Talkin’ Pete Rose

So, I’m about to put up the the rest of the results from the Hot Button survey … and I realize that I mistakenly left the Pete Rose question off the survey. That was my bad. I have a bunch of Pete Rose thoughts today.

* * *

Let’s start with something completely different. Pete Rose played almost his entire career in a terrible hitting environment. People rarely talk about this because, well, with Pete Rose, there are always more interesting things to talk about. But it’s true. Rose played for 24 years when pitchers dominated the game. The average run-scoring environment in baseball history is about 716-runs per team. In Rose’s career, teams in his league averaged 655 runs per game. Runs were hard to come by in the 1960s and 1970s.

Well, you know the story of the time. The strike zone was huge. The mounds were high. The ballparks were vast. The baseballs were probably a bit deader.

Here are Pete Rose’s splits for his career:

303/.375/.409

OK, that’s pretty good — a .300 career average, a pretty high on-base percentage, a pretty low slugging percentage but Rose was a singles hitter. This rate numbers dropped significantly after Rose turned 40 too — he chased Cobb’s hit record and cost himself a few points in all three categories.

But the point here is Rose’s hitting environment. Baseball Reference has this great tool where you can neutralize a player’s numbers so that you can see what they would look like iin an average hitting environment. Rose’s neutralized numbers:

.312/.385/.420

Yeah, well, that’s a lot better isn’t it. Derek Jeter’s career numbers: .312/.381/.446. Hmm.

Of course, Jeter did not play in an average hitting environment. He played most of his career when offense was completely out of control. If Rose had played in JETER’S time, his splits calculate like so:

.324/.398/.436

Let’s go back to those Pete Rose neutralized stats for a minute. Rose,of course, had an amazing 4,256 hits (most ever), 746 doubles (2nd), he scored 2,165 runs (6th) and totaled 5,752 bases (7th).

Neutralized — all those numbers go WAY up. He suddenly has 4,525 hits. His 789 neutralized doubles would be just three behind Tris Speaker (meaning, no doubt, Rose would have stuck around long enough to break THAT record too). His 2,362 runs would be No. 1 all time. His 6,088 total bases would be third behind Hank Aaron and Stan Musial.

Rose reached base 5,929 — already 330 more times than any player in baseball history. Neutralized, you could predict him to have reached base more than 6,300 times in his career.

The point is simply this: Pete Rose was probably a better player than you think.

We are coming on 25 years of Pete Rose’s banishment, which seems unreal to me. It was 1994, I was working for an afternoon paper called The Cincinnati Post and was given the seemingly lousy task of trying to sum up the five-year anniversary of Rose’s suspension. At the time, Rose was refusing all interviews so there weren’t many options. We decided it would be worth it for me to go down to his restaurant in Florida and watch the man in action. He was doing a sports radio talk show from his restaurant. We figured it would make a good story just to stand back and observe.

When I got there — I’ve written about this before — the waitress asked me where I wanted to sit (I got there early; the place was empty). I told her what I was doing, and she said, ‘Well, Pete’s sitting right there so just go talk to him.” I told her that Pete wasn’t doing interviews and I really didn’t want to bother him and then be asked to leave the restaurant. She didn’t seem to follow what I was saying.

She said: “Yeah, but he’s sitting right there, why don’t you go talk to him?”

So I went to talk him fully expecting the brush off or the chase out. Instead, he kicked out a chair and told me, “Have a seat.” Rose spent the next three hours or so regaling me with stories and lies, memories and exaggerations, charts (yes there were charts) and observations, bitter feelings and hopeful cliches. At the end, there was no story to write.There was only a story to type. For the first time — but not the last — he had gift wrapped a fully-formed tornado of baseball fascination.

At that time, Rose was still insisting that he never bet on baseball at all. Later, he would admit to betting on baseball, later still to betting on the Reds, later he conceded that, yeah, actually he had a large standing bet on the Reds to win every night.*

*Rose has never admitted to betting on the Reds to lose. This is a pretty significant point of contention. Many people think Rose’s competitive personality and (admittedly confusing) love of the game would never ALLOW him to bet on the Reds to lose — that is to say that somewhere in that spaghetti maze of principles and ideals Rose believes in (or doesn’t) is a do-not-cross line that simply would not let him bet on his own team to lose.

Others say that’s ridiculous, he was a compulsive gambler who was often over his head and betting on the Reds to lose would have been too tempting.

Either way, Rose has given out more admissions than The Ohio State University but he continually insists he never bet on the Reds to lose — it’s the one constant. And after 25 years nobody has been able to prove otherwise.

The admissions and apologies through the years have been utterly Pete Rose, which is to say that the admissions always sounded incomplete and the apologies disingenuous. That’s Rose. He was a hustler, always. In the end, the hustling led him to a metal chair in a memorabilia store in Las Vegas where he signs autographs and smiles for photographs while barkers outside shout, “Come on in and see the Hit King!”

On the field, though, that hustling made him a singular player, a whirlwind who was always looking to take a little bit more than you were willing to give.

Rose as player: He is somewhat hard to explain to a younger generation. He ran full speed to first base on walks. He wasn’t the first to do it, nor the last (Steve Sax idolized Rose and would run to first on walks too), but it was tied up in his psyche. People thought that running to first base on walks thing was just shtick. They were right. It was just shtick. But when you repeat the shtick enough times, it becomes a part of who you are. Rose always ran to first. He did it because it helped make him famous and because it ticked off the other team and because every now and again — maybe once a season, maybe less — he might make it to second base because the pitcher and catcher weren’t paying attention. Most of all he ran to first on walks because Harry Rose wanted him to. Rose’s father is a big part of the story.

Rose hit those 746 doubles because he was always thinking about the extra base — not just in April when the weather was cool and his body still felt springy but in the irrepressible heat of late August when he felt like one giant bruise. He took the extra base when the score was close and the base mattered, but he also took it when the game was out of hand and the only person who cared about that base was Rose himself. He went five-for-five eight times — more than anyone ever — because he CARED about getting that fifth hit, no matter the score. Selfish? Yes. But Joe Morgan said that he only became a great player when he became more selfish like that, when he started to care about EVERY at-bat the way Pete did.

In short, Rose was a man obsessed by the game in the truest definition of that word — obsessed, adj., to be preoccupied continually, intrusively and to a troubling extent. He always knew his batting average; every day he figured it along with his other stats. He always knew the stats of the people he considered his adversaries. Garvey. Schmidt. Stargell. He could make a comparison at any moment. He did not sleep much.

He would show up at the park early every day. Early for others was late for Rose. He would take batting practice and fielding practice with a crackling energy, as if it was the first time. He would play every game, no matter how he felt, no matter how far ahead his team might be in the standings. “Pete, I’m sitting you today,” Sparky Anderson would tell him repeatedly toward the end of the 1975 season with the Reds up 20 games. “Like hell you are,” Rose would shout back.

He would run to first on walks, run out every fly ball, attack the ball on defense. He broke up the double play, and he dived head first even when there was no play, and he crashed into catchers who dared block the plate. People have always made a big deal about him running over Ray Fosse in the All-Star Game but what they never seemed to understand was that Rose did not have a choice in the matter. Fosse was blocking the plate (illegally, Rose still insists, since Fosse did not have the ball) and Rose HAD TO run him over. That’s where the story began and ended for Rose. You say it was just an All-Star Game? You say it was just an exhibition? You say it needlessly endangered the career of an exciting young player (who Rose had to his house for dinner the night before)?

See, you’re missing the point.

Fosse was blocking the plate. Rose HAD TO run him over.

Obsessed. He would sit in the dugout when his team was at bat and chatter incessantly and calculate stats in his mind and and think about lines he could use with reporters after the game. He closely watched teammates and looked for ways to help them — every teammate, seemingly, has a story about advice Rose offered. To this day, Rose is still ticked off that Ken Griffey took the advice of Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench and decided t sit on the last day of the 1976 to protect his batting title (Bill Madlock got four hits and took it away from Griffey, who entered the game late but could not salvage the title).

“No offense to Joe and Johnny, they were two of the greatest players this game has ever known,” Rose grumbles. “But what the (bleep) do they know about winning a batting title? I know about winning batting titles. I would have told Griffey to start the game and WIN his batting title. He should have asked me.”

When the games ended, Rose would recap the game with reporters (who generally loved him), with teammates, with friends, with anyone who would listen. Then he would go park his car in his driveway and find the West Coast game and listen to Vin Scully or whoever else until past midnight. Then he would go inside and replay the game in his mind.

All the bad things — the gambling, the womanizing, the shady company he kept — were (it always seemed to me) ways to keep from going crazy when he wasn’t playing baseball. The game was the thing that challenged his every fiber, the thing that made him whole, and if he’s in the right mood Rose will admit that he wasn’t much of a man away from the field. He was an inattentive father, a lousy husband, an addicted gambler, a public liar. On the baseball field, he was his best self.

His father, Harry, made him that way. They called Harry Rose, “Big Pete” He was the toughest man on the West Side of Cincinnati. Everybody said so. Big Pete made sure his son learned how to switch-hit, made sure he took every advantage, made sure he ALWAYS fought back. Big Pete made sure his son played ball all summer — they never once went on a summer vacation and Big Pete had his son repeat a grade rather than miss baseball for summer school. Yes, Big Pete raised his son to be a damn ballplayer. And Pete Rose became a damn ballplayer.

