The playoffs are when the best from every sport is on full display. The best teams play each other, which often leads to games full of drama that only further entices new fans to continue watching. Unfortunately Major League Baseball has hidden some of the best games of the year from many fans in how it broadcasts the playoffs. Avid fans miss out on great games, but baseball also misses the opportunity to draw in new fans as the majority of games before the World Series are broadcast on cable networks.
The airing of playoff baseball on TBS, Fox Sports 1, the MLB Network, and ESPN has shut out many people from watching great baseball. Yes, plenty of people have access to all or some of these channels to watch the games, but those who do not have to make a choice. They can find a radio station broadcasting the game (personally I love listening to baseball on the radio), go to a restaurant, bar, or friend’s house that is showing the game, or generally miss out except for updates. Going out several nights a week for a few weeks gets expensive quickly, thus pricing many more people out, thus radio or the updates are the most likely options for many people. I am fully aware, as I have stated many times, baseball is a business. Major League Baseball signed contracts with these broadcasters for enormous sums of money for the rights to these games. However, there needs to be a balance between television revenue and making the best weeks on the baseball calendar available to all fans. Broadcasters like ABC (which owns ESPN), NBC, and CBS might have passed on the rights to broadcast playoff baseball. Fox will once again broadcast the World Series, yet it is a shame that for some they will not see a single game of baseball on television from the last day of the regular season until Game 1 of the World Series.
Major League Baseball continuously stresses the importance of growing the game, reaching a younger and more diverse audience. Reaching out through promotions like Players Weekend, programs like RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), and highlighting some of the best players like Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and Jose Altuve are great, but Major League Baseball hurts its own efforts to reach a larger audience by hiding the playoffs from those who choose to not have cable or satellite television and/or those who cannot afford it. If I can only watch sports on the basic channels and the majority of the games I see are football, why would I wait for weeks to see a few games at the end of October when the NFL season is in full swing? Even during the regular season the availability of baseball games is rather spartan.
Major League Baseball has signed contracts with broadcasters and for now can do little to change how the playoffs are broadcast. However, at the end of these contracts a hard look must be taken at whether only premium channels get the games before the World Series is the best for the future of the sport. Major League Baseball should be paid handsomely for the product it provides to broadcasters, but there could be a middle ground where baseball is paid well, yet does not shut out many fans and potential fans from the best games of the year. Baseball needs to be the sport of everyone, not just those that can afford television packages. No one likes blackout rules.
I took a few days to think about Pete Rose and his quest to have his lifetime ban from baseball lifted. Reflecting on what I think about the man and his situation, I feel sorry for Pete Rose. I have softened my view of Pete Rose. The All-Time Hit King’s lifetime ban from the game of baseball may have truly become written in stone.
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that he was not reinstating Pete Rose from the permanently ineligible list. This now makes three Commissioners of Baseball that have denied Rose his reinstatement after Bart Giamatti banned him in 1989. Commissioner Manfred and Rose met to discuss his petition. I believe Commissioner Manfred did the proper thing in meeting with Rose and listening to him. There is nothing wrong with listening to Rose. Having served over 25 years in exile, it is only fair to listen to the man and see if he has reconfigured his life as Commissioner Giamatti urged. Pete Rose admitted he continues to gamble on sports, including baseball. This sort of honesty is 25 years too late, but it is never too late to start telling the truth. Telling the truth is a small step towards reconfiguring his life, however Rose has not moved away from the gambling. His continued gambling on baseball does not instill faith into Commissioner Manfred, or anyone else, that Pete Rose has changed his ways.
I am not sad that Pete Rose is banned from baseball. Personally, I believe it is justified based upon his now admitted gambling on baseball games he was involved in. I am sad that a 74-year-old man has not been able to face the truth and change. Major League Baseball may now be completely finished with ever entertaining the reinstatement of Rose. The reality is that Rose may never have the opportunity to present his case for reinstatement to another Commissioner. The impact Rose could have had on the game and its players will never be known, as the man could not conduct himself within the rules of the game.
