Commissioner sends strong message in keeping hits leader out of game
By Richard Justice
In the end, Pete Rose left Commissioner Rob Manfred with no choice. Rose does not deserve to return to baseball and probably never will. It's that simple. So let's close this sad chapter once and for all.
Rose is 74 years old, and if there was ever any thought that he would significantly reconfigure his life as it relates to betting, that time may have passed. Rose admitted to Manfred in a September meeting that he still bets on sports, including baseball, which is a big part of the reason why Manfred rejected Rose's application for reinstatement.
Here's the most astonishing part of that admission -- Rose initially told Manfred that he no longer bet on baseball. Only later did he clarify. Yes, he still does.
This is the kind of thing Rose has done countless times in the 26 years since his original ban. He sees the truth as something to be negotiated and marketed and occasionally repackaged. Even now, there's significant evidence he's still lying.
First, Rose would not admit that he bet on baseball as a player with the Reds in 1985 and '86 despite ESPN unearthing overwhelming evidence that he did.
Second, Rose told Manfred he never bet on the Reds to lose when he managed them. In fact, he said he bet on every single Reds game to avoid the appearance that he might manage games differently, depending on how much money he stood to lose.
Again, ESPN uncovered evidence that Rose did not bet on every game. This is barely different from betting against the Reds. Did he save a certain reliever for nights when he had money riding on the outcome? Did Rose extend pitchers an inning or two when it mattered more?
This is the crux of the argument: When fans watch games, they have to know that the game is not rigged in any way. Otherwise, the game cannot survive.
Manfred's decision announced Monday came down to one key question: If Rose was reinstated, was there a significant risk he would still bet on baseball games? Of course there was.
Maybe the saddest part of the Rose saga is that he always knew the seriousness of what he'd done. Rose knows baseball history. Through the years, he would regale the media with stories of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.
Rose also knew that gambling had almost brought the sport to its knees in 1919 and that it needed the larger-than-life presence of Ruth to restore its integrity in the hearts and minds of fans.
Yet Rose simply can't help himself and will not even admit he has a problem over which he has no power. Through the years, he has told different versions of his story, always hoping he could tell some of the truth and all would be forgotten. We may never know why Rose simply refused to admit all of it.
Rose was a great player because he refused to acknowledge that any pitcher was better than him. The very tenacity that made him so good on the field may be what's preventing him from a complete confessional.
Now about the Hall of Fame. In Manfred's written opinion, he was careful to draw a line between his decision not to lift Rose's ban and Rose's candidacy for the Hall of Fame.
Manfred said that debate should occur in a different forum, and he acknowledged Rose's greatness as a player. Manfred said his decision was based only on Rose's fitness to return to the game.
That's the toughest part of this decision. Should the Hall drop its requirement that players on the banned list not be considered for admission?
Rose's 4,256 hits are the most ever, and he played with a raging competitive fire. He was a joy to watch, and when he came to your town, you wanted to be there to see the show.
Problem is, there's no way of knowing when Rose started betting on baseball, and he can't be counted upon to fess up. Should the Hall of Fame simply put him on the ballot -- or in front of its Veterans Committee -- and allow the topic to be debated and discussed?
That's for another day. On Monday, it was about Manfred sending another signal to Rose that he simply is not believable and that his conduct warranted the most severe punishment the game can deliver then and now.
This is about Rose. About his conduct. About his truthfulness. One of these days, Rose may acknowledge that he's the real issue. He's not there yet.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.