27 October 2002

Smelling Like a Rose...A Rhinoce-rose!!!

John Perricone, over at Only Baseball Matters, had a few pieces last week about Pete Rose and his candidacy for reinstatement from baseball's ineligible list, in the wake of Charlie Hustle's appearance in the opening ceremonies of Game Four of the World Series for MasterCard's Most Memorable Stuff For Which Almost Nobody Who Knows Anything About Baseball Woulda Voted. John thinks that Rose was deceived/robbed/slighted and should be allowed to be let in the Hall of Fame, but I disagree. The following is correspondence I composed a few days ago but did not post properly, so here it is again. John tells me that he is doing some more research to try to come to a conclusion, and so I'll keep you posted as well. What I want to know is: Am I missing something? After reading this, if you still disagree, tell me so. I'd be interested to hear what ther compelling (sentimental or otherwise) reasons are for Pete Rose's advocacy. But don't tell me how great a player he was, I'm not making that argument. Tell me why either he didn't do what I think he did or why he shopuld be forgiven in spite of these things. Thanks.

Hi John,

Great work over there on OBM. I just got a chance to catch up because Blogger is down for repairs and I wanted to interject something about the Pete Rose issue. I imagine that you've been a fairly faithful reader of Rob Neyer's for some time, and he has made some pretty convincing arguments against Rose in the past, issues of undermining the integrity of the Game, as well as of individual games, so I won't get into that. I imagine that you've read them. I also had something to say on the subject a few months ago, which you can see here.

You're right to say that the HoF isn't a church, but it IS a shrine: a shrine to the people who have exemplified the talent, creativity and innovation that make baseball America's pastime, preferably without compromising or abusing the game for its own purposes, and without violating the rules that allow baseball to remain as great as it is. Nobody's saying that you have to be perfect to get in, so invoking Ty Cobb's or Babe Ruth's or Rogers Hornsby's or any other jerk's names as evidence that his being a jerk should not preclude him from having a plaque in the hall is moot. The point has already been conceded to you.

The argument against Rose is not that he's a jerk (a point which, it seems, is not especially contested) but that he bet on baseball games, both ones in which he was involved and ones in which he wasn't. I cannot argue from having seen the evidence, as I have not, but if you presume that there are at least some actual facts and some substantial evidence in the Dowd Report, then it is hard to defend Rose. The betting slips may not be as hard as we would like simply because most of us are not experts in handwriting analysis and/or betting protocol. But there seems at least to be some evidence, between testimonies, signatures on slips, motives and character of Rose himself, to believe that he did at least some, if not all of the things of which he is accused. What do you think? There's a vast, right-wing conspiracy against him? That someone went out and bought a poorly groomed hippie wig and a trenchcoat and learned to forge Charlie Hustle's signature? That he didn't think about all the money he was going to owe in taxes? That someone who would get married and then fly to meet his mistress on the same night wouldn't "stoop so low" as to bet on his own team? What would MLB have to gain from villifying a player as loved and revered for his passion, work ethic and accomplishments as Pete Rose? Only the ire of the masses.

Sure, the low-lifes with whom he associated may not be of utmost repute, but what do they have to gain by fabricating lies about Pete? What does John Dowd or Bart Giamatti or even Seligula or anyone else have to gain from keeping Rose out, as it seems that much of the (albeit uninformed) public sentiment is on Rose's side? The only reason is that there's some integrity to be kept for baseball and the HoF. (I know, Bud Selig lecturing us on integrity is like Chris Farley lecturing us on organic farming, but hear me out.) Rose "acknowledges that the Comissioner has a factual basis to impose the penalty provided herein" (a lifetime ban from MLB), which is a penalty consummate with the actions of betting on one's own team (for OR against) and nothing else. If the punishment didn't fit the crime, why make such an acknowledgement? He could have agreed to the ban without that statement if he didn't believe it was true. Lawyers change documents all the time to tweak them until they're completely satisfied with the language. You say it's because he expected to be able to apply for reinstatement in one year, which he was. No one and nothing has prevented him from such applicaitons, but no subsequent comissioner is under any obligaiton to follow through on a promise/implication/wink-wink made by a previous comissioner, just as the new CEO of a corporation is under no obligation to fulfill promises made by a previous administration. The agreement says "This document contains the entire agreement of the parties and represents the entire resolution of the matter of Peter Edward Rose before the Commissioner." Even if there was a side-deal, it was never official, and so it's not fair to hold the next comissioner to such a requirement. The comissioner has the right to refuse Rose's application for reinstatement, according to the agreement, and he has used that right.

You also have contended several times that Dowd violated the agreement by stating publicly that he thought that Rose bet on baseball games, including those in which he played a role. Well, if you look at the signature page of the agreement, Dowd's name does not appear. The agreement only states that "Neither the Commissioner nor Peter Edward Rose shall be prevented by this agreement from making any public statement relating to this matter so long as no such public statement contradicts the terms of this agreement and resolution." Nothing about John Dowd not being allowed to speak his mind in public on the matter. You can't hold him to that standard. No one ever has. Rose had his chance for a hearing. He turned it down. He had a chance to clear his name, to defend against the allegations. If the evidence is in fact as thin as tissue paper, it should not have been very hard to de-bunk in court. Don't tell me he was trying to avoid more of a scandal or more bad press, as he stood only to gain from going to a hearing if he was in fact innocent of betting on baseball. Even with all of MLB's money and lawyers, he should have been able to prove his innocence, if there was any to prove. No, Rose refused the hearing because he knew that only negative things would come from it. He knew that the evidence would all be made public (as it has), but also that there would be an official legal finding of his guilt (there hasn't). And that would have really killed his chances.

With all due respect to Bill James, I don't think he's a lawyer himself. The notion of "innocent until proven guilty" is in the U.S. Constitution, a guideline for state, county and local laws to stay within, but having nothing to do with the inner workings of private businesses, groups, partnerships, or alliances. MLB is entirely permitted to make no public official finding in a case but still sanction someone within its own jurisdiction based upon mutually agreed upon criteria. Rose had a choice. He made a choice based on what he thought would be best for him at the time, just like everyone always does. He was probably correct, that this course of action gave him the best chance of getting reinstated, but it didn't work out that way. Shit happens. Rose brought this on himself. MLB didn't lie to him. He just wants it to look that way. Don't believe the hype, John, you're too good a thinker for that. Your friend,

Well, that's it. I'm really interested to hear people's opinions.

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