Rose has often wondered out loud how much different his life might have been had Harry Rose lived. The is Rose at his most poignant and self-conscious. Harry died of a massive heart attack when Rose was 29 years old and, already, a big league star. “He would have straightened me out,” Rose insists. “He would never have let me get out of control.”

Rose, of course, did go out of control. Divorce. Parent issues. Bad friends. Gambling debts. And along he way he broke baseball’s strictest rule.

Rule 21-d (second paragraph): 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.

Out of context, this seems kind of a draconian rule. At its extreme, that should mean a dollar bet with your childhood friend should get you permanently banned. At its extreme, that should mean that being in a fantasy baseball league should get you permanently banned. At its extreme, that should mean that saying to your manager, “Bet you a quarter I get a hit here,” should get you permanently banned.

But the rule is there because in 1919 several Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers and mobsters to throw the World Series. There was a no-tolerance policy after that black mark on the game, and the resulting rule offers no appeal, no parole and no forgiveness. Let’s make it clear: Rose’s gambling was not as benign as the examples in the last paragraph. He has admitted that as manager of the Reds he had a sizable and constant bet on his team to win.*

*It is important, by the way, the Rose bet on the Reds games. Betting on baseball games you are NOT involved with carries only a one-year ban.

Did his betting cause Rose to manage differently than he might have otherwise? The question doesn’t really matter — the rule is unambiguous — but I have never thought so. I am not downplaying what Rose did. He knew the rule intimately and broke it. I’m just saying that I don’t think he managed any differently. I’ve heard the possibilities about pitcher usage and lineup changes and bad moves meant to win a single game (or lose one). I just don’t believe them. I think Rose bet on baseball because he had a gambling sickness. I don’t think it affected him as a player or manager.

Others, of course disagree.

And — now what? Of course, the rule states very clearly what happens when you bet on a game you’re involved with: You “shall be declared permanently ineligible.” By the way, you will notice the rule does not say anything at all about a “lifetime ban.” The word “lifetime” does not appear at all in the entirety of Rule 21. I’ve heard people say that Rose should only be eligible for the Hall of Fame after he dies (thus serving a lifetime ban) but that’s not what the rule says.

Permanently ineligible. End of statement. No runs. No hits. No errors.

But, let’s talk about fairness. We all know what the rule says. But does it feel like this punishment for Rose fits the crime? Should the punishment for THROWING THE WORLD SERIES be the same as the punishment for betting on a team you manage to win?

Rose bet on baseball games. That’s bad. And the punishment has been severe. For almost 25 years he has been banished from his game, his name thrown off the Hall of Fame ballot, his presence unwelcome even in the ballpark that was on a street named for him. This is a particularly harsh punishment for Rose, who breathes baseball. It would not be so severe for someone who cheated baseball and didn’t care about the game.

Every so often in the last quarter century, Rose was told by any number of people that there was a way to get back in the game. He needed to apologize, no, he needed to apologize more intently, no, he needed to come clean, no he needed to come cleaner, no he needed to keep apologizing and keep coming clean. It did not seem to matter much to people that coming clean and apologizing are two things Pete Rose does poorly. His efforts, predictably, fell short and it all got him nowhere.*

*Let me add something here: I think it would have gotten him nowhere no matter what he said. This is the larger point. I don’t think Pete Rose could have apologized sincerely enough or come clean thoroughly enough to change his fate. I think the “all he needs to do is apologize” crowd were never willing to meet him in the middle.

Rose supporters often point out that murderers and drug dealers and violent criminals tend to get shorter sentences than Rose. I don’t think that’s a particularly valid comparison — taking Rose off the Hall of Fame ballot and refusing him work in baseball is not the same as putting him in jail.

But it does get at a general point. We tend to believe as a country that, most of the time, even for dreadful wrongs, there’s a way back. There are second chances. And those second chances are not just given to people who apologize in a fulfilling way or have a gift for seeming contrite.

Pete Rose played baseball with an intensity and love that might be unmatched in the game’s history. He cracked more hits and reached base more times than anyone ever. He represented a way to play baseball that inspired millions of people. Then, he gambled on games, breaking one of baseball’s most cherished rules. Rose is 72 years old now, and I think it’s time to let him back into the game. I don’t think anyone should ask him to apologize again or come any cleaner than he has. I don’t think anyone should expect Pete Rose to be something that he is not. It has been almost 25 years. He has paid his debt.

110 thoughts on “Talkin’ Pete Rose

  1. tomemos

    “It did not seem to matter much to people that coming clean and apologizing are two things Pete Rose does poorly. His efforts, predictably, fell short and it all got him nowhere.”

    Well, why *should* that matter to people? Coming clean and apologizing are and have always been the way you get forgiven for something; that’s going back through the whole history of ethical thought. Because Rose isn’t good at contrition, he’s supposed to get another out? Should he be able to earn forgiveness by hitting some more doubles?

    Also, this strikes me as tendentious, not to say misleading:

    Every so often in the last quarter century, Rose was told by any number of people that there was a way to get back in the game. He needed to apologize, no, he needed to apologize more intently, no, he needed to come clean, no he needed to come cleaner, no he needed to keep apologizing and keep coming clean.

    All of those “no”s suggest that somehow people were giving advice that was convoluted or contradictory or something. But the advice was actually quite simple: come clean, and apologize sincerely. The fact that they told him that again and again makes his failure to do it look worse, not better.

    Reply
    1. Anon21

      We generally mete out finite punishment even to those who don’t display contrition and remorse or who don’t display it to society’s satisfaction. That is, there’s a sense that offenses have proportionate punishments even if the offender is defiant and refuses to accept responsibility, although that kind of thing certainly can affect the length of the ultimate punishment (but not its finiteness).

      Reply
        1. Anon21

          Generally, professed or even apparently genuine contrition isn’t enough to get out of the death penalty, although I suppose it might tip the scales in a few cases. So this doesn’t support tomemos’s original point, that genuine contrition is somehow intimately linked with the cessation of punishment in our shared morality.

          Reply
          1. robin

            i wasn’t responding to tomemos’s point, i was responding to your comment. and i’m saying we have a long tradition of handing out infinite punishment.

      1. tomemos

        Of course, life sentences are given out for certain serious crimes in every state in the Union. Betting on baseball ain’t murder, but then as Joe says being kept out of the Hall of Fame ain’t prison, either.

        If the argument is that betting on baseball shouldn’t merit a permanent ban, that argument can be made. I just think it’s weird that Joe essentially chastises those who want to see contrition from Rose before letting him out of what has always been a permanent ban. In context, that’s a generous offer, not a stingy one.

        Reply
        1. Anon21

          A life sentence is actually finite in a way that Rose’s sentence isn’t, because Rose can’t be inducted into the Hall even after he dies. (This isn’t meant in any way to compare the actual severity of the two types of punishments; obviously a prison sentence of any length would be worse than Rose’s punishment.)

          Reply
          1. tomemos

            Well, that’s true. I don’t really have an opinion about whether the ban should be “lifetime” or “permanent,” partly because I don’t care as much about the Hall as I used to and partly because our first task would then be to figure out whether Shoeless Joe Jackson goes in.

        2. Donald A. Coffin

          For what it’s worth, it used to be common that conviction for a felony–any felony–*permanently* cost one the right to vote…no appeal, no path to appeal, That is still the case in 12 states. Contrition doesn’t matter. Good works don’t matter. Sainthood does not matter.

          So Pete Rose can’t work in baseball? Frankly, I don’t care. So he can’t be considered for the Hall of Fame? He was a great baseball player *and* he was extremely famous. But he committed the baseball equivalent of a felony. He loses a right/privilege because of it. And he knew the rules as he broke them.

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    2. Bobbi

      I couldn’t agree more.

      There may be fans who love Pete Rose just as much as I do, but no one loves him more. It truly saddens me and has for all of these years, but I don’t believe he should be allowed back in the game or that he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He broke the cardinal rule, and yeah, it’s set in stone for a reason. Pete knew he was doing the one unforgivable thing in baseball and he did it anyway. Then he lied about it for years, and I’m still not sure he’s telling the truth today.

      I find it hard to believe he never bet against the Reds or managed without letting his bet influence his decisions. He’s changed his story several times over the years, so he doesn’t get credit for “coming clean”. He might be telling the truth now, but who can believe it after all of the brazen lies he’s told? It makes no sense that he bet on the Reds EVERY game. Really? Even knowing that at best he was going to lose at least 62-72 times a year? Right.

      And as crazy as it sounds: how do we know he didn’t cheat as a player? Yes, I’ve never seen a more intense player, but baseball’s a game of inches…one ball he couldn’t quite reach, one pitch he couldn’t quite connect with…one base he couldn’t quite beat the throw to…I hope that’s not true, but Pete’s unfortunately made it clear he’s a liar at every turn. He sullied himself and the game, then just kept smearing the dirt all around. He always tries to admit the very least he can, then hopes to be reinstated. When that doesn’t work, he changes his story and incriminates himself a little bit more each time. He’s gone about as far as he can now, but still color me unsurprised if he next admits to betting against the Reds, but only on away games or maybe just when he knew they were going to lose anyway.