Major League Baseball does not control the National Baseball Hall of Fame and its voting process. In theory, Pete Rose could appear on the Hall of Fame ballot, while remaining permanently ineligible for reinstatement to baseball. Rose’s support seems to have waned in recent months after ESPN reported that Rose had bet on games while he was playing and managing. This evidence further highlighted the half-truths and blatant lies Rose has been telling since the investigation into his gambling began in 1989. The Hall of Fame voters have been tough on alleged PED users such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, and many others. It is doubtful that these same voters would show kindness and mercy to Rose.
I feel sorry for Pete Rose because he will never have his day in the sun as a Major League manager and as a newly inducted member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His accomplishments as a player made him a legitimate first ballot Hall of Famer. Is there any baseball fan who would try arguing against this? What is so unfortunate is that the gambling and his banishment from baseball will forever overshadow Rose’s accomplishments and the honors he should have received. No one, except for Rose can say with certainty why he has literally gambled away his opportunity to return to baseball. The wreckage that has become his baseball life is solely his responsibility. Yes, he has begun working with Fox during their baseball broadcasts, but this is as close to reinstatement as he will get.
On August 24, 1989, Commissioner Bart Giamatti summed up the investigation and banishment of Pete Rose due to his gambling activities with the following:
“The banishment for life of Pete Rose from baseball is the sad end of a sorry episode. One of the game’s greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game, and he must now live with the consequences of those acts. By choosing not to come to a hearing before me, and by choosing not to proffer any testimony or evidence contrary to the evidence and information contained in the report of the special counsel…Mr. Rose has accepted baseball’s ultimate sanction, lifetime ineligibility.”
Commissioner Giamatti understood the sad duty he had to carry out. The lifetime ban of Pete Rose had stained the game of baseball and brought doubt upon active players and managers about gambling on games. Even in the face of a potential lifetime ban, Rose was defiant. Rose would continue his defiant stance for over two decades before his stance began to weaken. A little at a time the truth seems to be emerging about Rose and his gambling. On the day he was banned from baseball, a reporter asked Rose if he would seek help for his gambling. His response was quintessential Pete Rose,
“No, because I don’t think I have a gambling problem. As a consequence, I will not seek help at this time.”
Giamatti had no choice but to issue baseball’s harshest punishment in order to protect the game. Pete Rose willingly accepted the lifetime ban. Bear in mind that it was not a punishment simply levied on him in response to a discovery of rules being broken. Rose signed an agreement that he would accept a lifetime ban from the game if Major League Baseball would halt their investigation into his gambling. Rose chose to deal with the devil he knew, a lifetime ban from the game, instead of the devil he did not know, the exposure of all his gambling activities and associates. Rose was compelled to make a decision for his best interest. He could either accept the lifetime ban or deal with the United States government and his gambling associates. Rose chose the lifetime ban.
I have softened on Pete Rose because we never want to see our sports heroes suffering from human foibles. The childhood of millions of Americans forever changed when Mickey Mantle spoke about his life shortly before his death in 1995. The regrets Mantle had about his life during his press conference at Baylor University Medical Center humanized Mantle like never before. Mantle became real and frail, no longer the perfect ball player but the imperfect man. Pete Rose has likewise become human. He was a gritty ball player who has continually shown he is an imperfect and stubborn man. Thousands of kids in Cincinnati and elsewhere looked up to Rose. Charlie Hustle gave everything he could on the baseball diamond. He truly was the best baseball player he could be, and that is something for which he should be admired. I have little doubt that Rose bet on the Reds to win every time he gambled on them as a manager and a player. His desire to win, seemingly at all costs and reflected in the way he played the game, would not allow him to purposely lose. Even if this is true, it does not make it better. Playing and managing to win the game, even when the game is well out of hand can have an impact on the following day’s game. While not purposely throwing games, this can change the perception of whether the game is played fairly. The loss of confidence by fans in this notion can irreparably harm the game, such as it has in Taiwan. There is nothing wrong with being imperfect; we all have our faults. Rose, however, has never been able to admit he has these faults, and this is what makes his story so awful. The pride of the man will not allow him to accept what he has done and work to make amends.
