December 12, 2002
The Return of Pete Rose?
I've gotten a lot of e-mail this week asking if I'm going to weigh in on the possibility of a Pete Rose reinstatement to baseball. This is in the wind because Rose met with Bud Selig to discuss how this might happen, and Selig, lacking both a backbone and any sense of integrity, didn't say "You're not getting back in, thanks for swinging by, I'll have my assistant call you a cab."
Rob Neyer just wrote a column on the subject that says what I wanted to say when I read of this stupidity.
That said, I'd suggest that Neyer shouldn't be astonished at the result of any online poll. These things attract fanatics. Joe User who felt Rose got what he deserved, and has long since moved on, isn't nearly as likely to vote as someone who, between sending me hate mail, likes to sit around and stew about how the Hit King got screwed.
This is a victory for the wrong. The wrong have been so vehement and loud for so long that many people want to see Rose let back in just so they can stop hearing the arguments. Many among the right have been worn down into passive concession, into a willingness to trade something that is wrong and harms their sport for some peace and quiet.
Yeah, I'm saying right and wrong. There's a reluctance generally to make moral judgments, to cast everyone as a victim as some kind, but screw that.
Pete Rose is scum. His actions threatened the integrity of the game that he professed to love. He betrayed the trust of every fan who appreciated him, and he especially betrayed those still in denial, those now fighting his battles for him and voting in goofy online polls. Baseball should have continued the investigations, forced him to cough up more bank records, more checks, and refused to let him plea out. They should have banned him from baseball, sued him into bankruptcy, bought his house for pennies, burned it to the ground and salted the earth so nothing could grow there. Instead of trying to play the issue down, they should have made it entirely public, showing everyone that baseball takes gambling seriously, that it would aggressively pursue those who did it, and would grant them no quarter.
Fans should spit at Rose when they see him on the street, and boo him when he hangs around stadiums. His autographed items should repel people in shock and horror. When Rose walks the street in shame, we should shake our heads and say "what kind of man would do that?"
Baseball should have explained why what Rose did was a bad thing. Too many people feel that betting on baseball, and even on your own team, isn't so bad if you don't take action to change the outcome of a game. As if we should put players in court and make the issue their performance:
"On such and such occasion, you grounded into a double-play, ending the game."
As my BP colleague Jeff Hildebrand noted, bringing gambling in the inner circles of baseball can have far-reaching and damaging effects. In 1996, four Taiwanese League players were held at gunpoint by a group of gamblers who'd lost $125,000 betting on one of their games. The gamblers accused the players of throwing the game after taking a pay-off from a rival gang, leading to one player getting pistol-whipped and another having a gun shoved in his mouth. If you want a reason for a strict no-tolerance policy, that's a great place to start.
I don't care if every other baseball fan thinks Pete Rose should get a group hug and a round of applause as he's reinstated. They would still all be wrong.