      It’s a shame because I can so easily remember him tearing around the bases, leaping into the stands to snag a foul ball during a “meaningless” spring training game, his personal kindness to me when I was just an awestruck twelve year old and he slipped my Pete Rose model glove onto his hand, pounded the other into the pocket several times as he asked me what position I played and if I hustled and played heads up ball. That autographed glove is still a prized possession as is the memory of me telling him that day, without a doubt, that I knew he would break Ty Cobb’s record before he retired.

      What a mess.

      Oh, also…When a catcher blocks the plate, he knows a collision is more than possible, so instead of questioning why Rose ran into Fosse when it was just an All-Star game, I wonder why Fosse would block the plate when it was just an All-Star game? Perhaps because they were both competitors who wanted to win? I believe that’s how you play the game.

      Reply
  2. Matt Williams

    Joe,

    You are missing a big point on Rose betting. On the nights that he DIDN’T bet on the Reds to win, he was betting they would lose. He just wasn’t putting money on the line. It’s kinda a big deal because on a night when the Reds were facing a good pitcher, he could have held back players to better his chances to win the following game where he was making a wager.

    Reply
    1. Anon21

      He’s not “missing” that, because he says that Rose admitted that “he had a large standing bet on the Reds to win every night.” You can choose to disbelieve Rose, but the point is dealt with in Joe’s piece.

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    2. Joe

      If he had a “large standing bet on the Reds to win” then he didn’t have nights where he didn’t bet on the Reds to win. I don’t know if that is the truth or not, but if it is, I agree his time has been served. Does anyone have evidence that in a given stretch of time he was betting on the Reds to win some nights and not on others?

      Reply
  3. buddaley

    No. Not unless baseball changes the rule. It can do that. It can amend it, cancel it, do anything it wants with it. It can state that it is re-interpreting it to mean something different from what everyone thinks a “permanent” ban means-as long as it is public and clear that it is a re-interpretation or even that the general understanding has always been mistaken.

    But baseball cannot make an exception because of something special in Rose. It has to be sure that the rule permits other cases to become exceptions to the rule as it is now understood-that is, it has to give hope to others who might gamble on their teams that they will be able to avoid the ultimate punishment. In other words, it has to dilute the purity of the rule as now stated.

    I am not saying baseball should not change the rule and then allow Rose in. I emphasize “and then”, not “in order to”. But it has to be aware of what letting him back in really means. If baseball thinks it is worth it to be more fair to Pete or to show mercy or to recognize that the Black Sox scandal no longer has the power over our minds that it once did-or whatever- then let baseball do it openly and forthrightly, but not because, since he is Pete Rose, he has earned the right to be treated differently.

    Reply
    1. Matt Williams

      I do think the punishment is harsh and MLB needs to change it. Have a vote for Rose to see if he can go in the Hall of Fame. If elected, put on his plaque he was banned for gambling and don’t allow Rose near a MLB team.

      Bottom line is, the Hall is a museum. You can’t ignore the parts you don’t like. But MLB has to change the rules. Can’t just make an exception because he’s Pete Rose.

      But I’m not so sure Rose would even get 75% of the vote needed for enshrinement.

      Reply
      1. buddaley

        The ban from baseball and the ban from the Hall are two separate if interrelated issues. Each has been established by a different entity. The Hall has determined that a player permanently banned from baseball is ineligible for enshrinement. The Hall could change that ruling while Rose remains banned from baseball and then enshrine him as you suggest. (Incidentally, as a museum, Rose is all over the Hall. His records are there as are other elements of his career. It is only in the pantheon that he is missing.) I think that ruling was established specifically to omit Rose (I am not sure of that), but it has nothing to do with whether baseball violates its own rule.

        Baseball has banned him in accordance with its rules. If it reinstates him, the Hall would be able even keeping its ruling on banned players to enshrine him. Frankly, I am not concerned with what the Hall does. But I do think it important that baseball procedes properly, and that means either everyone is liable to the same rules and penalties or the rules are altered for everyone. You can’t call player A out with 3 strikes while allowing player B 4 strikes because there is something special about the way B plays the game-at least you can’t do it without denying you are doing it.

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        1. NevadaMark

          That is an interesting point you made; that Rose is “in” the Hall of Fame, he is just not ENSHRINED there. He certainly does not need enshrinement to validate his career as a player.

          I find it fascinating that Rose was only two years away from Hall eligibility when he was banned. If the facts had not come out for another two years, he may have been the first player ever elected unanimously (every writer drooled over him).

          Would they have kicked him out of the Hall if then bad news had come out after he was already enshrined?

          Reply
    2. Anon21

      Technically, as I’m sure most around here are already aware, MLB’s rule is only indirectly keeping Rose from Hall of Fame eligibility because the Hall has chosen not to allow people declared permanently ineligible to appear on any ballot. So you can frame it as you’ve chosen to, or you can frame it as an issue of the Hall’s standards. And if it’s an issue of the Hall’s standards, one could argue that it has less to do with the soul of baseball itself, since the Hall is in fact only a museum that isn’t under MLB’s control.

      Reply
  4. tomemos

    It would also be relevant to know, Joe, if you think that the rule should be changed for EVERYONE, to include a limitation on the ban—ineligible for a certain period of time, or until certain conditions are fulfilled, or what have you—or if it should just be suspended in Pete Rose’s case because, I guess, he hit all those doubles and he ran to first base on walks and his dad died too young and he was gracious to you in 1994. The principle that the rules should not apply to larger-than-life personalities like they do to nice quiet folks like Shoeless Joe Jackson, say, is not very easy to respect, so I hope that’s not it.

    Reply
  5. jposnanski Post author

    I think you are missing my point, or I didn’t make it clearly. OF COURSE the rule should be changed for everyone. It’s a ridiculous overreach of a rule in my view. But I think you might have it backward. I think if it wasn’t Pete Rose, if it was a lesser player, the rule WOULD have been changed already and the player would have been reinstated. I think it’s the distaste many people have for Rose — and his own worst-enemy qualities — that has kept this going for 25 years.

    Reply
    1. tomemos

      Thanks for responding, Joe. Respectfully, I would say that you did not make that clear; I don’t see it said anywhere that the rule in general is too harsh, and the last paragraph seems to connect the “he’s Pete Rose” idea to the “he’s served his time” idea in a way that wouldn’t necessarily apply to other players. Then there’s this, which doesn’t say that Rose in particular shouldn’t have to serve the time but could be read that way: “This is a particularly harsh punishment for Rose, who breathes baseball. It would not be so severe for someone who cheated baseball and didn’t care about the game.”

      In any case, thanks for clarifying your position, and sorry if I misread you.

      I don’t think I buy that people have distaste for Rose that has kept him out of the game—on the contrary, there was always enormous fan support on his side, at least until he published his non-apology book (ironically, the one that was supposed to get him into the Hall). And if his “own worst-enemy qualities” have kept him out of the game, is that unjust? One of the ways in which he’s his own worst enemy is that he undermines his own credibility at every turn, such that I have no idea why you believe him when he says he never bet against his own team. His word carries zero weight with me. If you tell a bunch of lies and people become disinclined to trust you, there’s nothing unfair about that at all.

      Reply
    2. buddaley

      I think many of the comments in response to your clarification are exactly right. This is not meant to be nasty, although it probably is, but would you feel the rule is a ridiculous overreach if it were a lesser player than Rose who was affected?

      Perhaps the “overreach” is made more obvious by the particular player, or perhaps until it is put in effect we don’t really understand the ramifications, but I think it sets a double standard to call for a rule change because a particular player is involved. You have to explain and demonstrate why it is a ridiculous overreach, why the ramifications of weakening the rule are not serious enough to maintain it as is. Pointing to Rose as a victim is barely an illustration let alone an argument or evidence.

      Rose’s infraction was particularly egregious. In the case of Jackson et al, the penalty was ex post facto. But whatever the reasons-addiction or otherwise-in Rose’s case the rule and penalty were well-known in advance.

      I think Rose should be enshrined, but I do not think there is any argument for allowing him back in baseball-ever. Let the Hall of Fame change its rule, but don’t ask baseball to do it. Having players or managers betting on their own games, and then trying to sort out which ones were more legitimate than others is a hornet’s nest I doubt anyone wants to see endangering the game.

      Reply
    3. bellweather22

      Well, then is it an overreach that the NBA permanently banned Tim Donaghy? Or are you parsing the different levels of harm caused by gambling…. And choosing to believe, despite incessant lying, that Rose is telling the truth that he NEVER bet against the Reds…. Or did anything untowards that impacted a game?

      What you are saying, in effect, that betting on baseball isn’t all that bad as long as it can’t be proved that the betting didn’t effect the game. What baseball is saying is “how can a bet on baseball NOT effect the game”?

      Contrary points of view seem to be rather naive about how gamblers operate. Baseball understands clearly what can happen based on the Black Sox scandal, and to their credit, they’ve never put their head in the sand and discounted that lesson learned just because it happened 100 years ago. Quite probably, this hard and fast rule has prevented more”Roses” from gambling on baseball.

      Reply
  6. Brian

    Joe, I think the point is simple. There was one rule that would get you made permanently ineligible. Everyone knew what that rule was. The punishment was no secret. There is no reason Pete should ever be let back in. He knew what he was getting into. He either believed he was above the rule or too stupid to see the consequences. Just like he HAD TO run over Ray Fosse, Major League Basebase HAS TO enforce their rule.

    Reply
    1. stevemarines

      “He either believed he was above the rule or too stupid to see the consequences.”

