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A Rose By Any Other Name

Jan 9, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

Pete Rose AP

There are many people in and around baseball who believe that Pete Rose should never be reinstated and should never be allowed in the Hall of Fame. They have a very strong case.

1. Pete Rose as manager of the Cincinnati Reds gambled on baseball games when he knew — fully and completely understood — that the penalty for such gambling was permanent banishment from the game.

2. Rose voluntarily accepted a permanent ban from baseball.

3. Rose, for many years afterward, denied betting on baseball and denied betting on his own team even though he did both. There are many who believe he still lies when saying he never bet on his Reds to lose.

Put together, those three things certainly make a powerful argument against Rose ever being allowed back in baseball. But, like everything in life, there are caveats and subtleties and counterarguments if a person is open to them. Quickly, some of these might be:

1. Is a permanent ban from baseball for gambling on the game a fair penalty? Some say yes. But others would say no. Remember, we are not talking about conspiring with gamblers to throw games, which is at the heart of the 1919 Black Sox and at the heart of the rule. We are talking about betting on baseball. It’s bad. It reflects poorly on the game. It brings the validity of the game into question. Yes. All of it. But we don’t give lifetime sentences for too many crimes. Rose has been banned for 25 years. Isn’t that enough?

2. Rose (and his lawyers) gave up various rights and tactics and accepted the ban passively — Rose clearly believed that in return baseball would view his readmission efforts mercifully. Well, Rose actually believes he was all but promised that reinstatement would follow quickly. He thought they had a deal. Then Commissioner Bart Giamatti died, and Rose believes that baseball reneged.

3. Rose’s dishonesty after the fact is not defensible, but he admitted more than a decade ago that he bet on the game and on his own team. More than a decade ago. At what point has he been flogged enough?

Now, let me repeat: You may not buy any of those counterarguments and you may believe Rose blew his chances at redemption and permanent ban MEANS permanent ban, and you have the absolute power of the rules behind you. I think that’s what it comes down to — the power of the rules vs. the power of mercy. Does Rose deserve mercy in this particular case? I think yes. Others think no. And the beat goes on.

This week, though, former commissioner of baseball Fay Vincent — the man who replaced Bart Giamatti as commissioner until he was essentially booted by the owners — came out of his retirement in Vero Beach with a grumpy, somewhat fact-challenged anti-Rose screed. Vincent’s purpose for doing so was to counter a New York Times editorial by Kostya Kennedy, who has an upcoming book on Rose. I should say here that Kostya is a friend of mine and a fine writer but I have not read his book yet.

Vincent’s main shot is at Kostya’s sentence: “Consider, after all, the players who might have appeared on Hall of Fame ballots cast by baseball writers but did not because baseball had named them permanently ineligible. The list is printed here in its entirety: Pete Rose.”

This was too much for Fay Vincent.

“He ignores the the old Black Sox “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, who might have been a better hitter than Rose,” Vincent writes and he goes on to say, “Kennedy makes other errors but his failure to remember Jackson is damning.”

I cannot tell if Vincent is being willfully ignorant here or if he’s had a nasty case of amnesia. There is not even the slightest possibility that Kostya Kennedy “forgot” Joe Jackson. To suggest that the author of a new book on Rose “forgot” Joe Jackson would be like saying that Walter Isaccson, having just written about Steve Jobs, “forgot” about Bill Gates.

Shoeless Joe Jackson, as Vincent knows, was absolutely eligible for the Hall of Fame and actually received two votes in the very first Hall of Fame balloting and two more in 1946. Voters CHOSE not to vote for Jackson, but he and all other permanently banned players were absolutely allowed to be on the ballot until 1991, which is exactly what Kostya was saying.

What happened in 1991? Right. Pete Rose was about to become eligible for the ballot. And in what felt like an emergency session, a special committee of Baseball’s Hall of Fame got together and recommended that all permanently ineligible baseball players be ineligible for the ballot. The Hall of Fame board quickly approved the recommendation.

On the Hall of Fame board? Right. The commissioner of baseball. Fay Vincent.

