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for_petes_sake | July | 2009 Articles

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For Pete's Sake...

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Let's get this whole Pete Rose saga resolved.  Bud Selig has had plenty of years to mull over Pete Rose's reinstatement into MLB.  Since Rose applied to him for reinstatement in 1997 to be exact.  So why the delay?  Because it's Selig's job to do what's best for baseball.  Announcing a formal decision on Rose's reinstatement (whichever way the chips may fall) has to come at the right time for the game.  After all the turmoil during his reign, from contraction to steroids, he can ill afford to make the wrong decision regarding Rose and tarnish MLB any more in the court of public opinion.

But which decision is the right one to make?

Pete Rose is arguably the best hitter in MLB history.  He holds the records for hits (4.256), games played (3,562), and at-bats (14,053).  During his playing career, he amassed three World Series titles, three batting titles, one MVP award, two Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year award and made 17 appearances in the All-Star game at an unparalleled five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B and 1B).  Looking solely at the stats, he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But Pete Rose isn't in the Hall of Fame.  In fact, he's not even eligible because he voluntarily placed himself on the ineligible list in 1989.  In 1991, the Hall of Fame banned all ineligible players and managers from being voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Then, in 2008, one year after Rose was technically eligible for inclusion on the Veterans Committee ballot, the Veterans Committee passed as similar ban on ineligible players and managers.

The subject of Rose being reinstated in baseball has sprung up here and there over the years.  However, the support for reinstatement seems to be growing, and I think that is a product of the various steroid scandals.  Pete Rose is banned from baseball because he violated a rule against gambling.  He admitted in 2004 that he gambled on the game, but he insists to this day that it was never against his team.  The Dowd Report that eventually led to his demise back in 1989 provided no evidence that Rose ever gambled against his team, despite the fact that Dowd has asserted in recent years that there was such evidence. 

Gambling isn't allowed because it effects the integrity of the game.  The members of the Black Sox who were banned from baseball bet against their own team, failing to make plays and intentionally throwing games.  Obviously, it's much easier to see how that effects the game.  But gambling for your team has implications as well.  Maybe you can look back and wonder if he risked injury to a pitcher by allowing him to stay in a game longer to secure the win.  But aren't there natural incentives for a manager to do that as well? 

And what about Alex Rodriquez?  Forget the steroid issue, what about the allegations that he tipped off opposing players when they were at bat in exchange for them tipping him off when he was at bat?  Sure, even when you know there's a 95MPH fastball coming you still have to have the skill to hit it.  But, back to Rose, how do you know that you're going to win just because you leave a good pitcher in another inning?  Both things have the potential to change the game.

Now, since I'm a lawyer (although not a litigator, I must admit), I've prepared my closing arguments of sorts for both sides:

My Closing Argument FOR Reinstatement

I am in favor of the reinstatement of Pete Rose.  Make sure you read that sentence correctly.  I am in favor of the reinstatement of Pete Rose.  I'm not saying that he should be elected into the Hall of Fame, but I am saying that he should be eligible.  An overwhelming majority of people I talk to or whose columns I read believe that the guys tangled in the steroid scandal should be eligible for the Hall of Fame.  A few support the asterisk idea, but most simply say that there's no way to determine everyone who was involved, or that the rules weren't in place yet, or that there was no reliable testing.  So, if you can't get them all, then you can't get any of them.  Do you honestly think that Pete Rose and the Black Sox are the only men in baseball to have ever bet on the game?  Yet people seem to view that situation differently.  They say punish the ones who were caught.  Sounds like a double standard to me. 

I say let them all be eligible and let the Hall of Fame voters determine their fate.  If you believe these men should be punished, then I think the ultimate punishment would be in being eligible but never being voted in by the men involved with the game (from the writers that have votes to the members of the Hall who form the Veteran's Committee).  Despite my aggravation with voters who don't turn in their votes, or those who don't vote for someone like Cal Ripken, Jr. on first ballot, I do believe that whoever the power has been vested in by the Hall to vote should be the ultimate gate-keepers, not the Commissioner.

My Closing Argument AGAINST Reinstatement

The rules are clear:

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

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

There is no grey area here.  Pete Rose admitted to betting on baseball.  Pete Rose admitted to betting on the Reds, of whom he was the Manager.  The End.

 

If you want to go strictly by the rules, it's clear which argument should win.  If you believe in mandatory sentencing, then you probably think Rose should remain banned from baseball forever.  However, if you believe in allowing judicial discretion and allowing for each case to be considered individually with the individual circumstances weighed, then you probably bought into the argument for reinstatement.  And although I brought up the steroid issue, it is different.  MLB dropped the ball and didn't beef up its steroid policy with real punishments until 2005 (which it continued to strengthen in 2008).  Most of the big name players who were caught were caught either under the lax 2002 rules or prior to there being formal rules.  So, there is more grey area there. 

All that being said, I don't feel passionately either way about the situation.  It really depends on the mood I'm in when you ask me about it.  That's why I've laid out the arguments for each side.  So, I'm on the fence - argue your side and see if you can sway me over!

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