      Or, he was an addict – which is clearly the case. Other people with addictions have been banned for life and then reinstated – Steve Howe and Fergie Jenkins come to mind, and in Jenkins’s case he made the HOF.

      If the issue is that he bet on his team to lose, or his betting affected the game, OK. I can understand that. But it seems it did not, and in any case Rose is not going to be working for an MLB team and be in a position to affect games if he is reinstated, so what exactly is the harm in allowing him to be a part of the MLB community again?

      Reply
      1. tomemos

        “If the issue is that he bet on his team to lose, or his betting affected the game, OK. I can understand that. But it seems it did not…”

        “It seems” is carrying a lot of weight there.

        Reply
      2. bellweather22

        How can betting on baseball NOT effect the game? That’s the entire point of the rule. Baseball is not unclear about the rule or the reason for the rule…. And there is no exception for “poor addicts” that gee, they just can’t help themselves…. So we should give the guy a break. That’s just making excuses for behavior that has the potential of damaging the game.

        Reply
        1. stevemarines

          No, we shouldn’t give the guy a break because he’s an addict. Gambling is damaging to the game and gamblers shouldn’t be anywhere near a dugout.

          We should give him a break because it’s been 25 years, and reinstating him poses no danger to the game now. It’s ludicrous to not have one of the best players in baseball history not a part of the community anymore. Nobody’s protecting the integrity of the game in 2013 by keeping Pete away.

          Reply
  7. cass

    He did not break “one of baseball’s most cherished rules.” He broke baseball’s existential rule. Without it, Major League Baseball ceases to exist as a genuine competition. Every single thing that happens on every baseball field is rendered meaningless without that rule. I see no reason for an exception. Indeed, I think any exception risks Major League Baseball’s very existence.

    Reply
    1. tomemos

      Right; I don’t think anyone “cherishes” the rule against gambling. We regard it grimly, as a reminder of the sport’s lowest single moment. Gambling on the game isn’t failing to respect a cherished symbol, like burning the American flag; it’s the baseball equivalent of treason.

      Reply
    2. Anon21

      You think that, say, a 20-year ban in place of the permanent ban would “ris[k] Major League Baseball’s very existence”? I say baseball people reckless enough to contemplate gambling on the game in the first instance are not that finely attuned to marginal gradations of punishment.

      Reply
      1. tomemos

        There’s a difference between saying that it would not be harmful to lessen the punishment, and saying that it would not be harmful to lessen the punishment *in order to pardon someone who broke the rule.* After all, if they lessen it from permanent to 20, they could always lessen it again, at least if someone hit enough doubles. Ratcheting down a punishment in response to an injustice is certainly not always wrong—I’m a soft-on-crime liberal in real life—but I don’t think the injustice here has been demonstrated.

        By the way, if the rule were lessened I certainly would only want it lessened as regards the Hall of Fame (which is to say, I would want the Hall’s rule to change, not baseball’s). I don’t want someone who ever bet on baseball to ever coach or manage, ever. That you don’t get back.

        Reply
    3. Innocent Bystander

      Cass makes the key comment in my assessment. It doesn’t matter that it is Rose. It doesn’t matter if he bet on his team or against them. It doesn’t matter if it was fantasy baseball or throwing the World Series. What matters is the gambling. And with that the possible *perception* that the games aren’t a genuine competition. Once that perception is out there, and any possible doubt follows, we might as well be watching WWE wrestling.

      Reply
    1. Jonathan

      Go to a player’s page, and right by their standard batting or pitching stats there’s a blue section with a link that says “More Stats.” Click that, scroll to the bottom of the page, and you’ll be shown their neutralized stats. You can also adjust any player’s stats to various eras and parks (for fun, I suggest translating Babe Ruth’s stats to Coors Field in 2000, or Pedro Martinez’s stats to Dodger Stadium in 1968).

      Reply
  8. bsg

    Baseball lost the moral high road when they allowed him to participate in the all-century team ceremonies in 1999. If Pete is to be on the permanent ineligible list, then enforce the status completely and fully. Baseball should’t keep making little exceptions here and there for Pete to make appearances in an effort to keep themselves from looking completely heartless. If baseball is going use Pete Rose in any capacity, they should negotiate a conditional reinstatement.

    It worked for George Steinbrenner…

    Reply
  9. Michael

    The problem with the betting, even if it was to win every game, is that eventually his debts could start catching up on him. Then what? “Either the Reds lose to the Dodgers today, or my buddy Tommy becomes the new “hit king” if you know what I mean…and in case you don’t know it means Tommy is going to hit you until you bleed”. That’s the danger of betting on baseball if you are part of the game.

    I’m a huge Pete Rose fan. Grew up watching him play and loved every minute of it. I think he should be in the Hall because as someone said earlier it’s a museum. Should they mention on the plaque that he got kicked out of the game for gambling – of course they should. The fact there is no plaque on the wall with his face on it is a big mistake. Same thing with the PED group.

    Pete Rose, even after 25 years, should never be allowed to be a part of any team in any capacity. Allow him to play in an old-timer’s game, have him throw out a first pitch, use him for promotions in Cinci or Philly, put him in a broadcast booth – I’m fine with all of that. He broke THE RULE. No coming back to MLB in any way that he can have any influence on the outcome of a game…even from an executive position.

    Reply
    1. KHAZAD

      That is the danger of illegal gambling. When you get behind, you are under someone else’s thumb.

      But I agree that the rule is a little draconian. It is OK to not let him have any influence forever, but you can still let him in the hall, and public appearances and stuff. The way the writers decide to take it on themselves to mete out punishment (even for those whose offenses only exist in their minds) he might not have made it anyway.

      I do notice that because of the 1919 scandal, Baseball is much heavier on this than any other sport. Michael Jordan had a huge gambling problem and it is forgotten. Glossed over in the admittedly horrible revelations about what Mike Vick was doing to dogs was the fact that he was the kingpin of a gambling syndicate centered around the dogfights. He is back in the league, and would assuredly be eligible for the hall of fame if he were good enough.

      It is a freaking museum, and Rose (as well as Jackson) should be enshrined.

      Reply
      1. NevadaMark

        Jordan’s life has been pretty well documented; yeah, he loved to hit the casinos (completely legal and certainly not in violation of any league rules), and he loved to play golf at $1000 bucks a hole, or whatever (a violation, perhaps, of state anti-gambling laws and not his finest moment as a human being but again, no violation of any league rules-and besides, he could certainly afford it). I have never read or heard anything that links him to betting on pro basketball, so how can he possibly be compared to Rose, who ADMITTED betting on baseball.

        As for Vick, sure, a contemptible a-hole he was, but again, there is no rule in the NFL mandating a lifetime ban for being a contemptible a-hole. I fail to see the comparison to Rose. Of course, Pete was hardly a paragon of virtue off the field himself, but that’s not why he’s banned from baseball.

        I just don’t see the connection. Rose admitted heavy gambling on horses, on football and on college basketball and none of that could (or would) get him permanently banned from baseball. I suppose it is possible that he could be suspended if such betting was particularly egregious and brought on a bunch of bad publicity, but he certainly would not have gotten a lifetime ban. In any event, he was never suspended for any of that. In fact, when Peter Uberroth interviewed him, he told Rose he didn’t care about his betting on any other sport, he was only concerned with baseball betting. And yes, I know it was Giamatti, not Uberroth who handed out the lifetime ban, but Uberroth did interview Rose about alleged gambling on baseball when Uberroth was commissioner.

        Pete broke the ultimate baseball rule and he has to pay the ultimate baseball penalty.

        Reply
        1. KHAZAD

          Jordan gambled heavily, with documented 7 figure losses, and illegal bets with mobsters and drug dealers. He was definitely in danger of being under someone’s thumb and throwing games. He was being investigated and it was widely thought (perhaps even by his own family, as there was never really explained delay in filing a missing persons report) that the tragic death of his father was some sort of retaliation for this. (It wasn’t, as it turned out. Just a senseless car jacking gone bad.) Then he “retired” to play minor league baseball for a couple of years and it all just went away.

          Mike Vick was “the house” for a large gambling syndicate, making an incredible amount of unreported cash. I don’t know of another busted operation of this size in the country who was not prosecuted for RICO violations. How the NFL feels about it, I guess we know, but anyone else would have been in prison still today.

          Reply
          1. NevadaMark

            But Vick DID get busted by the Feds. Are you saying his sentence was too lenient, because he was a star football player? Again, unless I missed it, there is no evidence that he bet on football while he was playing. I have no idea if he did or not (I wouldn’t be surprised either way) but the NFL made no finding that he did. So his case cannot be compared to Rose (leaving aside the fact that they were both slimeballs).

            As for Jordan, he himself admitted to gambling with goons. You are entirely correct about that. But I have heard nothing about his betting on BASKETBALL. I still think that distinguishes his case from Rose.

            By the way, I appreciate you taking the time to post about this with me.

  10. Richard Aronson

    A few points:

    Shoeless Joe Jackson, in the context of his time, was a MUCH better player than Rose. OPS+ of 170 versus OPS+ of 118. Jackson was a poor and poorly educated man who had an OPS in the World Series where he may have tried to lose of .956; Two years earlier, his WS OPS was only .638. So it’s not at all clear that he was throwing the series or even knew what was going on. He is not in the HOF and, this long after his death, never will be. Why does Rose get some kind of pass when Shoeless Joe doesn’t?

