11 December 2002

Who Doesn't Like Roses?

In the grand tradition of mainstream media, ESPN is about a month late and a tax evasion fine short on the Pete Rose issue. Tuesday must have been a slow news day, as an application for reinstatement made by Rose more than five years ago finally became a public issue. ESPN actually does a good job of covering the issue, but most of it amounts to "Wait and see."

There's plenty to read about this from sources other than the Boy of Summer, but my thoughts on Rose's reinstatement should be fairly self-evident from my writings here, where John Perricone at OBM has morphed a few different writings into one, reasonably coherent document. There is other stuff at OBM that deals with the issue as well. Especially, you must read Elephants in Oakland's David Levens' piece, if you haven't already. I have to agree with Rob Neyer, that if Rose does finally admit that he bet on his own games, it should only worsen his standing in MLB, not help it, as he will have publicly admitted to doing the one thing that merits lifetime exclusion. Frankly, I can't see them allowing him in if it means that greater players than Rose will everafter boycott the induction ceremonies. But then Bud Selig never was much for common sense.

Just like Kathy Lee Gifford (either you hate her or you can't stand her), people are galvanized by Pete Rose. There is very little middle ground. Fans love him. But then fans thought that Ripken's streak was a more memorable moment than Fisk's homer. Many sportswriters love him. But then these same sportswriters are the ones who think that A-Rod was not the MVP of the 2002 American League. Joe Morgan loves him. Of course, Joe Morgan is an idiot. Who doesn't love him? Well, only his ex-wife (wives?), probably most of the women with whom he cheated on his wife, his former bosses (Giamatti and Vincent), and some pretty smart and informed people like George Will, Jim Caple, David Pinto and John Dowd.

Jim Baker, via ESPN's Insider, looked for a dissenting opinion to all the Rose supporters, and he found a couple in the Newark Star Ledger and the Denver Post. Baker asks,

"Is there nobody in the Fifth Estate who has put forth the notion that in the context of baseball, betting on one's own games is a far worse offense than doing drugs, being a jerk or failing to hustle? Is there nobody who understands that the integrity of the play on the field is the single most important quality that baseball has to offer its fans and that actions that call into question the outcome of games override all individual accomplishments that came prior to those actions?"

The problem, it seems to me, is that we're all too young. I mean, I know, some of you are more than 28 like me, but unless Strom Thurmond reads my blog, nobody who's seeing this stuff has any first-hand recollection of what it was like when the integrity of the game of baseball was compromised by gambling. Nobody reading this was alive or lucid when the 1919 World Series was thrown, or earlier in baseball's history, when lots of issues with gambling became such a problem that the rules posted in every clubhouse about gambling had to be instituted. Those signs don't say "Thou shalt not fail to hustle." They require that anyone who gambles on games is suspended for a year, and that anyone who gambles on his own games be suspended permanently. Unfortunately, none of us can empathize with the gravity of such a situation, because the very rules that Pete Rose chose to ignore have otherwise done an excellent job of preventing this from becoming a problem, as it was in the toddler days of baseball. Our lack of appropriate historical perspective, or simply of a crisis in baseball due to gambling in our collectively recent memory, has skewed our view of how serious such an infraction truly is.

As my opinion is a matter of record, and there really are not yet any new developments on the story, only wild speculations, I'm not going to waste any more bandwidth on it. I'll let you know when there's real news.

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