Pete Rose's fantasies are over
Pete Rose's quest for reinstatement by Major League Baseball is finally, mercifully, over. On Dec. 14, in a decision as clear and emphatic as it was transparent, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred denied Rose's application for removal from baseball's permanently ineligible list.
While not everyone agreed with Manfred's decision, even Rose admitted that he couldn't disagree with the commissioner's reasoning. Rose has been lying about his gambling habits throughout his 26-year exile from baseball after being banished from the game by then Commissioner Bart Giamatti. And true to form, he lied on his application for reinstatement and again during his face-to-face meeting with Manfred in September. Old habits die hard.
Evidence discovered last year confirmed information contained in the Dowd Report, the written report of baseball's 1989 investigation of Rose, that he not only gambled on his team as a manager in 1987 but also as a player in 1986 and most likely in 1985. That evidence shattered another of Rose's countless lies that he never gambled on baseball as a player. In fact, during his meeting with Manfred, Rose first denied that he bet on baseball as a player and then later in the interview asked to "clarify" his response, whereupon he proceeded to admit to such betting.
Little wonder then that Manfred stated in his decision, "It is not at all clear to me that Mr. Rose has a grasp of the scope of his violations. He claims not to remember significant misconduct detailed in the Dowd Report." Rose repeatedly stated that he is a changed man, but acknowledged to Manfred that he continues to bet on a variety of sporting events, including Major League Baseball.
Manfred emphatically stated that "Allowing him (Rose) to work in the game presents an unacceptable risk of a future violation by him of Rule 21 (the MLB rule prohibiting gambling) and thus to the integrity of our sport." Not to mention the embarrassment it would bring to MLB if it reinstated Rose and he further besmirched the game.
In his decision Manfred made it clear - at least to everyone except Donald Trump - that he was not addressing Rose's eligibility for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Manfred wrote, "It is not a part of my authority or responsibility here to make any determination concerning Mr. Rose's eligibility as a candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. [T]he issue of whether Mr. Rose should be eligible for Hall of Fame election under the bylaws of that organization presents an entirely different policy determination ... any debate over Mr. Rose's eligibility for the Hall of Fame is one that must take place in a different forum."
Trump either didn't read Manfred's statement or, similar to his incomprehension of the political issues of the day, failed to grasp what the commissioner said. After the decision was made public, Trump tweeted, "Can't believe Major League Baseball just rejected Pete Rose for the Hall of Fame. He's paid the price. So ridiculous - let him in!"
My own position on Rose's eligibility for the Hall of Fame has changed in the past year. We now have concrete, uncontroverted evidence confirming what John Dowd knew to be the case in 1989: that Rose bet on baseball as a player. Until the new documentation surfaced I was willing to give Rose the benefit of the doubt when he said he did not gamble on baseball while accumulating his record-setting 4,256 hits. That gambling on the sport became a substitute for the adrenaline rush he experienced when playing the sport. Therefore, he should be eligible for election to Cooperstown. Shame on me. I am now convinced that Rose has forfeited any chance of ever getting into the Hall for free.
Does MLB's decades-long association with lotteries and casinos - and most recently, daily fantasy games - mean that the sport is hypocritical in dealing with Rose? Perhaps. But no matter how you twist it, that's not the issue. Rule 21 leaves no room for interpretation and provides no exceptions, even for those who perform exceptionally well on the field of play.
We can sympathize with the pathetic figure Pete Rose has always been, but shed no tears for him over Manfred's decision. In the end, Rose got exactly what he deserved.
Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is a professor and the chair of the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland. Jordan maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.