    Rose could have avoided the collision with Fosse by running two feet more into foul territory and reaching out with his hand as he passed home plate. I just watched it on YouTube. Fosse was standing up, not in the classic kneeling position catcher’s use to block the plate, Fosse was not set as his right foot was moving just before the collision, and the throw was well above Fosse’s waist and on the third base side. I thought in 1970 that Rose just creamed a defenseless catcher for no baseball benefit, and still do. Rose’s subsequent comments on the collision, like all Rose’s comments on things Rose, were self-serving.

    From 1980 1986, Rose was playing 1B, an offensive position, and generating below average results for the position. He had an OPS+ of 92 for those years, generated a total WAR of -1.3 for those years. His last 884 hits came in context of an egotist hurting his team in the hopes of breaking a record. I’ll give him 80-82; 1979 was a good year, and 1981 was about league average for a first baseman, so 1982 was the “it’s time to face the facts that it’s over” season. Yet he kept on playing four more years after that just to break a record. To me, that is the opposite of team play, putting a purely selfish goal ahead of team success. In fact, if Rose had retired after 1982, without the hits record, I’d be more forgiving towards him. But to me, he was a bad example; I want my players to try to win, not try to set personal records even if those records worsen the chance of winning.

    Did Pete Rose earn a place in the HOF? Yes. Even without the last few years, which make his averages if not his counting numbers a little better, yes, clearly yes.

    Did Pete Rose lose that place by betting on baseball? Also yes. Even if Rose had a standing bet on the Reds to win, which to me does moderate the situation somewhat (managing harder today will hurt your chances tomorrow), it still violates the one unbreakable rule. And of course any comments such as a standing bet still are self-serving and do not deny that some days Rose might have put a little extra down.

    I would consider letting Rose in the HOF after Jackson. And the only way I can see Jackson ever getting in is after we invent a time machine and mind reader, go back into the past, and find out that Jackson really had no idea what was going on. Good luck with that.

    Reply
    1. Leslie Ryan

      Any way to reference Rose’s stats during the Jackson era? I’d harness a guess and about .333. No arguing your points about Jackson. We all know the reasons behind the rule and I don’t think Pete violated it in the same spirit. The fact remains that few, if any, ballplayers epitomized the game as did Pete Rose. He deserves his place at Cooperstown.

      Reply
    2. Nickolai

      Jackson was clearly a better player than Rose (relative to their respective times), but don’t let Field of Dreams romance your view of Jackson. Even if you doubt whether he actually did anything specifically to throw the series (although his performance does look pretty fishy on a per-game basis), there seems to be no doubt whatsoever that he knew about the fix, and did nothing to stop it. That in itself is a crime heinous enough to keep him out of the hall forever. Neyer broke this down pretty well years ago…

      http://espn.go.com/classic/s/2001/0730/1232950.html

      Reply
  11. bellweather22

    Good article except for the last part. Rose should not be let back in baseball. Not because he didn’t apologize enough…. though it would certainly have made him more sympathetic. Nope. Rose doesn’t get it. When you get right down to it, he doesn’t understand why he’s suspended and doesn’t understand why there isn’t a path to get him back in. If he was Manager of the Reds again, which obviously he won’t be, there’d be at least a 50/50 chance that he’d bet on baseball again…. and that’s giving him the benefit of the doubt. There is no justification for what he continually did…. knowing the rule…. and knowing the punishment for breaking the rule. Every player knows that rule…. even if a lot of fans don’t seem to. Pete Rose is an unapologetic liar who gambled on baseball… calling bookies from the freaking ballpark… not because he had a problem, but because that’s who he is.

    Reply
    1. Mark Daniel

      I think this hits the nail on the head. If you reinstate Rose, he is then free to coach or manage a team, at which point he will be tempted to bet on games again. If the goal is to get Rose into the HOF, then probably the HOF, not MLB, needs to change its rule.

      Reply
        1. tomemos

          And Brooks from Shawshank Redemption, being 70 years old, probably isn’t going to flee to Mexico on a crime spree, but he still has to check in with his parole officer. Just because Rose isn’t likely to use the freedom to be a manager doesn’t mean it should be granted to him.

          Reply
          1. Ian R.

            True. If it’s that big of a concern, MLB can work with Rose on a conditional reinstatement. Let him work in baseball again, but not in any capacity where he can directly influence the outcome of a game.

  12. Leslie Ryan

    Repeated a grade. Now my favourite Pete fact. Always loved the Gary Redus story. Idiot savant? I don’t doubt for a minute that he ever bet against the Reds. He lived it, breathed it and drove a Rolls. Baseball has long been hypocritical towards the hit king. How can the only guy who epitomized “love of the game” be kept out for an anachronistic Gatsby-era law that made sense back in the 1880s and reared its ugly head again in 1919?

    BTW, I would love to see a piece on Lou Brock’s 1974 season. How special was that Joe? You’ve got the luxury of dwelling on these things. Let me know. 118 at age 35 is incredible. Ricky getting 31 and 25 at 41 and 42 is right up there, but Ricky’s 130 came when he was 23. How statisically odd is it to steal 118 at that age? Let’s forget that Lou finished with more SO than Mantle, but remember him as the guy Koufax beaned. The Pete story was great. He deserves in.

    Reply
  13. oira61

    Joe: Pete Rose lied about gambling on baseball, then on gambling on the Reds, for more than a decade.

    Now he says he “had a large, standing bet on the Reds” — never varying by pitcher or lineup or whatever — and you believe him?

    You believe him based on what? His record of honesty?

    When he finally admitted betting on baseball, he did so in a book, so he could profit on the admission. That’s how he has managed his ban all along: whining while selling his autograph outside the Hall of Fame on induction day.

    A lifetime ban isn’t long enough for Pete Rose.

    Reply
  14. wordyduke

    You persuade me, Joe. Pete doesn’t have to have a role going forward in baseball (he’s 72). I’m convinced (I’m older than he is) that he didn’t ever give anything less than his best as a player. He should be allowed into the Hall as a player, and his plaque should note why it took so long. And, yes, the same with Shoeless Joe.

    Reply
  15. tomemos

    Joe, you’ve now updated your post to add a suggestion that those who claimed to want an apology were in bad faith:

    Let me add something here: I think it would have gotten him nowhere no matter what he said. This is the larger point. I don’t think Pete Rose could have apologized sincerely enough or come clean thoroughly enough to change his fate. I think the “all he needs to do is apologize” crowd were never willing to meet him in the middle.”

    Two points here. First, accusations of insincerity or bad faith like this are actually pretty serious and could stand to be supported with evidence. Not that you have to name names, but what do you mean by “the all he needs to do is apologize” crowd, and why do you think they weren’t being forthright? Not that you had any Brilliant Readers in mind, but as a member of this “crowd” it’s of some interest to me.

    Second, even if you’re absolutely right, it’s completely beside the point. If the people asking for a sincere apology didn’t actually want one, the thing for Rose to do was to call their bluff and give it to them—”speak truth and shame the devil,” as the man says. Then they would be the ones who were clearly in the wrong. Instead he was everything they expected of him, and we’re supposed to give him extra credit because of that? That’s not coherent.

    Reply
  16. Rick R

    Pete Rose was one of those athletes who generates strong emotions both ways, eliciting feelings of both love and hate. He was exciting, inspiring, and infuriating all at once. Like his single-minded pursuit of Ty Cobb’s seemingly unbreakable record, even at the expense of doing what was best for his team. Like his 44 game hitting streak, then the sour grapes about being thrown a change-up by Gene Garber to end it. He would have been a great heel in pro-wrestling, because he didn’t mind being hated by the opposition. He ran to first, made arrogant remarks, he even got into a wrestling match in the playoffs with Bud Harrelson, whom he outweighed by 30 pounds.

    Betting on baseball was the worst of Pete’s baseball-related sins, but even so, Pete Rose deserves to be forgiven. We hate all too easily in this country, and forget that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves as much as for those we forgive. In holding onto hate, onto our notions of punishment and vengeance, we elevate the bad things Pete Rose did to the forefront, and lose sight of the good things. All the enthusiasm and passion he brought to the game and to our lives have vanished behind our feelings of anger and judgment. He created so many joyful memories for so many people, that it’s sad that they’ve been banished along with Pete. Frankly, baseball needs as much Pete Rose as it can get, and it’s time to open our arms and welcome him back. It’ll be good for all of us.

    Reply
    1. tomemos

      I don’t hate Pete Rose, and I never did—he was really before my time (I was in grade school when the news broke).. I go most every day without thinking of him, and when I do it’s without rancor. But I do think there’s a real chance that letting him off the hook for gambling would set a bad precedent for baseball. One can make the pragmatically wrong decision for moral reasons, but in this case he isn’t actually contrite for what he did. So if it’s not good for baseball to do it, and if there’s no repentance on his part, what’s the upside? Keeping him banned isn’t poisoning anybody’s mind. Hardly anyone ever thinks of him.

