CRAWFORD | Rose redemption? Don't bet on it (vote in our poll) - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Rose redemption? Don't bet on it (vote in our poll)

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AP file photo. AP file photo.
Rose has been signing baseballs with this apology for more than a decade -- though he steadfastly denied ever betting on games as a player. Rose has been signing baseballs with this apology for more than a decade -- though he steadfastly denied ever betting on games as a player.
AP file photo. AP file photo.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I'm not sure this qualifies as a news flash, but ESPN breathlessly told us on Monday that Pete Rose bet on baseball games while he was a player.

It waved fresh evidence, a notebook seized by a U.S. Postal investigation in 1989 but sealed until now, showing that Rose bet extensively on baseball games, including his Cincinnati Reds when he was a player-manager in 1986. The notebook came from Rose associate (and bookie) Michael Bertolini. It's the first written evidence. They called it a smoking gun.

Folks, it's only a smoking gun if you've chosen to ignore the other two decades of smoke. There have been plenty of media accounts of his associates saying he was betting on games as a player. There was the Tommy Gioisa claim in Vanity Fair — no supermarket tabloid, mind you — that he ran bets for Rose while he was a player. That was published in 2001.

It's a bit comical, really. If one of these goons said they ran bets for Rose as a player, it's not evidence. But let one of them write it in a notebook, and it's a “smoking gun.” John Dowd said he tried to obtain the notebook for his 1989 report on Rose, but wasn't able to. In the end it didn't matter, he got confirmation from other places. It's all there in his report, has been there for 26 years, bank records, phone records, transcripts.

Former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent told The New York Daily News Monday, “There is no question he was betting all along and he's been lying about it. What's new about that?”

Well, what's new is ESPN got this story, and it's just before an All-Star Game in Cincinnati in which Rose is to play a part. And there's been a perceived thawing of relations between Rose and baseball recently, though I would argue that it's more perceived than actual. Regardless, you get the wall-to-wall coverage that Rose's story got on Monday, with web reporting, TV commentary, radio treatment.

But it doesn't change this: Rose is the same flawed and arrogant individual today that he was the day before ESPN's “revelation.” 

Rose spent the past 25 years embracing the very culture that led to his banishment from baseball. For that reason alone, he's not a sympathetic figure, no matter how many, “I'm sorry I bet on baseball” autographs he signs. I remember being in Las Vegas and walking into Caesar's Palace hearing guys yell, “Come and see the hit king!”

The ESPN report is a loud reminder that Rose never really came clean on his baseball betting narrative, and only did by degrees when he could profit from it.

And the ESPN report is a problem for him because it reminds a large segment of sports fans of that, a segment that seemed to have begun the process, perhaps, of forgetting it. His steadfast claim that he didn't bet on games as a player (and really, it's a sham distinction, a lone player may have less influence over a game than a manager, in the first place, so Rose already had compromised the game at the highest level) now lies in tatters. If it didn't before.

And the timing for Rose is devastating, with baseball in the midst of considering his formal application to be reinstated to the game.

Good luck with that.

New commissioner Rob Manfred agreed that Rose could participate in All-Star activities in Cincinnati. As Bud Selig did. That's a long way from letting him back into the game with a full reinstatement.

But ESPN report or not, Rose could never be fully allowed back into the operations of baseball because he can't be trusted. He couldn't yesterday, he can't today. He bet on games while a manager and player. He hasn't turned his back on the gambling culture. It was true before the ESPN story. It's true after the ESPN story.

Those simple facts prevent him from rejoining the game in any sanctioned capacity.

But this also is true: Rose can be allowed to be ceremonially involved in the sport. He can be allowed to appear at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati. He can be a media commentator, as he is with FOX Sports 1, an event that passed without official comment from Major League Baseball.

And, yes, he can be cleared to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot. Not that it matters.

Without some kind of shift in baseball's Hall of Fame procedure, Rose is not going to make it during his lifetime, or probably ever. He doesn't have the votes now, he didn't have them before, and there never was a groundswell of support for him.

Rose has made this bed. He'll eventually die in it. He's not going to be a Hall of Famer.

Should he be? That's another story.

A word about Rose as a player. I'm still waiting for someone to allege that Rose didn't play as hard as he should. That he wasn't a good teammate. That he didn't try to win every time he stepped onto a field. That he didn't hustle, or compete.

If you can let Barry Bonds hit the home run that breaks Hank Aaron's record, if you can let Alex Rodriguez come back and get his 3,000th hit, if you can celebrate Ty Cobb, who on multiple occasions beat African-Americans physically for one perceived transgression or another and climbed 12 rows into the stands during a game to beat a man who was missing both hands for heckling him, then you lose a little credibility if you say you can't put your all-time hits leader on the ballot for the Hall of Fame.

I'm not trying to excuse what Rose did by pointing to others. I'm not trying to excuse it at all. If the question is whether Rose should be allowed to work in baseball, the answer is an easy no. If the question is whether he should be in the Hall of Fame, the answer isn't so easy.

At least, that's my thinking.

He collected those hits. No one ever has alleged that he could've gotten more than he got. I yield the floor to the great Jim Murray, one of only three men to win a Pulitzer Prize for newspaper sports writing: “Do you want to stand there and tell me Pete Rose wasn't good for baseball? Lord, he was baseball. He's a menace to the game? Gimme a break!”

The fans had their Hall of Fame vote. They put Rose on baseball's All-Century team. The last survey on this website (completely unscientific) was conducted at the end of April, with 84 percent voting that Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Another poll is attached to this story. We'll see if this latest news changes that.

Rose, when he appears at the All-Star Game this year, will wave his hat to the crowd, but will appear as more a tragic figure than a celebrated one.

That's perhaps as it should be.

If he misses his chance at forgiveness from fans and baseball itself, he'll have only himself to blame.

I've acknowledged what Pete Rose meant to me as a kid growing up watching the Big Red Machine. But you can't stay a kid forever. You have to view people for what they are. I long ago accepted what Rose had done. And there was plenty of evidence that Rose bet on games as a player before this ESPN report. I don't see where it changes any of the essential facts of Rose's case.

He hasn't earned his way back into baseball's good graces. But he did earn his way into the Hall of Fame, whether he ever gets there or not.

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