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Mike Schmidt is wrong: 20 years is not enough for Pete Rose

Aug 24, 2009, 10:57 AM EDT

The best third baseman of all time is given an Associated Press column to make his case for Charlie Hustle.  The upshot (apart from merely making Rose’s case on its own merits): Bart Giamatti was a wise and compassionate man who would have eventually given Rose the benefit of the doubt: 

An interesting question was posed to me in a recent interview: Do you think things would have been different if Mr. Giamatti was still alive? . . . No one, however, anticipated the untimely passing of commissioner Giamatti, especially Pete. Before Pete could ever meet with him, appeal to him, come clean and apply for reinstatement, Mr. Giamatti passed away from a heart attack. Baseball lost a great ambassador for sure, and as unimportant as it was at the time, Pete’s fate now was in the hands of his successor, Fay Vincent.

The problem with this, however, is that it wasn’t as if Rose was going to come clean but, dadgummit, Giamatti died and he never got the chance.  It was 15 years — 15 years during which Rose, for P.R. purposes, constantly misrepresented the deal he struck with Giamatti and constantly complained about how wronged he was — until he finally admitted that he had been lying all along.  And even then it was only so he could sell some books. Schmidt glosses over that, probably because he was given a word limit by the AP and was more interested in conserving space to make an irrelevant comparison to steroids:

Pete bet on his team to win and has been banished from baseball for life. Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez et al, bet that they would get bigger, stronger and have a distinct advantage over everyone and that they wouldn’t get caught. Which is worse? Does the penalty fit the crime?

Pete’s banned for life, he sells his autograph to pay bills. Ramirez and his cronies apologize, are forgiven and get $20 million a year. They giggle all the way to the bank and could end up in the Hall of Fame. Is this the way Bart Giamatti would have wanted it 20 years later?

Actually, it’s not at all clear that Rose only bet on his team to win. We only have Rose’s word for that, so we’ll have to wait at least 15 more years, I’d wager, until we know if his story is going to change on that too.

But that’s not the point. The point is that Rose agreed to a lifetime ban, and now he and his defenders are complaining about the “lifetime” part of it.  We can debate all day about whether gambling or steroids are worse for baseball, but one thing certainly is clear: the rules Rose broke and punishment Rose received for it had been in place for nearly 70 years at the time he was banned.  Ramirez and A-Rod and the other steroids guys are likewise subject to the rules and punishments of their day too.  We don’t let burglars out of jail early simply because we think the sentence for drug possession is too light.

Look, no one denies Rose’s talent as a ballplayer. Indeed, if I had my way I’d decouple Hall-of-Fame eligibility from eligibility to work in the game and allow Rose to get the plaque he deserves for his on-the-field accomplishments. Likewise, Mike Schmidt was Rose’s teammate and friend so I don’t begrudge him for making Rose’s case. I’d probably do the same for my friend.

But let’s be clear: it’s no crime or injustice that Pete Rose is still banned from baseball. A ban he agreed to, by the way, voluntarily and with full knowledge that it was intended to be for life. A ban at which he constantly thumbed his nose while lying to both those who had his potential reinstatement in their hands and the fans who were played for idiots after Rose finally, and calculatedly, decided to come clean in 2004.

The headline to Schmidt’s piece asks if 20 years is enough.  My answer: no, not really.

  1. george dorman - Sep 15, 2009 at 5:35 AM

    an all star at four positions,hit leader.most are never a star at one.jealousy,yes.brash and cocky,yes,good no, great yes!fans loved or hated him.commissioners love him when he drew the big crowds when baseball was hurting.just as with mcgwire and sosa.they used these to get the money!now they are useless !good commissioners bull!selig owned a team and turned it over, ha to his daughter so he could play god!it should be to play a clown!
    people you can’t control how a pitcher throws in a can somewhat control a putting on the take sign,bunt sign,or steal sign.
    steriods are much more serious.they destroy the body.that should be the lifetime ban!how many chances do they get?it’s all about far as who votes it should not be writers or former players,but the fans who pay the bills.writers who couldn’t hit the waste basket,let alone a 100mph fastball!mad because they didn’t get their interview or autograph.leave it to the fans!

  2. ben - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:56 AM


  3. Dino G. Galardi - Sep 15, 2009 at 6:48 PM

    Rose has more hits than ANYONE who EVER played the game. If that doesn’t merit inclusion in the Hall of Fame, then the “never played the game” writers should rename it the Hall of Shame…

  4. Personal Finance Helpers - Sep 16, 2009 at 9:06 AM

    Pete Rose broke the rules and got caught. Rather than admit it and apologize he lied. He continued to lie for years. He only told the truth to make a few bucks by selling books. He gets no simpathy from me. He is an example of what an athlete should not be.

  5. tbs - Sep 18, 2009 at 3:38 PM

    How about this? Who cares about the Hall of Fame?
    At this point, it’s just an exclusive country club voted on by grudge-carrying sportswriters and a Veteran’s Committee made up of bitter old men like Bob Feller who refuse to vote in anybody who played before Dom Dimaggio.
    Pete Rose started off as a carnival act, sprinting to first base on walks so everyone could see what a hustler he was. Once his playing days were over he was still a carnival act, and a gambling low life. So let him spend his twilight years hawking memorabilia outside the doors of Cooperstown on Hall of Fame weekend and let him tell anyone who will listen that he’s been grievously wronged.
    Membership in the Hall of Fame is about as significant as being a member of Augusta Country Club.

  6. josezeros - Sep 21, 2009 at 12:47 PM

    Rose is scum. His achievements says he gets into HOF. BUT he bet against the Reds as manager, I firmly believe, and that is inexcusable. Let him prove that he didn’t and I can change my opinion. Rose lied for a number of years that he didn’t bet on baseball, and there was no truth there.

  7. Shaka - Sep 21, 2009 at 3:02 PM

    Interesting that you don’t see how the issue of Moral standards or the lack there of do not affect our kids. Well I beg to differ. Mr. Rose was a fine baseball player or one of the best. Based on his statistics Mr. Rose should be in the hall of fame.
    As for steroids, it is a matter of individual choices. Which brings us to the importance of morality and the role it plays in the decisions we make? Thus I note: It is hypocritical to make a case for the lack of Principle and Morality while condoning Steroids,
    Nevertheless, Pete Rose was neither a cleric, politician not even a public employee; he was simply one of the best darn baseball players we will ever experience and deserve the recognition even if he is not honored.

  8. PoMoBrave - Sep 21, 2009 at 6:07 PM

    This argument is all twisted around by many. The question SHOULD NOT be whether or not Rose’s ban is permanent. Of course it’s permanent. He agreed to it.
    The question should be is it not time to kick the other rule breakers/law breakers also out of baseball PERMANENTLY.

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