      Reply
  17. pseudokiwi

    I consider myself a Shoeless Joe fan. But as a sporting league, the integrity of the game is paramount (even if it’s in service of other people betting on them). That’s why the penalty is so harsh. For me, it’s not about Pete Rose or any of the Black Sox or what’s fair to them; it’s that zero tolerance is a deterrent to keep others from betting on the game. Pete Rose is a walking example of the severity of the punishment to everyone still playing. If the league is willing to enforce the rule against some of the greatest players ever (even after they die), then you better believe that they’ll enforce it against you too.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      Yes. Exactly. It’s the equivalent of putting Rose’s head on a stake to remind everyone what happens if you gamble. If Rose gets let off, precedent has been set. If you think future wouldn’t happen just look at the loop hole Ryan Braun used to avoid a PED suspension…. All the while lying through his teeth…. As they all do when facing suspension.

      Reply
  18. DB

    I am just still amazed that people will believe that Pete Rose never bet on games as a player or that he always bet on his team to win. While we never give players the benefit of the doubt on steroids (which was definitely around while Rose played as well as greenies) or anything else. Not sure people are following the Glass story but the California bar will not give him a license because he has not shown contrition. There are many professional organizations that basically have a permanent ineligibility (good luck in getting reinstated). So why should Rose be allowed back into baseball. The Hall is a different matter and would like to see him have a vote and wonder what the electorate would do. Has Rose even gone to gambling rehab or anything? He has not done anything to even try to be reinstated as far as I know.

    Reply
  19. Tampa Mike

    To me, the ban on baseball and the Hall of Fame should be separate issues. I think he should be banned from participating in the game because he broke a definitive rule, but I don’t think that should apply to the Hall. He broke it as a manager and the Hall honors him as a player. They can include something about gambling on his plaque for all I care, but it isn’t the Hall of Fame without the all time hit leader.

    Reply
    1. NevadaMark

      Mike, do you think that if Rose was on the next HOF ballot he would get the 75% of the vote necessary for election? Myself, I honestly don’t know. But I wouldn’t mind letting him get his chance with the voters. Reading the rantings and rationalizations of the writers would be an epic experience indeed.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        Ha! It would be fun. I do think that Rose would have a tough time getting support from 75% of voters…. It’s tough to get the voters that aligned with an unblemished HOF case. But the precedent of putting him on the ballot is not a good one, so as fun as it may be, and as much as it would be fun watching Rose squirm when he doesn’t get the support that he expects, I am not in favor of it.

        Reply
    2. Steve

      Rose was of course a player-manager for several years before retiring as a player after the 1986 season. The well-documented betting on the Reds indeed takes place in the 1987 season when he was manager only. But it’s quite established that he was a big gambler before that. It’s very doubtful that the Reds-betting actually began in 1987, and relying on that as both a fact and a good reason for reinstatement is pretty tenuous. And I’m not at all sure what he has or hasn’t admitted to–is it really his current position that he for some reason did not start betting on the Reds until immediately after his playing days?

      Reply
  20. McKingford

    These Pete Rose posts inevitably bring out comments in favour of Shoeless Joe, which is unfortunate, because the “poor old dumb Shoeless Joe” myths is one of the biggest and longest enduring in sports history.

    Please remember that Eight Men Out is not a documentary, it is fiction. The real fact is that Joe Jackson took money to throw the 1919 World Series – by his own admission, under oath, during grand jury proceedings. He even complained (!) that he had received less than he was promised. While it is true that his stats for the WS as a whole look pretty good, the agreement was that only certain games of the WS be thrown; he was mediocre in those games, and stellar in the games where there was no agreement to throw games.

    But leaving his performance aside, by his own admission, Shoeless Joe Jackson willingly participated in a conspiracy to throw the World Series, and was rewarded for his role in that conspiracy. So that is that.

    But a further point about Jackson’s HoF eligibility. Unlike Rose, Jackson *was* technically eligible for HoF enshrinement, at least at the time voters considered him.(Remember, the Hall only instituted the rule that voters could not consider players on the permanently ineligible list with Rose’s banishment). In short, the voters considered his candidacy and found it wanting (likely in no small part because at the time he was considered, the myth that Jackson was an unwitting dupe in the matter hadn’t reached full bloom).

    So please, lets not lump Rose and Jackson together. What Jackson did was manifestly worse, and truly imperiled the future of the game. Jackson also got a full airing of his HoF case with voters and lost.

    Reply
    1. NevadaMark

      Outstanding point. If I may paraphrase Bill James, from his fine HOF book, “There was not any need to have a rule; the voters were as likely to vote Joe Jackson into the Hall of Fame as they were to hold their conventions in the nude. And if they had voted Jackson in, Landis would have cancelled the election and taken away their vote.”

      You summed up the facts pretty damn well.

      Reply
    2. buddaley

      I would never justify or minimize what Jackson did, nor do I think a comparison to Rose for the sake of demonizing or excusing either is legitimate. But I quibble with your statement that what Jackson did was manifestly worse. That view depends on which elements of the action you are considering.

      In Jackson’s case, the practice of consorting with gambling and of throwing games was pretty common, and the penalties were minimal or non-existent. That does not in any way justify his participating in such actions, but it puts it in context, and it also casts some doubt on the justice of the penalty the Black Sox suffered since it was done ex post facto. There was really no precedent, nor had there been any rule established, to provide for the lifetime ban.

      And just as there are suspicions and arguments about just how far Rose went in his betting on the Reds-how it affected his decisions, whether he really never bet on them to lose-there are similar questions about whether Jackson really did throw games, and just how active a participant he was in the planning of the crime. None of that exonerates him, but if we are to try to minimize Rose’s culpability by claiming that he violated the rule but was otherwise clean, we should give Jackson the same benefit.

      In Rose’s case, the context is different. The rule was already in place and had been for a long time. There was precedent for it being enforced and there was further precedent that even an association with gambling would lead to some form of banishment. And the rule was not obscure; it was published in every locker room. He broke it in the full knowledge of the implications both for his role in the game and for his chances for election to the Hall of Fame. There was no formal rule about the latter yet, but the precedent of Jackson was close enough to his situation to alert him to that possibility.

      It seems to me that breaking a standing rule with the implications clear is at least as bad as participating in a long standing practice. If what Jackson did imperiled the future of the game, the game was already in peril long before he appeared. He was just one more factor. What Rose did imperiled the future of the game too by opening the door to a new and potentially equally as dangerous a peril by loosening the bonds that kept gambling out of baseball. In a sense, Jackson represents the culmination of a process that Rose may have restarted again.

      Reply
      1. Steve

        Much of the unfortunately widespread fixing that went on pre-Black Sox was in the late season meaningless games, which were treated quite unseriously by many teams and players. That was a bad thing, no doubt, and well worth cleaning up. Jackson and the Black Sox on the other hand did it in the World Series. There’s no minimizing that. MLB absolutely needed to cauterize that practice with the enforcement of permanent ineligibility.

        Reply
      2. NevadaMark

        Well, Jackson willingly participated in (and was paid for) a conspiracy to throw the frickin WORLD SERIES. If we are to believe Rose (hahaha), he never threw a game-just bet on them. So of course Jackson’s sin is worse.

        Reply
    3. Herb Smith

      That’s a perfectly reasoned post in some respects. But you are being wildly disingenuous if you’re pretending that Shoeless Joe Jackson would be anything less than a first-ballot, slam-dunk Hall of Famer without the scandal.

      .356/.423/.517 , in the Deadball (!) era. Get serious.

      Reply
      1. tomemos

        I took McKingford to be saying that Jackson’s exclusion came down to the writers’ preference (no doubt based on the scandal, I’m sure all would agree) rather than to HoF/MLB policy.

        Reply
  21. Breadbaker

    Sorry, Joe, but just say no. You’ve been duped. Pete Rose began his campaign to have his cake and eat it too before he even agreed to his lifetime ban. His first act was to try to change the finder of fact from the Commissioner of Baseball to the conveniently located judge of the Circuit Court of Hamilton County, Ohio, an elective position in his hometown. That’s called trying to fix the game.

    When that failed, while denying on various stacks of Bibles that he’d ever bet on baseball, and disparaging the in fact truthful scum who had turned him in, he did the baseball equivalent of pleading guilty to the death penalty (there is no distinction between betting on the Reds and throwing the World Series because a lifetime ban is the most baseball can impose; that’s another terrible argument), and immediately talked about when he was going to start making his case for reinstatement. All the while, he continued to disparage both his accusers and the now-dead Giamatti, while showing up at numerous places to draw attention away from various events (Hall of Fame inductions, the All-Century team) and toward himself.

    Like most celebrities, he now is making the case that he’s “suffered enough.” Bullpucky. What exactly has he suffered, that hasn’t been suffered by numerous similar criminals, none of whom get column inches from Joe? What has he suffered that wasn’t self-inflicted? What has he suffered that didn’t involve breaking the trust that baseball had given him from the day he signed out of high school? What did he suffer the penalty for which wasn’t on the clubhouse door of every clubhouse he ever entered in his long career?

    And for this people are arguing he should be on the Hall of Fame ballot? His “suffering” is that he’s not in the Hall of Fame? Give me a break. Jeff Bagwell isn’t in the Hall of Fame because some idiot writers believe some specious rumors; we should put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame when he’s directly admitted breaking a rule whose penalty is a lifetime ban? Moreover, we should let Pete Rose suck up the air of yet another Hall of Fame induction, have a lovely ceremony on a sunny day in Cooperstown to extol his merit, while Bonds and Clemens, who were not given penalties under a specific set of rules that could have led to their lifetime ban, are not?

