March 15, 2007

Pete Rose: To Reinstate or Not Reinstate?

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Pete Rose, I’m not sure what to think about you. You’re one of the greatest baseball players ever, a baseball legend — for better or for worse. Sometimes your dedication to baseball and willingness to repent wins me over. Other times, your arrogance, foolishness and hypocritical disregard for one of the game’s most fundamental rules disappoint and upset me.

I want to forgive you. No matter what I’m thinking about though, I always come back to what you did for a few years as a manager and then how you handled it: you violated one of the most fundamental rules of sports and lied about it for years. We know this and more, because of what you said yesterday on the Dan Patrick Radio Show.

“I bet on my team to win every night, because I love my team,” Rose said. “I believe in my team. And I was wrong, but I believed in my team.”

Another fact revealed, and, unfortunately for everyone, it is as exculpatory as it is damning.

On one hand, you clearly bet on baseball. But on the other hand, you finally admitted to it and you know — I think — why it was wrong. You know that, no matter who or what you bet on within baseball, you brought an outside influence into the outcomes of games because you were a part of those very games, and that’s wrong. I know you had a gambling problem then and that you struggle with it constantly. I have sympathy for you: you don’t even understand what you were thinking when you broke the rules. You just wanted to win games … and gamble.

“It’s just the way I was,” Rose said yesterday on the Dan Patrick Radio Show, when asked why he felt he had to bet on baseball. “I can’t answer that question.”

Which brings me back to your latest revelation. On one hand, you bet on your own team — it doesn’t get much worse than that. On the other hand, you claim to have bet on every game your team played and bet your team would win every time. While I admire your dedication, the news does come as a mixed message.

As twistedly valiant as it is, first of all, how can we believe it? How do we know you only bet for your team to win, or that you didn’t bet on other things too? You’ve lied before, and you might still be. What will you admit in another 10 years?

I understand you had a gambling — and perhaps a greed — issue. And hearing you say things like “that’s what I do. I’m a baseball person. Just because I made a mistake — and I did, I made a big mistake. It’s my fault. It’s not anybody else’s fault, it’s my fault,” makes me want to give you another chance.

But then, I hear the following statements from you that make me question your motives for reinstatement.

“But still, I believe I’m the best ambassador baseball has, because I’m constantly selling the game of baseball,” Rose said.

Best ambassador? That’s a bit shortsighted.

Selling the game of baseball? Is that what you’re selling? Are those your real intentions?

“I can’t honestly tell you … that if I was called into the commissioner’s office in ’92 or ’93, I don’t know what I might’ve admitted to. O.K.? But when I was given the opportunity – the first, I must tell you, the first opportunity – to talk to the commissioner of baseball, I told him everything I did,” Rose said a few minutes earlier.

I think you’re trying to say you were confused, and that now, you’re not. Except you also admitted to being fine with lying, and that’s not good.

More importantly, I’m not really sure why you want to be reinstated. Do you want the wealth or the feeling of “power?” Or, do you want the feeling of being a part of the game, and want to be remembered for you greatness, not your one set of foolish acts? I suspect it’s both, especially when you consistently choose your words the way you do. Please prove me wrong.

There’s one other thing that troubles me too. Many times when you admit to or elaborate on your plight, it comes during an event promoting you or your plight – financially. I want to ignore that as coincidence or an unavoidable consequence, but I wholeheartedly cannot. This time, your admission came when you were on the radio promoting an exhibit – hosted in the Great American Ballpark, so not for your direct financial gain, at least – in your honor.

That baseball officials had to approve this exhibit makes me believe they are mulling some form of reinstatement. I want to forgive you, Pete Rose, one of the greatest players to ever grace the game. I want baseball to forgive you. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if either of us can do that just yet. I hope one day soon, we will be able to.

Josh Perlin is the Sun’s Sports Editor. My Pitch will appear every other Thursday this semester.