Pete Rose is Asking For Mercy (And He’s Not Wrong)

A notification popped up on my phone this morning from ESPN saying that Pete Rose is asking Rob Manfred to overturn his lifetime ban from baseball. Naturally, I opened up the article, and the gist is that Rose is using the Astros cheating scandal as ammo to lift the 30+ year ban from baseball imposed on him and get into the Hall of Fame.

Pete Rose played twenty-four seasons in the majors. He holds a slew of MLB records that nobody will come close to beating: 4,256 hits, 3,562 games played, 15,890 plate appearances and 14,053 at bats. He was the 1963 Rookie of the Year. He’s a three-time World Series Champion (1975 and 1976 with the Big Red Machine and 1980 with the Phillies), including being named the 1975 WS MVP. He was a 17-time all star, the 1973 NL MVP, and won the NL batting title in 1968, 1969, and 1973. He led the entire MLB with hits in seven different seasons. So yeah, he’s earned his place in the Hall of Fame.

For those living under a rock or have a hard time remembering back three decades, Rose was permanently banned from baseball in 1989 by A. Bartlett Giamatti, then-commissioner of MLB. The reason? Rose had been betting on baseball for years, both during his playing days and as manager for the Reds. Rose denied for years that he had bet on baseball. However, in 2004, his book “My Prison Without Bars” has him admitting that he had wagered on baseball, including on his team, in the 1980’s. He’d previously asked for reinstatement from Manfred in 2015, and was denied. Manfred’s reasoning for the denial was that he had not reconfigured his life – Rose lives in Las Vegas and is still betting on baseball. (Rose says that he HAS reconfigured his life because the gambling he is doing is no longer illegal.) In 2017, the Hall of Fame rejected a request by Rose to be placed on the ballot.

Rose’s lawyers are claiming that his lifetime ban is “vastly disproportionate” compared to the punishments handed to those accused of cheating, either by sign stealing or using performance enhancing drugs. The twenty page petition for reinstatement sent to Manfred by Rose’s legal team states:

“There cannot be one set of rules for Mr. Rose and another for everyone else. No objective standard or categorization of the rules violations committed by Mr. Rose can distinguish his violations from those that have incurred substantially less severe penalties from Major League Baseball.”

When MLB punished the Astros for their role in the scheme that used cameras and alerts to know what pitches were headed their way, they suspended their manager and GM, were fined $5 million, and lost some draft picks. (Ultimately manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow were fired by the Astros.). Nobody was banned for life. The 2017 World Series title wasn’t stripped from the Astros. Players weren’t even suspended for their part in the scheme.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Mets Manager Carlos Beltran both ‘mutually parted ways’ with their teams for their roles with the Astros scandal, but there’s been zero fallout since then. Other teams (Yankees, Dodgers) have been implicated in doing the same thing, but again, zero fallout. Granted, the general public may not be privy to any ongoing investigation that MLB may have in the works, but it’s starting to look as though MLB is going to try to move on from the whole thing and look forward to the 2020 season. And using this example, Rose is arguing that the punishment imposed on him is grossly inflated, as stated in this excerpt of the petition:

“It has never suggested, let alone established, that any of Mr. Rose’s actions influenced the outcome of any game or the performance of any player. Yet for the thirty-first year and counting, he continues to suffer a punishment vastly disproportionate to those who have done just that. Given the manner in which Major League Baseball has treated and continues to treat other egregious assaults on the integrity of the game, Mr. Rose’s ongoing punishment is no longer justifiable as a proportional response to his transgressions.”

Rose also used the Steroid Era as an example for how MLB handles punishments. None of the players accused of (or admitting to) using performance enhancing drugs have been banned from the Hall or from baseball. Barry Bonds(*) still holds the all time record for home runs, and Roger Clemens was indicted (and later acquitted) for perjury for lying to congress about PED use, and both have steadily climbed in HOF voting.

One might argue that Rose made the decision to bet on baseball and then lie about it for years, he made his bed and must accept his punishment. Here’s the thing, though… his actions (at least as a player) never affected the outcome of a game. He never threw a game like Shoeless Joe Jackson (also banned for life for his role in the Black Sox scandal). If anything, his stats show that he probably played harder as a result of his gambling to ensure that he won. Perhaps he used the gambling as a way to push himself to be the best. Perhaps he’s just a man with an addiction. Either way, he shouldn’t be banned for life from the game at which he was arguably the BEST in his time.

He should be let into the Hall of Fame, without question, as a player. I will forever die on this hill. As a manager? That’s still up for debate. His gambling could have affected the way he managed his team, sure. But you also have to remember that for his first few years as manager for the Reds, he was also a player, and he still played really well for a 44-45 year old man. His actions didn’t affect his team.

Imagine if his vice was booze – if he’d been playing or managing while drinking and lied about it/hid his addiction, and yet still dominated the way he did for a quarter of a century, this wouldn’t even be up for debate. Addicts lie to hide their addiction. That’s what they do. Pete Rose lying about his gambling addiction was no different than Tyler Skaggs hiding his drug use or Josh Hamilton’s constant relapses.

Players like Michael Pineda get a slap on the wrist with a 60-day suspension for using a banned substance for a second time. Alex Rodriguez admitted to cheating and will absolutely end up in the Hall. I came across this list of players that had been arrested while under the influence, and some even doing some pretty heinous things leading to their arrests, and they’re not banned for life – most weren’t even suspended for their crimes. MLB is extremely inconsistent with their punishments, and I applaud Rose for standing up to Manfred. Either this will force Manfred’s hand to appropriately deal with the rest of the players and coaches involved in the sign stealing scandal (and the Steroid Era players), or it will finally lift an over-the-top ban on a man more deserving of being enshrined in the Hall of Fame than anyone else I can think of that hasn’t already been voted in.

TL/DR: Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and Rob Manfred has no choice but to let him in if this is how he’s going to address and punish scandal.

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