    The niceties of the difference between throwing the World Series and betting on baseball every day (how convenient that he’s making that claim now?) are lost on me. The rule is very specific, very well-publicized and there is exactly zero chance Pete Rose didn’t walk into it with his eyes entirely open How close he came to letting the equivalent of Arnold Rothstein tell him that he’d better not start Eric Davis tomorrow is not the issue; The issue is that baseball developed a prophylactic rule that says “no tolerance, no nuance, no nothing: no gambling.” Rose broke that rule. He sullied baseball and everyone connected with his ban until the point when he decided that smearing was no longer tenable and then tried the contrition route. There was no “all he has to do is apologize” group; that’s a red herring. Letting Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame would be like letting Richard Nixon on a coin. And the parallels to Nixon’s attempted rehabilitation can be taken further if you want.

    Reply
      1. Herb Smith

        When a President commits malfeasance of the Constitution, is caught, and is forced to resign from the highest office, we generally do not honor than person by putting his face on our currency.

        Truth is, Nixon had some excellent qualities for a President. But like Rose, he was laden with fatal flaws too.

        Reply
  22. Wilbur

    “Rose’s subsequent comments on the collision, like all Rose’s comments on things Rose, were self-serving.”

    It doesn’t mean that his explanation, at least of this play, is not genuine and, in fact, correct.
    I’ve watched that play many times over the years, and it seems clear Rose was preparing to slide in head-first, when Fosse moved into a dangerous position for Rose to do so, so Rose went in standing up and simply plowed into Fosse, jarring the ball loose.

    Fosse always maintained it was a clean play. Fosse was correct.

    Reply
  23. aweb

    Rose spent 5-6 years as a replacement level player at the end of his career adding to his career totals in pursuit of the hit record. If he gets the hit record 2 years earlier due to hitting environment, is there anyway he keeps playing? Would even Cincinnati let him play/manage just to go for 4500 hits? Oh, and bbref neutral stats also fill in the 1981 strike year with a full season, so be careful there.

    Rose’s career totals aren’t going to change much in a neutral environment, but his rate stats are improved by avoiding 2-3 awful, pointless seasons at the end.

    Joe, your tendency to forgive and focus on the best parts of people is well known, and has come back to haunt you before. Rose deserves his ban. There’s no second chance available here. No betting on baseball, no betting to win or lose; and obviously there are many, many problems with a player/manager placing bets one day and not the next, let alone the believabiliy of a life-long practiced huckster (as you said, his run to first schtick was an act that he adopted as his own persona – building consistent lies into his own version of the truth seems pretty likely).

    Reply
  24. bsg

    What are we arguing over at this point? Like I mentioned before, if betting on baseball is such a sacrosanct rule deserving of the ultimate punishment? Why does baseball make exceptions to their own ban and allow him to make occasional appearances? It’s time to drop the charade, baseball cannot erase Pete Rose from its history the way WWE erased Chris Benoit from pro wrestling.

    Negotiate a conditional reinstatement. It’s not difficult or far fetched to remove Pete from the permanent ineligible list while still not allowing him to field manage a team. Allow the Reds the chance to properly retire the number 14. Allow the HoF voters to, you know, actually vote on Pete Rose’s candidacy to the Hall of Fame.

    In the agreement for Pete Rose’s punishment, Pete Rose was granted the right to apply for reinstatement. He can be reinstated within the rules and baseball maintaining a moral high ground has proven to be a myth. After 24 years, at what point does all the bluster of this comments section cross the Rubicon from genuine concern of maintaining the integrity of the game of baseball to simple mean-spiritedness toward a flawed 72 year old man?

    Reply
    1. tomemos

      It’s hitting below the belt, a little bit, to suggest that any advocacy for punishment necessarily moves towards “mean-spiritedness.” That’s the same thing Joe’s column does, more subtly—list a bunch of irrelevancies about Rose, including his age, as if humanizing Rose was equivalent to defending him. I think some of Rose’s defenders are guilty of some self-righteousness of their own.

      If there are particular comments that strike you as mean-spirited or blustery, you could just point them out. Because punishment, in itself, is not mean-spirited, as any parent could tell you.

      Reply
      1. bsg

        I am not pointing out any comments in particular are mean spirited. But if you plot all the positions of people that feel Rose’s ban should continue, the most Stalwart opinions have an element of masochism. My statement is simply a caution sign.

        Reply
        1. tomemos

          Obviously I’m biased, but I can’t say I detect any sadism (which I think is what you meant) or schadenfreude or anything in the comments above. Some people clearly hold Rose in very low regard, but I don’t see anyone who’s reveling in his suffering. For that matter, Rose’s suffering itself has not really been documented here.

          It seems to me that on the whole, in this thread at least, it is Rose’s defenders who are making it personal (Rose’s age, his background, his accomplishments) and the ban’s defenders who are sticking to abstract principles. Not that that makes us right, or better! I’m just responding to your impression of meanness.

          Reply
          1. bsg

            Thank you for your civility (and the correction). It’s one of the reason why I love Joe’s blog so much.

    2. bellweather22

      The “nobodies perfect”, moral relativist crowd is always intriguing. If anyone, anywhere gets away with something, or if exceptions are made anywhere, than these are grounds to excuse Rose and let him in the HOF… Btw: these are the same people who would vote in known steroid users because, ya know, they let in bad guys and racists like Cap Anson, Ty Cobb and Tom Yawkey. So steroids are not that bad. Imagine if Rose did get in the HOF. These same people would use that Ill advised exception to promote whatever next generation cheaters or gamblers happened to hit a lot of doubles or home runs. Like I said, it’s an interesting lot.

      Reply
      1. tomemos

        I really shouldn’t risk a thread derail into steroids, but I’ll just say: a lot of the defense of steroid users has nothing to do with moral relativism. I want Barry Bonds in and Pete Rose (for the time being) out, and neither of those has anything to do with Ty Cobb, for me.

        Reply
      2. bsg

        The beauty of an election is each individual voter gets to establish their own criteria on the ultimate question of “In” or “Out”. I am not a voter, so my opinion (yes, with an asterisk) doesn’t matter, but the voters should be given the chance to answer that question themselves.

        Reply
    1. Anon21

      Does it matter? The rule has no application to those with no “duty to perform” in relation to the contest, so it’s not as though Rose would be engaging in continuing violations of the rule if he did continue to bet on baseball.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        I think the point is that Rose is largely unrepentant …. Except for some insincere, self serving turds that he lobbed to the public. So it would be instructive to find out if he was still gambling on baseball, because if he was, it would continue to show that he never really viewed what he did as wrong in the first place. Which is the real root cause of why he gambled on baseball…. Rules be damned, it’s a silly rule and I’ll get away with it.

        Reply
        1. tomemos

          Well, I don’t see why gambling on baseball is wrong, if you’re not in baseball. Drinking and driving is wrong, but once I get home, I can drink. I don’t think ceasing to gamble would be a sign of repentance on its own, though obviously it would have to accompany reinstatement to baseball. But I don’t think anyone would trust him not to. So he can’t be reinstated to baseball (the HoF, maybe).

          Reply
  25. macomeau

    Pete Rose may well have gotten 4525 hits in a neutral environment, but Cobb would have gotten 4595 in the ‘neutral era’. One more year of terrible Pete Rose at first base. Maybe two. Probably two. And, of course, neutral Speaker would have had 836 doubles, so neutral Rose isn’t getting that record either.

    Pete Rose is embarrassing. Not just for the gambling, but also for his pursuit of the hit record itself. By the end of his career, he was a first baseman who couldn’t hit or defend the position. Good thing the manager was on his side those last few years in Cincy.

    Even before we get to gambling, and how it may have influenced his managing, we already know that Pete Rose was the kind of manager who would put Pete Rose before the team. We already know he would make his team worse so that he could be ‘Pete Rose, hit king’. Are we to take it on faith that he wouldn’t make his team worse to be ‘Pete Rose, guy who just got his debts wiped by his bookie’?

    This is why the rule is so stark. Because the effects can be so insidious. Maybe Pete Rose never bet on his team to lose, but maybe they lost on days when he didn’t bet. How can we ever know? The only man who could tell us is a self-serving liar.

    Pete Rose is permanently ineligible, and rightly so.

    Reply
  26. Chris Smith

    Living in Cincinnati, Pete Rose is basically still considered a HUGE hero. You can count on one hand the number of locals who think he should still be banned from baseball.

    Count me in on that hand, but ONLY if MLB and the Cincinnati Reds can no longer use him or anything about him as marketing. This spring, Pete was here for the unveiling of the Joe Morgan statue in front of the stadium. They pulled together the Big Red Machine and, with MLB’s blessing, had Rose there, too. To me, that’s a HUGE no-no…

    A few years back, there was a 25 greatest Reds thing at the stadium. Rose wasn’t invited, but I think it was Tom Browning placed a red rose on home plate to signify Pete as being one of them. Was his action sanctioned by the Reds or MLB? I don’t know, but it’s probably the most memorable part of the night.

    In or out. If he can’t be in, the Reds and MLB can do NOTHING to associate with him. If he’s in, then let Castellini drop red roses from a blimp and mow a rose into the outfield for Pete to come dropping into on a freakin’ parachute, while the rest of the Big Red Machine play a pick-up softball game on the infield.:)

    Reply
  27. Bob Burpee

    You are my favorite commentator Joe. You bring passion, insight, wit, and tremendous writing ability to the table. But on this issue, you are spectacularly wrong. Pete Rose violated baseball’s one existential rule. And he violated it hundreds of times. Every single time he placed a bet on the Reds, he knew that what he was doing was against the rules. Every single time he was knowingly and intentionally putting his baseball future on the line. He earned his “permanently ineligible” status many many times. This is even without considering that there is credible evidence that he bet while a player, that he bet against the Reds while a manager, and that he didn’t bet the Reds to win in every game.

