves and support for Manfred’s decision
- Rose is getting the short end of the stick
- Rose should be banned from baseball, but be in the HOF
These writers think he is getting what he deserves:
“While it is tough to leave the Hit King out of the Hall of Fame, I support Manfred’s position by upholding his ban. If Manfred were to reinstate Rose, he would have to strongly consider reinstating Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Shoeless Joe Jackson, among others. In my opinion, either all should be in the Hall of Fame, or none should. From the looks of things, it appears that none will be in the Hall of Fame, at least while Manfred is still the commissioner.”
Joel Collins (Around The Horn Talk, Texas Rangers beat writer)
“Every player wants to gain an edge over their competition. Between PED’s and stimulants, if you knew for certain who used you would be banning hundreds of players that played in MLB over a few decades…maybe thousands. That’s not the issue here, though. I can’t believe Pete Rose would bet on games he would play and he did not try to affect the outcome to help him win the bet. To me this is like the 1919 Black Sox. It’s one thing to disregard your own integrity, but when you cross the line and violate the integrity of the game itself…well like Shoeless Joe and Buck Weaver you should be banned. It’s sad…Pete was a great player and deserves his accolades, but he made his bed.”
Jon Van Pelt (Around The Horn Talk, Kansas City Royals beat writer):
“For Pete Rose, it’s sad, but he is getting exactly what the rule he saw every single day said he would. But if we are going to bar one man for betting on games, we should also be barring players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez, potential candidates for the hall of fame, when their careers have been tarnished by the use of drugs that very well made them into the players that are making the hall of fame.”
Edward Simek (NLCD, St. Louis Cardinals)
“Aside from the fact Pete has an awful lot to offer the game in the way of a coaching, and that some who loved to watch him play want him back, I think it’s a black eye for baseball. There are some who argue for the innocence of Shoeless Joe Jackson, who served as a warning against throwing games in earlier days. Pete Rose now stands in his Joe’s shoes (pun intended) as the modern-day “what not to do”. He is an example and warning to all players, past and present. Furthermore; Pete was less than humble in his last television appearance, which was disrespectful to the game and the commissioner who (I believe) would have considered lifting his ban. Without the random drug cases in the game, baseball is one of, if not the cleanest, sport. Adding a stigma of gambling and allowing him back in shows no class for a game that is all about class and holding yourself.”
Others feel he is getting the short end of the stick:
“I think the decision over Pete Rose is a little unfair. He knew what he did was wrong and admitted it, but I feel gambling isn’t the worst thing a baseball player could do. Pete Rose states that he always bet on his team to win, but ended up stating, in his own handwriting, that he bet only if he thinks the Reds have the “under” advantage in a game. From what he states, Rose wasn’t trying to have games fixed to benefit himself, he was just looking at the odds of winning and losing and would place a bet. Rose also states he wouldn’t bet on every game. Yes, it is wrong to do so, but if you must punish him, you must punish all other players who have broken the rules and especially those players who used PED’s. I say let Pete Rose into the hall of fame. What he did didn’t enhance his hitting and playing ability. I think MLB is trying to make an example of someone who doesn’t deserve to be made an example of.”
“There is a certain element of hypocrisy in all of life. With our human weakness and limitations we are not capable of doing everything perfectly nor completely. Pete Rose belongs in MLB’s HOF.
Currently residing in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown is an individual who not once, but twice, was arrested for cocaine possession during his MLB career. There is another who was arrested during his career for marijuana possession. I mention these two because these men played during my lifetime. Are their behaviors more acceptable to the BBWAA? If so, what a great injustice to Rose and what a mixed message to everyone else.”
Tim Allen (NLCD, Chicago Cubs)
“MLB backed itself into a corner by taking the hard-line in 1991. Am I qualified to judge Pete Rose? Hardly, but I doubt he will ever get in due to the “powers that be” being bent on confirmation of previous decisions (No proof, merely opinion). Maybe the Hall could enshrine him with full details. What better way to keep the truth on display for years to come? Might be forgotten otherwise. Cubs fan, but bigger fan of the game.”
And still others think he should be banned from working in baseball, but put into the HOF or at least considered for the HOF based on his accomplishments on the field:
Eric Heflin (NLCD, St. Louis Cardinals):
“In my opinion, Rose shouldn’t be allowed to coach or be a part of the game. For obvious reasons, the problems it could cause. But put him in the HOF. He’s the all time hits leader. The fans just want to see the best players.”
“I think that Commissioner Manfred’s decision is well researched and correct. Pete Rose has not done the things he was required to do to be considered for reinstatement. He still gambles, even on sports, and cannot seem to get his story straight when confronted about the gambling issue. The commissioner’s responsibility is to protect the integrity of the game, and he makes a solid case why he must err on the side of caution. Pete Rose, if allowed back into baseball, could end up working for a team and place bets on games involving that team. However, after hearing his press conference today, I am less convinced that he should not be considered for HOF induction. Pete made a credible case that he should be considered, and I am inclined to agree, at least to the extent that he should be CONSIDERED for induction. As a White Sox fan, I believe the same arguments support the fact that Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of our all-time greats, should also be considered.”