Pete Rose: Banned or Damned?

My fellow scribe, Jason Clinkscales, pointed out that sports fans usually believe in redemption. We do because that little kid inside each of us wants to always give the benefit of the doubt to our heroes. Sometimes, our heroes cross a line that precludes redemption, and we have a tough time forgiving and forgetting. It's a personal decision, but those of us who have a forum for expressing ourselves have been known, on occasion, to share those feelings with whomever might stumble upon them electronically, or in print.

Let me first say that I am in no way comparing Pete Rose to Ray Rice. Betting on baseball and physically abusing your significant other are like comparing apples and spaceships, as another TSFJ colleague pointed out to me. The reason I am writing about Pete Rose now is because we're at the end of another year, when many of us make time to contemplate our actions, and decide how to move forward into a new year as better, more enlightened people.

Many baseball writers feel Rose has never achieved anything close to enlightenment, or exhibited a shred of contrition during his almost three decades-long ban from baseball. I have to agree with that, considering that he lives in Las Vegas and continues to gamble to this day. He denied betting on games up until his 2004 autobiography was released, where he finally admitted to betting on games while he managed the Cincinnati Reds, but never bet on his own team to lose. It took him 15 years to write down something he didn't have the guts to admit almost 30 years ago, and there is still reason to believe that he changes his story depending on who he's telling it to.

If you take a look at MLB commissioner Rob Manfred's written decision to not reinstate Rose, it reads like an expulsion decision made by a high school principal. Manfred is basically scolding Rose for breaking the promise he made to former commissioner Bart Giamatti that he would "reconfigure" his life. Instead, Rose lied about the information in his infamous betting notebook, never sought treatment for gambling addiction, and never presented any information at the September 24, 2015 meeting he had with Manfred that would have suggested otherwise. Moreover, prior to the September meeting, Manfred ordered Rose to meet with Dr. Timothy Fong, the Co-Director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program and Director of the UCLA Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship. Details of that meeting were not revealed due to doctor-patient confidentiality, but a subsequent polygraph test Rose took registered "no opinion". When Manfred and Rose met in his office, Manfred claims Rose "attempted to minimize the severity of his conduct..."

All that makes Pete Rose sound like a hopeless addict who has no understanding of, or remorse for his actions. At 74, the man will likely go to his grave in a state of denial, and will not be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, much less reinstated by Major League Baseball. Manfred is very clear on the point that reinstatement does not guarantee Rose a spot in the Hall. He would have to be voted in by the veterans committee, since he is way past being eligible for the baseball writers' ballot.

During his career, Rose was a working-class hero to the people of Cincinnati and Philadelphia. He exuded a grittiness you don't often see in today's players, and it earned him the nickname "Charlie Hustle." His athletic prowess not only made him the game's most prolific hitter, it made him Rookie of the Year in 1963, a 17-time All-Star, and won him three World Series titles. If that doesn't qualify as a Hall of Fame career, nothing does.

When I look at Pete Rose today, the one word that comes to my mind over and over is "asshole." His work as a television analyst for Fox Sports is at best, awful, since the only thing you really glean from the man is bitter nastiness. He might be in some serious denial about the things he's done, but it doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out he has a chip on his shoulder the size of the universe. The only other player who comes close to sharing Rose's crappy attitude is disgraced pitcher Roger Clemens, who, after his congressional hearing on steroid use, uttered that he didn't "give a rat's ass" if he ever got elected to the Hall of Fame.

Part of me feels bad for prolific athletes who screw themselves out of the accolades they deserve in recognition of their achievements. Another part of me thinks they should be forced to set positive examples for others, especially kids, given that the abilities they are blessed with aren't bestowed on very many people.

If we could all play professional sports and get paid for it, I wouldn't be sitting here writing about the man who should not only be in the Hall of Fame, he should have his own wing. Alas, I am not blessed in that area so I will keep writing, and look forward to new and exciting opportunities in the coming year. Pete Rose, however, will embark on one more year of anger and bitterness in the twilight of his life, wondering what he did, exactly, to incur the wrath of baseball.

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