    To say that he was an addict suggests that he couldn’t help himself. That is poppycock with respect to betting on the Reds. He was betting on other baseball games (and other sports) while betting on the Reds — to consider only what he has publicly admitted. His addiction did not require him to bet on the Reds. The betting slips indicate that sometimes he bet on every game played on a particular day and sometimes he bet on only some of the games.

    Pete Rose earned his place in the history of baseball with ability and effort. Sadly, he also earned his status as “permanently ineligible.” It is a shame that he is permanently ineligible, but it is his shame, not ours, not Faye Vincent’s, not baseball’s.

    Reply
  28. Pingback: Ultimate Sports Talk – Red Reporter Reposter re: Roster's Regression roles

  29. DB

    Sadly (and I am joking), Joe is one of the nicest and forgiving people in the world just like Buck. I will take his grace and compassion and am happy that there are people in the world like that. I have no idea if Buck (do not believe it was covered in the book) would have forgiven Rose but I am sure he would have. I am just not one of those people. A post remembering Buck right after a sorry about Rose just seems like the lightness and the darkness to me. Now, Buck is the one who should be honoring (and people like Joe).

    Reply
  30. Herb Smith

    What a great article. No kidding. And this comes from someone who felt no angst about Pete’s banishment. I never liked him.

    But Poz makes a tremendous case here for Rose. He brings up 25 negative things about Rose, but in the end, he makes two valid points:
    1-The punishment was always far more draconian than the crime was bad.
    2-Either way, he’s served his time.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      Draconian? Do you know where that word comes from? If you knew you wouldn’t apply it here. Draconian refers to Athenian laws where the death penalty was prescribed for even minor offenses. So are you comparing a permanent HOF ban with the death penalty? As was previously pointed out, Rose wasn’t imprisoned or even fined. He was just shown the door as you and I might be if we embarrassed our employer. That hardly meets the definition of Draconian. Get a grip people. The guy isn’t hung by his thumbs or even banished to live in a cardboard box…. He’s living his life exactly how he wants to…. Just without the HOF.

      Reply
    2. tomemos

      “The punishment was always far more draconian than the crime was bad.”
      We don’t know the extent of the crime. Now, I know that convicting people for crimes they *might* have committed is a big deal, and it should never be done in the legal arena, but baseball is free to set tougher standards, and there is at least an argument for it in the case of betting on baseball. After all, the rule was instituted (and retroactively applied) in the wake of the Black Sox being acquitted by a jury, yet Landis knew that gambling would always be murky and therefore reasoned that even minor infractions must be treated as the tip of an infinite iceberg.
      All of that is arguable, of course. But this I don’t get, either in your comment or in Joe’s post:
      “Either way, he’s served his time.”
      Well, by definition, he hasn’t, because it’s a permanent ban. Where does the principle come from that 25 years is simply too long? Rose happened to be caught after his playing days, but if a 30-year-old star was caught gambling, 25 years would have him reinstated at 55–still plenty of time for a career as a coach or in the front office or in promotions. If that’s what we want, we should make it so, but the angle of “Well, he’s 72; let him out of the box” is patronizing, and shouldn’t be the basis for policy.

      Reply
      1. bsg

        The ban isn’t permanent, he is allowed to apply for reinstatement. Obviously baseball has the right to set standards and conditions for reinstatement and they have the right to outright reject reinstatement. But Pete Rose did not receive a life-without-parole sentence.

        Reply
  31. Mike Grayson

    A couple major points that should be made:
    1. When Rose agreed to be placed on the permanently ineligible list, it was with the explicit proviso that he could apply for reinstatement in one year. Until Commissioner Giamatti died, it seemed like most observers fully expected Pete to eventually be reinstated to baseball.
    2. The Hall of Fame rule banning players on the MLB ‘permanently ineligible’ list was adopted AFTER (right after) Pete entered into his ‘deal’ with MLB. Pete had no way of knowing that his deal would effectively ban him from the HOF, because under the rules at the time of his deal, he would have still been eligible for the HOF vote.
    3. That deal also bound MLB to make no finding that Pete bet on baseball. However, MLB broke their deal almost immediately by releasing the Dowd report, and by the commissioner saying that Pete bet on baseball. I know, in fact Pete did, and he now admits it. Still, that cannot excuse the shabby conduct that the league engaged in at that time by breaking their agreement. Rose got a very bad deal from MLB.
    4. I tire of the false claims that the gambling rule is the only rule posted in dugouts and the only rule making a player permanently ineligible. Rule 21 explicitly prohibits conduct that is detrimental to baseball, and ends by stating “any and all other acts, transactions, practices or conduct not to be in the best interests of Baseball are prohibited and shall be subject to such
    penalties, including permanent ineligibility, as the facts in the particular case may warrant.” So not only do steroids fit this description, but that could also be enough to merit ‘permanent ineligibility’. Well, we aren’t pushing that one….just ask Mark McGuire…
    5. I agree with letting Pete Rose onto the ballot for the HOF, but not for him to ever again be ‘eligible’ to be back in baseball. I think he deserves admission into the HOF as a player. He was great, and I saw him play many times. However, he lost his chance to work in the game, and that part should not be changed…

    Reply
    1. tomemos

      These are 4.5 great points. The .5 that isn’t great is the part about steroids being clearly “not in the best interests of Baseball.” Yes, let’s do ask McGwire—and Sammy Sosa too—whether 1998 was in the best interests of baseball. It led the game from its biggest crisis in 75 years to a period of unparalleled commercial success that is still going strong.

      Reply
      1. BobDD

        re: #1
        I think this is revisionist pap. I do not recall anyone other than Pete Rose saying that he would be reinstated after one year. And when he did Giamatti responded in this interview:

        “There is absolutely no deal for reinstatement. That is exactly what we did not agree to in terms of a fixed number of years.”

        quoted from this article: http://articles.latimes.com/1989-08-24/news/mn-1531_1_pete-rose

        Giamatti did not ban Rose from the HoF though, that is their doing and the HoF can undo that at any point they choose.

        Reply
      2. Breadbaker

        The language about making no finding that Rose bet on baseball was similar to the settlements that are made with banks that committed huge violations of law (and comes out of Faye Vincent’s days at the SEC, which uses such language all the time). It doesn’t mean anything other than “we put this language in to get the settlement we needed while letting the perp save some face”. Releasing the Dowd Report didn’t violate it, because it wasn’t an agreement to do or not do anything. It’s just another canard the pro-Rose camp uses; in their world, nothing baseball can do is right and nothing Rose did (including betting on baseball, lying about betting on baseball and acting like a complete asshole for the past 25 years whenever anything has to do with baseball) can be wrong.

        One can get lifetime bans from all kinds of professions: securities, banking, law. And you can sometimes get reinstated. Egil Krogh, one of the guys connected to the break-in at Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, was reinstated to the Washington State Bar after serving his time and then working hard to show remorse, rehabilitation and doing a lot of community service, with no promise he’d be reinstated. Pete Rose’s subsequent actions aren’t quite as angelic.

        Reply
    2. Breadbaker

      The Basic Agreement contains a very specific drug policy applicable to current major league players that does not impose a lifetime ban until a third proven offense. That is the gist of the fight that Alex Rodriguez is going through right now. Neither Bonds nor Clemens had a first offense under this policy. So, basically, applied to steroids, you’re wrong.

      Reply
  32. Pat

    Man, I really wish Joe had put this in the Hot Button poll. It appears that most people are rabidly against reinstating Rose (well, most people with the time to write an angry comment, at least).

    On the other hand, you have Joe Posnanski. Also one of my favorite bits by Bill James, which is that, if you create a 10-step ladder of betting offenses, the question with Rose is whether he ranks at step 4 or goes on to 5 (or 6); with Jackson, the question is if he’s 9 (complicity in fixing a WS) or 10 (conspiring in fixing a WS).

    Now, far be it for me to suggest that if your angry comment is in such flat contradiction to both Joe Posnanski AND Bill James, then it’s 100% wrong….

    Cough cough.

    Reply
  33. Tom Wright

    I didn’t happen to see this noted here, but while Rose contends he bet on every Reds game, John Dowd, the author of the Dowd report, disagrees. Pulling a quote from a 2007 USA Today article: “When (Mario) Soto and (Bill) Gullickson pitched, he didn’t bet on the Reds,” Dowd said on Thursday, when reached at his Washington, D.C., office. “We only put in the report what we could find and corroborate three different ways.”

    It’s also worth noting that Rose killed Mario Soto’s career by sending him out on 3 days rest NINETEEN times in 1985 – no other pitcher that year started more than 5 games on 3 days rest. In a related story, Soto, a perennial Cy Young candidate before Rose became his manager, fell apart under Rose’s skippership, and he was out of baseball by age 31. Given that Rose’s reasons for riding Soto into the ground may not have been on the up-and-up (bearing in mind Dowd’s comments above), it’s entirely possible that Rose’s gambling killed Soto’s career.

    Reply

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