The sadness comes from a man who should command so much respect, yet has thrown it all away because he could not fully admit he made a mistake. Rose would have been better served if he had spoken honestly about his mistakes and actively worked to remove all gambling from his life. Pete Rose does not seem to understand that he is the master of his own destiny. He could not persuade Commissioners Fay Vincent and Bud Selig, nor can he persuade Commissioner Manfred to lift his ban. If he had actively worked to reconfigure his life, he would have not only shown these Commissioners that he had changed, but it would have also increased the support for his reinstatement. There are no guarantees in life, but it is better to strive for greatness and fall short than to never try. Major League Baseball has done what is necessary to protect itself from the potential damage Rose could have inflicted upon the game if he had continued playing and gambling. I wish Pete Rose could enjoy the honors his playing career earned him. However, Pete Rose has chosen not to allow baseball to reexamine his banishment due to his ongoing behavior and refusal to reconfigure his life. Pete Rose cannot get the last 25 years back. He has made his own decisions, and will continue to live with the consequences of those decisions. Everyone loses in the end. No one can truly claim there is any victory in any of this. Commissioner Bart Giamatti summed it all up perfectly in 1989 and it still holds true today, this is “the sad end of a sorry episode”.
I was sitting in front of the television scrolling through Twitter while watching the beginning of Game 5 of the World Series. I see a tweet in Spanish; sorry I cannot remember who posted it. I speak zero Spanish, but my eye caught the names of Brian Mejia and Oscar Taveras. Something did not seem right about it so I copied it and dropped it into a translator to get an idea of what it was saying. Not recognizing Brian Mejia’s name, I thought for a moment the tweet was referencing Taveras so people would have a connection to him. As soon as I hit enter and the translation came up, I was stunned. My mind just went blank for a moment as I tried to process that Oscar Taveras was dead. Oscar Taveras, a young man who I had seen play just recently hitting a pivotal home run for the Cardinals as they fought the Giants in the NLCS. I hoped it was a mistake and the media was reporting just a rumor, which would later prove false. As time passed and the reports came flying in, the horrible truth set in. Never mind his abilities on a baseball field, Taveras and his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, 22 and 18 respectively, were gone far, far too soon.
I watched Game 5. Madison Bumgarner was brilliant, throwing a complete game shutout. However, I had lost much of my interest in the game. Various media outlets were reporting Taveras’ death, before Fox finally reported it during the game. Some people felt Fox should have been quicker to inform the public of his death, but I appreciated their restraint to be sure the information was correct before their reporting. Listening to Ken Rosenthal report on Taveras left me feeling empty.
I watched the game. Even though I have no connection to Taveras besides watching him play, I was felt the sadness of his death deep. A member of the baseball family was suddenly gone. The Juan Perez double in the 8th inning, which scored Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, made me smile a little. Perez and Taveras were friends; they had played Winter Ball together in the Dominican Republic. I am not sure I could have continued playing had I just learned a good friend of mine had died. I was happy for Perez, if only the double was able to give him a few moments of reprieve from the sadness and pain he was going through.
The reaction all around baseball to the news of Taveras’ death was shock. One by one teams released statements expressing their sadness for the families and friends of both Taveras and Arvelo. Competition no longer mattered; rather the humanity is what mattered. Two mothers and two fathers lost their children. Siblings lost their best friends. People lost close friends. Two young people with many more years of life ahead were gone.
Everyone around baseball knew the death of Taveras and Arvelo were bigger than the game. The baseball family extends from Oscar’s teammates and opponents to the people who work in and around baseball to the fans. They all came together to collectively mourn and remember these two people. The idea of a baseball family is real. While Cardinals and Cubs players and fans may not like one another on game day, there is always a sense of respect for the other team. Baseball brings people together through their love of the game. While the baseball world is preparing to crown this years’ champion, it understands life is far more important than a game. Humanity will always trump competition. Oscar Taveras and Edilia Arvelo have left us far too soon. May they both rest in peace.