Vincent was part of the process to keep ineligible players off the Hall of Fame ballot. He wasn’t just part of the process, he was the person running baseball at that very moment in time. He KNOWS this, so why would he write otherwise? I think it’s part of the piling on that never seems to stop when it comes to Rose.

Consider this amazing paragraph from Vincent:

Why would Rose be reinstated? The answer is he will not be unless some commissioner takes the risk that such reinstatement will not reduce the deterrent effect of the no-gambling rule. Suppose that deterrent is reduced and a virulent spate of gambling breaks out in baseball. One thing we know is the gambling prohibition works perfectly. Everyone in baseball is wary of gambling because the punishment is so severe. Gambling is the one capital crime of baseball, and it is well absorbed into the baseball DNA. The issues with performance enhancing drugs should not be confused with the gambling policies.

Wow. With so many arguments against Pete Rose, THIS is the one he takes? Vincent is saying that reinstating a 73-year-old Rose — after TWENTY FIVE years of banishment — would reduce the deterrent effect of the no-gambling rule? Seriously, he’s saying that? He’s saying that people would look at Rose’s life the last 25 years and think, “Hmm, thats not too bad a punishment. I think I’ll gamble.” He’s saying, “Well, a lifetime ban — no, I’m not going to gamble. But if it’s a ban where I might someday in my 70s have a chance to be forgiven, sure, get my bookie on the line.”

And the bit about the gambling prohibition working “perfectly” — I’d be pretty wary of anybody saying that ANYTHING works perfectly.

Vincent also writes that Ted Williams did not want Rose in the Hall of Fame, which seems gratuitous. It’s not hard to quote numerous other Hall of Famers, like Joe Morgan, who thinks Rose deserves to be on the ballot.

Then he quotes Tom Seaver offering what he calls the killing question: “Look Commissioner, if Rose is allowed into the Hall of Fame, does that mean a pitcher like me with over 300 wins can bet on baseball?”

I don’t follow that the killing question at all — “No, Tom, if you bet on baseball you will be be banned from the game like Rose has for the last 25 years” — but then none of it makes too much sense. Pete Rose is not going to the Hall of Fame. He could be declared eligible tomorrow, and he would have exactly no chance of getting 75% of the vote no matter who is voting. I don’t see a scenario for Rose to get elected to the Hall of Fame even after he’s gone. Maybe that’s as it should be.

For me, the killing question is this: Should Rose be forgiven by baseball at some point here? You could argue yes, he’s served his time and he was a brilliant player who brought much joy to the game. You could argue no, permanent means permanent and Rose has not earned forgiveness. Both arguments have their merits and their drawbacks.

Or you could argue that reinstating Rose would encourage others to gamble on baseball.

I wish Fay Vincent would just enjoy retirement a little bit more in Vero Beach.

117 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. ribs108 - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    The pro football HOF has a certain OJ Simpson in their venerable halls, and yet the pro baseball HOF is missing THREE of it’s greatest stars to ever play; Bonds, Clemens and Rose. Kinda shows that one hall actually uses performance as its criteria, while baseabll only cares about the legal system and the writers opinions of the individuals. Nice of them to decide for society who is ‘nice enough’ to get into the hall. I’m quite sure that Bruce Sutter, Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton (no offense and to name but THREE) did not have quite the careers as Bonds, Clemens and Rose. Thanks to the writers for protecting Joe Public from those 3 under-acheivers. I’m sure all the voters are stand-up individuals and all-stars in their own (w)rite. Why would we want the BEST players of all time in a Hall Of Fame anyway?

  2. chinahand11 - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Thanks Marty McKee for bringing this up. If Rose is an addict, perhaps recovering addict from gambling, should he not be helped to overcome the addiction as opposed to kicking him to the curb? Jeez I’ve had gambling addicts in halfway houses where I worked, we did not tell them or the alcoholics or drug addicts that they were banned from the halfway house. And MLB is like a giant halfway house full of rambling dysfunctionals, if you think about it.

    • ptfu - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:03 PM

      “MLB is like a giant halfway house full of rambling dysfunctionals…”

      I take it your team didn’t do very well this year.

      • chinahand11 - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:32 PM

        Thanks for showing everyone what an idiot you are with your snarky junior high school comment. My team is the Boston Red Sox.

