A Rose by any other name

added 12/23/2002 by Susan and Darrell Pittman

The rapprochement between Pete Rose and baseball has garnered quite a bit of ink of late.

Should Rose, arguably one of the best players ever to set foot on a baseball diamond, be reinstated to baseball, despite his gambling sins?

Darrell’s take:

Major League Baseball’s Rule 21(d) states quite plainly:

BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

The reasons why this rule exists are manifold. The nefarious influence of gambling in sports was made most obvious when eight players on the Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series. It shook the public’s confidence in the game to its very core. If fans cannot see a game and believe that both sides are honestly trying to win, then why should they bother to watch? It took no less than a Babe Ruth to pull baseball’s feet out of that fire.

The Dowd Report made it abundantly evident that Rose not only bet on baseball games, but that he bet on his own team while he was the Cincinnati Reds’ player-manager. They have betting slips, made out in Rose’s own handwriting, with his fingerprints on them.

Some say that if Rose confesses, makes a public apology and admits his guilt, he should be reinstated. To me, his confessing would make the case for keeping him banned even stronger. That would be like pardoning an accused murderer just because he admitted to the deed.

Some argue that his betting for his own team, rather than against it, is a mitigating factor. That sounds good on the surface, but consider this: say you are the player-manager and you have $15,000 (Rose’s reported average daily betting habit) riding on your team winning a particular game. Might you not make personnel changes you would not have otherwise, perhaps putting in a relief pitcher on too-short rest, or pinch-hitting a gimpy player fresh off the DL, just to win that one game without regard for the longer-term ramifications? If you’re hugely in debt to one or more bookies (as Rose was), might you not be tempted to sell inside information about your team to pay off part of your debt?

Whether or not any of these things happened is immaterial. The mere notion that they might have happened erodes the public’s confidence in the integrity of the game, which is its bedrock. That is why baseball's penalty for gambling on baseball is so severe.

Rose’s personal life is far from exemplary, but that, to me, is not the issue. After all, Ty Cobb is in the Hall and he’s never been accused of being one of baseball’s nice guys, on or off the field.

So why is Bud Selig even considering reinstating Pete Rose? The answer is simple: money. Polls have shown overwhelming public support for restoring Rose’s eligibility, and Selig, used-car salesman that he is, will not or cannot stand on principle when a dollar is at stake, even if it’s for the greater good of the game.

It only points out why baseball needs a real commissioner again, not a lapdog of the owners.

While I sympathize with the public's forgiving attitude (and no one can take Pete Rose’s accomplishments away from him), rules are still rules. Despite what some may say, they are not meant to be bent, much less broken. If you don’t like the rules, then change them, but don’t look the other way while you pardon the offender just because he admits his offense, then later pretend that the rule is still in force. To do otherwise is to slide down the slippery slope of moral relativism.

Yes, Pete Rose was a great baseball player -- one of the greatest ever -- but he knowingly broke baseball’s unbreakable rule, and deserves its ultimate sanction.

Susan’s take:

I think that Pete Rose should be allowed in the Hall of Fame. My argument is mostly emotional, but the stats say a lot.

From BaseballLibrary.com:

Rose is the career leader in hits (4,256), singles (3,215), at-bats (14,053) and games played (3,562). He is second all-time in doubles, fourth in runs, and collected at least 100 hits in his first 23 seasons, a record. He had more than 200 hits in a season 10 times, also a record, led the league in hits in seven seasons, and is the most prolific switch-hitter in history. He is the only player to play 500 games at five different positions and was named the Player of the Decade for the 1970s by TSN.

In reading up to prepare for this article, I found this statement:

Gambling is the worst thing a ballplayer can do, because it undermines the integrity of the game. Since the goals of the gambler are different than the normal goals of a baseball team, fan's trust in the game is shaken. Source: http://www.baseball1.com/bb-data/rose/rose-faq.html

I believe that the fan’s trust in the game is already severely shaken. A strike was narrowly averted last season. Owners grouse about the lack of money and how they are constantly losing money and no one really believes them. Players hold out for more money and fans simply don’t have sympathy for them.

I don’t condone Rose’s gambling, especially gambling on his own team. Perhaps it did affect his judgment as a manager, but then again maybe not. The goal is to win. I think any manager, especially late in the season would likely make decisions that may or may not be good for an individual player. I don’t think that you can arbitrarily say that because Rose bet on the Reds that he made bad or potentially harmful decisions.

According to Baseball1.com, it wasn’t until 1990 that the Baseball Hall of Fame added a clause that players who were ineligible to participate in MLB were also ineligible for the HOF. (http://www.baseball1.com/bb-data/rose/rose-faq.html.) Rose played from 1963 until 1986. He was banned from baseball in 1989. Why not grandfather him in so that he can get into the Hall of Fame. Was that clause created specifically to keep Rose out of the HOF as punishment for his crimes?

Of course, the next argument will be why not allow any of the eight members of the Chicago Black Sox scandal into the HOF? I think there is a fundamental difference in betting on the outcome of a game and being paid to throw a game. Still in all, it boils down to be an emotional argument for me. I think that Rose should be allowed into the HOF. My gut instinct says that he should because it is the right thing to do. Many will disagree with me, notably my husband, but when time comes for me to answer the question yes or no, I will say yes, Pete Rose should be in the Hall of fame.

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