It is not looking good for Pete Rose to gain reinstatement to baseball. The report released by ESPN chronicling Rose’s gambling during the 1986 season, flies in the face of what Rose finally admitted a decade ago. After his banishment in 1989, Rose steadfastly denied that he ever bet on baseball. When Rose did admit to betting on baseball in 2004, he said it was only as a manager. Now ESPN’s report says he bet on games while he was still playing.
What a shame. Pete Rose was at the top of the baseball world. He could have built a home at the summit, but instead he will forever be in the dark shadows looking up at the summit wondering why he cannot get back there. Not sure if it is from ego, addiction, or just stupidity. Regardless he broke the one rule in Major League Baseball that cannot be touched and he has faced severe punishment for it.
Pete Rose has admitted to betting on baseball. The rules on gambling in baseball are simple:
Section D of Major League Baseball Rule 21 states:
- Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.
- Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.
This rule has been in place since 1927. Pete Rose was not alive when it became a rule, so he cannot argue that it was applied after the fact. The rule greeted Rose when he entered professional baseball. There are those who argue that players at one time used amphetamines like candy and thus they should be punished like Rose or Rose should not be punished like them. The problem with the amphetamine user being compared to Rose is that at the time amphetamines were not illegal in baseball when they used them, but betting was illegal when Rose did. We all make mistakes and must live with them; Rose is no different.
The recent push to bring Rose back into baseball has done a disservice to the game. It seems like he is getting special treatment over players like Shoeless Joe Jackson, simply because he is a live and Jackson is not. Just as baseball should not try to pick and choose which records to recognize from players in the steroid era, they should not pick and choose with Pete Rose. Punish those who break the rules according to the rules you have in place. Fail a drug test, 80 games. Fail a second test, good-bye for 162 games. Fail a third test; hope you have a backup plan. Like it or not, those are the rules. In regards to gambling on baseball the rules are clear. Bet on any game you are not involved in and you are suspended for a year. Bet on a game you are involved in, you are permanently banned.
Pete Rose admitted to betting on baseball, but was it the whole truth? It is looking like he held back the full truth. There are no winners in this situation. Baseball should have long ago celebrated Charlie Hustle, but his own actions he violated the rules of the game and his punishment prevents such a celebration from ever occurring. Time has passed since Rose was banned, and the calls for his reinstatement have gained traction. However, would this energy to get Rose back into baseball exist if he was not the all-time hit king, highly doubtful. The rule book does not care if you are Pete Rose or if you are a player who appears in a single game. If you break the rules, there are consequences.
There are those who want to look past Rose’s transgressions and reinstate him to baseball. This would be a terrible mistake. Sports and gambling have a long history together. While there is nothing wrong with betting on a game, if you are not involved and can do so responsibly, there is something wrong when you bring even the hint of dishonesty, real or otherwise, to the game. Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven other members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox were banned from baseball, even though they were acquitted by a jury. The new Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, understood that even the possible appearance of dishonesty on the field could ruin baseball.
The disastrous impact of gambling on baseball has a more modern example, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (Taiwan). There have been multiple game fixing scandals, which have drastically hurt the popularity and stability of the league. The league has dwindled down to only four teams. Sadly, the gambling issues in the CPBL have become as normalized as the steroid scandals in Major League Baseball. The mob bribed players with money, women, and more, to intentionally lose games. It is a common downfall for many in young men, including professional athletes, and the force of the mob behind these vices in Taiwan could easily come to Major League baseball and ruin the game. If the bribes failed to secure the players cooperation in fixing games, the mob is not unwilling to use force. The influence of mob connected gambling has led to players receiving threats to their safety, having been kidnapped, assaulted, and prosecuted. Players and managers are quitting over concerns for their safety. These are not signs of anything positive in the CPBL.
As a manager (and now presumably as a player) Pete Rose bet on the Cincinnati Reds to win. This can be seen as belief in the team, but what happens if Rose started losing large sums of money? What could have happened if his gambling connections “suggested” the Reds lose in a game they were heavily favored? Charlie Hustle would run through a brick wall to win a game, but what if people are threatening to hurt his family? What could he do then? It is too easy to go from betting on your team to betting against your team, and subsequently influencing the game to ensure your team does not win.
Pete Rose made his own choices. His insatiable fire for competition made him great as a player, but it also led to his downfall. The man was a phenomenal baseball player, but no one is bigger than the game. When you break the rules, you must also accept the punishments that have been laid out before you. Rose accepted the lifetime ban from baseball. Commissioner Bart Giamatti did not banish him. Rose chose to accept his fate. You have to live with your decisions in life. He knew betting on baseball was against the rules, and if he was caught he would be punished severely. Rose gambled and lost.
Rose broke the unbreakable rule in baseball. Strike one. Rose lied about his betting on baseball for over a decade, and finally came clean in part to help sell a book. Strike two. Not telling the full truth regarding his gambling on baseball, does nothing to help his credibility and convince people he has changed his life. Strike three. Sorry Charlie, you are out.