      • braxtonrob - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:49 AM

        @ptfu, LMAO, I nearly spittled on myself.

    • braxtonrob - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:50 AM

      @chinahand, I love the Bosox! too, but I’m pretty sure he was kidding.

      • chinahand11 - Jan 10, 2014 at 4:50 PM

        Yeah, I figured he was just a typical little troll, checking the message boards for places where he can sling in a smart remark. Thought I’d sling back, usually I just roll my eyes. Go Boston Red Sox!!!!

  3. jerseydevi1 - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    The rules before 1991 were that a player with a lifetime ban could still be voted into The Hall. A rushed ego-driven vote to change that before Pete Rose’s eligibility says to me personal vendetta. He absolutely should not be allowed to work for MLB or an MLB team directly ever again, but repeal this stupid rule.

    Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame for what he accomplished as a player. Period, end of statement.

    When you consider that the whole premise of the game, to borrow a phrase is “You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you HIT the ball.” The fact that the all-time hit king is not in The Hall is an absolute disgrace. Rescind the stupid ego-driven rule. Let Pete in The Hall where he belongs, but continue to enforce the lifetime ban.

  4. goodguyattorney - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    Just regarding point three that Rose continued to deny betting on baseball and the Reds for years, your statement “There are many who believe he still lies when saying he never bet on his Reds to lose” rings hollow. I cannot imagine a single bookie willing to take a bet from Rose against his own team. Any bookie would know Rose’s influence over one particular game would make taking such a bet ludicrous.

  5. 461deep - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    Forever is a long time. I’d revisit Rose case, give him a few do this items, then say 3 more years if he complies. Research Shoeless Joe Jackson case, draw consensus if or if not he was just a somewhat passive follower of the Black Sox scandal and rule accordingly. Bonds, Clemens and other PED users should get 20-25 year HOF bans then be voted in. Harsh but not forever.

  6. Chipmaker - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    Rose has done not one damn thing to indicate he has reformed his life, has genuine remorse and contrition, and is in any way a different person from the Pete Rose who wagered and was banned. He has done nothing to even begin EARNING a second chance.

    Give Rose a second chance? Fine — if he EARNS it. It should never be handed to him.

    • ptfu - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:08 PM

      Pete Rose won’t reform. He can’t. Reflection isn’t his thing and at this point in his life I doubt it will become so. No reverse gear on that one, only full speed ahead.

      So the question remains, what are we going to do about Pete Rose, as he is today?

      We can give him a second chance, and perhaps that’s the fair thing to do. At the same time, we do so knowing that he cannot and will not take advantage of that chance, because of who he is.

  7. sportsfan69 - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    Charlie Hustle deserves to be in Hall of Fame as a baseball player. His mis-deeds were as a manager. This is NOT right. Pete Rose had an gambling addiction. It’s a sickness. R-O-S-E in the HALL OF FAME.

    • braxtonrob - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:45 AM

      @sportsfan69, That’s a great point! Gambling IS a (socio-mental) illness, and compassion is in order.

      • Chipmaker - Jan 11, 2014 at 9:15 AM

        Not arguing against compassion — but let’s see Rose pursue some known-effective treatment first.

        Or at least have some of his legion of supporters, enablers, fans, and groupies take personal, interventive action, since Rose himself clearly is never going to do anything about taking care of himself in this regard.

  8. Ray Charbonneau - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    What makes anyone think that the sanctimonious whiner faction that controls the BBWAA would vote Rose in if he were up for election?

  9. zerohandicapper - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    Pete Rose bet on baseball. It really is that simple. He knew what he was doing and he took the risks and got caught.

    Tell you what MLB should do. Put $5 million and one hand and a HOF guaranteed vote in one hand. See which one Pete Rose picks.

    While he was a hell of a player…he is the biggest narcissist known to man, other than Bonds and Clemens.

    • braxtonrob - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:44 AM

      @zero, (as for your list of narcissists), you’re forgetting about Alex Rodriguez.

      I like your hypothetical, but you’re wrong …. Rose would take the vote.

