Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Baseball’s prolonged banishment of Pete Rose is excessive and hypocritical

Former baseball player and manager Pete Rose speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas, after Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday that he had rejected Rose's plea for reinstatement.
Former baseball player and manager Pete Rose speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas, after Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday that he had rejected Rose's plea for reinstatement. AP

You can see what’s coming in the case of Major League Baseball vs. Peter Edward Rose Sr., right? You can guess how one of the most protracted sagas in American sports history will finally end.

Rose’s lifetime ban from the sport will end when his life does. He will find forgiveness in death. The sport will welcome back its wayward son by inducting him posthumously into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

That day, he’ll get the eulogy makeover. It will no longer be about his gambling problem way back in the late 1980s. Now it will be about the record 4,256 base hits. It will be about the man nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” sliding headfirst into history.

What a shame.

How harshly and unnecessarily punitive baseball is being in its unwillingness to forgive.

New commissioner Rob Manfred had the chance this week, in considering Rose’s appeal of his banishment, to say, “Enough.” Instead, in affirming the ban would go on, Manfred all but assured that Rose, now 74 years old, would die still ostracized.

People convicted of murder in the United States serve an average prison sentence of 20 years and eight months, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics.

Rose is still doing time more than 26 years later for betting on baseball games, including his own team, while managing the Cincinnati Reds.

It is essential to note the Dowd Report of more than a quarter century ago found Rose only bet on his team to win. So there was never the suggestion of a scandal involving game fixing. What he did still violated the sport’s rules against gambling.

Hasn’t he served enough time though?

“Lifetime” sentences are not always literally that. Murderers can be paroled but Pete Rose can’t?

Continuing this banishment is wrong on multiple levels.

It is hypocritical of Manfred and MLB to maintain this hardest possible line against the evils of gambling while being in a corporate bed with DraftKings, the daily fantasy site being systemically found to be a portal of illegal gambling, most recently by the New York Supreme Court.

I know, I know. Baseball still feels the stain of the 1919 Black Sox scandal almost a century later and has every right to protect the game’s integrity by guarding against gambling leading to a temptation to throw results.

So I get why Rose was punished, even though he only bet on his own team to win. I just don’t get why he isn’t now reinstated when, at this point in his life, it would be a purely ceremonial gesture.

I mean, Barry Bonds, who set home run records literally cheating opponents by using performance-enhancing drugs, can be hired as the Marlins hitting coach but Rose remains on the wrong side of baseball’s fence?

Rose at times has been his own worst enemy but also has been contrite, admitting to a big mistake. Manfred was put off that Rose still occasionally gambles. So what! He’s placing legal bets in Las Vegas.

“I want baseball and Pete Rose to be friends,” Rose said on Tuesday. “I want to say I’m not an outsider looking in.”

Certainly the deterrent effect — Rose an An Example — has served its purpose. Rose is why modern players know not to have a bookie or place wagers of any kind.

From this point forward the only practical reason to continue Rose’s banishment is to continue to bar him from the Hall of Fame — a place where he belongs because, unlike the Steroids Era guys, Rose did not cheat opponents and has served his time.

Rose is the only living person on baseball’s “permanently excluded” list, meaning he is not eligible to be on the Hall ballot.

There may be wiggle room there, though.

Manfred noted his ruling was separate from the Hall of Fame, which is not owned by or run by MLB. The Hall in 1991 adopted a rule stating no banished players could appear on its ballot — but sometimes rules change, right? Sometimes exceptions are made.

Plainly, Cooperstown has the right to put Rose on its Hall ballot if it chose to — and should.

Let Hall voters (myself included) decide if the game’s all-time hits leader has been in purgatory long enough. I’m thinking we’d summon more fairness and forgiveness than baseball has.

I may be wrong but I’m guessing enough of us think Rose has done more than sufficient time for his crime, and that the day at Cooperstown he deserves should not come to him posthumously.

Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote.

  Comments