Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Ethics — Rick Moran @ 1:25 pm

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Pete Rose finally comes clean.

Want a sure fire way to start an argument? Ask any baseball fan if Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame.

The answer will reveal a schism that has split baseball for nearly 20 years. Did Pete Rose bet on baseball? Did he bet on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds? Should he be eligible for baseball’s greatest honor? Where you stand on those questions places you on one side or the other of baseball’s great divide - a question of belief in heroes and a recognition (cynical or otherwise) of their follies and foibles.

The first of those questions was answered in Rose’s 2005 autobiography My Prison Without Bars where he finally admitted to betting on baseball after denying it for 16 years. Rose admitted he bet on baseball games not involving the team he was managing at the time, the Cincinnati Reds. What made the admission so self serving was that excerpts from the book were released on the same day that Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley were named to the Hall of Fame.

Rose had in the previous months made an application for re-instatement to the game from Commissioner Bud Selig after telling him in November, 2004 that he had in fact bet on baseball and it was widely speculated that Selig would relent and allow the most prolific hitter of all time back into the game and thus make him eligible for the Hall.

But Selig never even responded to Rose’s petition. And now, two years later in an interview on ESPN radio, Rose has finally revealed what Major League Baseball and most fans have known for nearly two decades; that despite his numerous and vociferous denials, Pete Rose as manager of the Cincinnati Reds placed illegal bets on his own team:

“I bet on my team every night,” said Rose, 65. “I didn’t bet on my team four nights a week … I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team.

“I did everything in my power every night to win that game.”

In truth, the question of Rose’s guilt has never been in doubt. The evidence against him was overwhelming: Betting slips in his handwriting, testimony from bookies, and 113 witnesses tell the sad story of a man deep into an addiction to gambling. But Rose was adamant. As late as 1999, Rose was casting aspersions on the individual who compiled the report for Major League Baseball, John Dowd, and denying that he had a gambling problem at all.

He had his defenders down through the years. People like Hall of Fame team mates Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench, as well as the great Phillies 3rd baseman Mike Schmidt. And Cincinnati fans have almost universally given him their continued love and support. And there has been a large, vocal segment of the sporting press who insist that even if Rose did bet on his own team, his sins are no greater than most other Hall of Famers who have been revealed by historical research to have less than stellar characters.

The question of whether the outcome of a game would have been affected if Rose had bet on his own team is a tricky one.

While no one has ever documented Rose ever bet against the Reds—which he has denied consistently—or manipulated the outcome of any games, it long has been speculated he managed games differently when he was betting on the Reds to win. He might exhaust his bullpen trying to win them while trusting a failing starter a little longer when he didn’t have a bet down, for instance.

Indeed, in a 162 game season, managerial decisions are sometimes made taking into consideration the schedule, the opponent, who the likely starting pitchers for the opposition will be for the remainder of a series, and a whole host of factors that make the winning or losing of one game somewhat less important than it would ordinarily be.

As an example, suppose a manager is looking at a stretch of 9 games in 9 days. In the early part of that stretch, he might be less willing to go to the bullpen and yank a starter who is having difficulty so that his bullpen will stay fresh down the road.

But suppose you have a large bet on the outcome of that game? Playing that game as if it were the 7th game of the World Series and using up your bullpen so as not to lose the bet is, in a very real way, as dishonest as betting against your team in the first place. Either way, you are not managing to win in order to advance the fortunes of your team but rather to simply make good on your bet. It goes to the heart of the integrity of the game and cannot be excused nor countenanced.

Also, although it has never been proven, Jim Dowd told the New York Post that he believes it very possible Rose did bet against the Reds on occasion:

In an earlier interview with the New York Post, Dowd said his research showed Rose did not bet on the Reds whenever two pitchers (one of whom was Mario Soto) started. Dowd said that “sent a message through the gambling community that the Reds can’t win.”

Dowd also told the Post his investigation was “close” to showing Rose bet against the Reds. The report says “no evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Cincinnati Reds,” but Dowd told the Post he might have been able to prove that if he had not faced time constraints.

Dowd later backtracked on those comments.

“I was never able to tie it down,” Dowd told the Associated Press. “It was unreliable, and that’s why I didn’t include it in the report.

Why that issue should be resurrected goes directly to the credibility of Pete Rose who for 18 years denied he bet on his own team and who vilified those who said he did. In short, Rose cannot be trusted. No one believes him anymore.

One of this country’s finest writers, James Reston, showed in Collision at Home Plate that Rose was a brutish lout - a swaggering, gum chewing, loudmouthed, arrogant SOB who thought his personality and personae were larger than the game itself. He was opposed by the Commissioner of Baseball, the diminutive (and just as arrogant) but refined and cultured former President of Yale University Bart Giamatti who Reston shows was so shaken by the Rose ordeal that he died of a massive heart attack 8 days after banning him from baseball forever. Of that confrontation, Reston wrote “The Rose case elevated (Giamatti) to heroic stature in America. By banishing a sport hero, he became a moral hero to the nation.”

And Rose? Here we are 18 years later and one can only speculate about the reason he has decided to finally come clean. At age 65, he may feel that his opportunities to put on a uniform and manage or coach a team are waning and that a full confession may finally melt the heart of Bud Selig, giving him a final chance to share in the glory of the game. And re-instatement will also make him eligible for the Hall of Fame.

But I think something more calculating is at work here. By resurrecting the scandal at the same time that Barry Bonds, the steroid tainted slugger, goes for baseballs most hallowed of all hallowed records - the career home run mark - Rose’s transgressions can be seen in a little different context. Perhaps betting on baseball doesn’t look so bad when one considers that Bonds, poster boy for an era in professional baseball that has called into question the integrity of records as a result of performance enhancing substances, will have questions swirling about him as he assaults Hank Aaron’s record of 754 career home runs.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet on it.

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