  10. sportsfan69 - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    Once again, Pete Rose voted to the Hall of Fame as baseball player, not as a manager. Gamble problem was as a manager. The Baseball Hall of Fame will never be the right until is Rose is in the Hall of Fame.

    I’ll make one point, who has most hits in MLB of all time? Their only one Charlie Hustle. That is Pete Rose.

    Major League Baseball do the right thing. Where’s the forgiveness in our society. Pete apologized on National TV. What else does the man have to do.

    • Chipmaker - Jan 11, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      The honor of the Hall is conferred upon the PERSON, not the role. Roles are acknowledged, but the man is indivisible — great player Pete Rose, adequate manager Pete Rose, and Gamblin’ Rose, are all one and the same. Gotta take the entire package.

      Analogous to how Koufax is definitely worthy of his plaque but, dang, those first six seasons wouldn’t have earned him a single vote.

  11. snaxdsp - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    If any of you idiots think what Rose did is worse than these steroid junkies, you have problems

  12. shermanridges - Jan 9, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Baseball, Hall of Fame, Cooperstown Hall of Fame Pete Rose; the people will come.
    You have have cars back up all the way between Rochester and Syracuse.

  13. umrguy42 - Jan 9, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    Setting aside the “would he get in if they let him be eligible” question (no chance from the BBWAA, *maybe* from the Veterans Committee), setting aside his stupid refusal to acknowledge what everyone’s known for 25 years -

    When Fay Vincent comes out with stuff like this, is it really any wonder that Pete Rose thinks MLB reneged on the deal?

  14. jdillydawg - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    I guess I really don’t care what baseball does with Pete Rose these days. I forgave him long ago and in my books, he belongs in the HOF. My kid and I watch old clips of him playing all the time. I don’t care if he gambled, that guy could play and he was fun to watch. Screw Vincent and his lame arguments. Sounds like he just had a hard-on for Pete for whatever reason.

  15. braxtonrob - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:40 AM

    It will forever be a ‘crying shame’ (of MLB’s!) that Pete Rose, Joe Jackson (and Eddie Cicotte) are not in the HOF, period.

    Pathetic. (Fix it!)

  16. jpfreeman6272 - Jan 10, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    The Baseball HOF should not allow Rose to be on the ballot. I don’t care that he lied about breaking the rules of baseball or that he gambled in general. The thing that matters is that as a Manager he bet on his team. Assuming he is telling the truth and he bet on his team to win – by also being in a position to decide who plays in the games he throws the legitimacy of the game into question. It is logical to assume he did everything in his power to make sure his team won the games that he wagered they would win . This means he would either play the best players even if they needed rest (which hurts the competitive nature of the team’s lineup in future games) or he rested the best players earlier than he needed to in order to have them in the lineup for the games he bet on. In either case he is not managing in the best long term interest for the team which is very important in a 162 game season . If he did anything on the field (which means as a Manager too) to throw a doubt on his team trying to do what was in the best interest of the team over the course of the season – he taints the game’s validity and should not be eligible .

  17. omniusprime - Jan 10, 2014 at 8:40 AM

    Only a stinking sports pundit moron like this Poser Posnanski would think that human sewage like pete rose belongs in the Hall of Fame instead of staying put in his own Hall of Shame where he belongs eternally. There is no forgiving this worthless waste of skin, Obviously poser posnanski isn’t old enough to know what slime ball pete rose did.

    Pete rose dug his own grave with his arrogant refusal to clean up his gambling act. He now deserves to rot in the hell of his own making. Sorry but he had his chances and blew everyone of them off because of his sick addiction to gambling. Pete rose’s proper punishment deserves to stand and no moronic sports pundits like poser posnanski should be allowed to whitewash his sordid history in order to rehabilitate his self tattered image.

    The only jerk with an agenda is poser posnanski and his deluded perversion of trying to get pete rose into the Hall of Fame. I think poser posnanski is the only one with an agenda, he acts like he bought up the market on pete rose collectibles and now wants to get him into the Hall of Fame so his garbage is worth more.

  18. binnh - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Who the heck cares. Pete who? I wish this would all just go away – tired of hearing about it.

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