Obviously, by the title of this piece, it should be clear that I am of the belief that Pete Rose is unfairly being suspended from Major League Baseball activities and as such is denied eligibility for the Hall of Fame.
I have heard all of the arguments. I am well aware that inside every baseball locker room the words “No betting on baseball,” or words to that effect appear. I understand that Pete Rose bet on baseball. I further understand that he lied about it for about 18 years. I am also disgusted by the fact that he allowed many well respected people to argue in his defense and that Pete allowed them to do so all the while knowing that he was, in fact, guilty. I have heard his critics call him an arrogant ass. And yet, even with all of this being said, I believe that Pete is getting a raw deal.
Let me start by saying that it is rather arbitrary that “No Betting” has earned its way to the inside of every locker room as opposed to say “No Cheating,” or “No Doggin’ It.” I believe there is a commonly held belief that the “No Betting” rule goes back to the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Gambler’s hijacked the World Series in 1919 by paying several key members of the heavily favored White Sox to throw the World Series. The result, of course, was that eight members of the White Sox were forever banned from baseball including its most famous member Shoeless Joe Jackson. Many site the lifetime ban of Shoeless Joe as precedent for Rose’s ban.
Betting should not be the cardinal sin of baseball: Throwing a game should be. There is a big difference. No evidence has ever been put forth that Pete Rose ever threw a baseball game. In fact, anybody who ever watched Pete play would agree that he played aggressively and competitively every game of his career.
I would suggest to you that any player who ever exaggerated or faked an injury to miss a game or dogged it for personal reasons has committed a sin far more akin to throwing a game then betting on one. I am a fan of Manny Ramirez, but there is strong evidence to suggest that he compromised his performance while trying to get the Red Sox to trade him in 2008. Phantom knee injuries and a bat that rested unmoved on Manny’s shoulder while three strikes were thrown to him in a key at bat against the rival Yankees suggest that the outcome of those games was adversely affected for personal reasons. I would argue that this is a far worse offense to betting on baseball.
Next, gambling is an addiction much like alcoholism. The game of baseball has a long history of alcoholics including the tragic hero, Mickey Mantle. It is unfair to treat Rose’s addiction in isolation. Addictions are by their very nature beyond one’s control. Lying about an addiction is as old as addictions themselves. Can we really fault Pete Rose for the same type of lying and denial about his addiction as anyone else especially considering how much was at stake for Pete?
Does this mean that I am excusing lying? Not exactly, but I am not going to sit, like so many do, on some high horse of imagined moral superiority as if I was the one child in the world who ever admitted to taking the cookie from the cookie jar.
Pete Rose has paid his price to baseball. Twenty years is a tougher stretch of time than many hardened criminals pay to society for crimes like murder and rape. When their stretch is done, they owe no apologies to anyone because they paid their debt. I understand the logic that Pete could have been reinstated sooner if he had been forthcoming and apologetic. I don’t know if that is true or not, but at twenty years I think it’s irrelevant. Twenty years in baseball exile is enough of a punishment for having an addiction. It’s even enough to punish him for not coming clean about it sooner.
Pete came under harsh criticism for finally admitting his gambling addiction in a book that he stood to profit from. But, we must remember that due to Pete’s suspension from the game, his ability to earn a livelihood from baseball has been reduced to signing memorabilia in Las Vegas and I can’t fault a man for wanting to get his entire version of the story out in book form as opposed to say an interview that would be reduced to sound bites that would then be misquoted and argued about.
The time has come. Reinstate Pete Rose and leave it to teams whether they want to re-hire him and leave it to the Hall of Fame voters whether they want to recognize his career with that most highest of honors.