Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Pete Rose’s chances of finally getting into the Hall of Fame have never been better. Robert Manfred, baseball’s newest commissioner, has publicly stated that he believes Pete Rose should be able to apply for reinstatement and that he is entitled to a fair and unbiased hearing. The only problem is that he admitted to betting on baseball. Betting on baseball puts you on the permanent ineligible list, and quite clearly according to the rules. Even if it is going to be a fair hearing, I cannot see how it turns out any differently for Rose than it does right now – with him on the ineligible list.

Rule 21 of the Major League Rules is a collection of standards that define baseball’s code of conduct for players, managers, umpires, and anyone connected to Major League or Minor League baseball. It is fairly all-encompassing and has 7 sections labeled A through G. They cover intentionally losing a game, bribing other players, bribing umpires, and acts of violence. Section F is the famous “best interests of baseball” section that gives the commissioner a blank check on matters of discipline. The two that I would like to focus on are sections D and G because they are at the heart of the case against Pete Rose. Section G states that the entire Rule 21 must be posted in every clubhouse of every major league team in both English and Spanish. Therefore, ignorance is not an excuse. Section D 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 a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.” That means that even if you are a bench warmer watching the game and you bet on that game, you are immediately out of baseball. The intent does not matter. Your ability to influence even the slightest aspect of the game does not matter. If you bet even a dollar on the game, Section D applies to you and you are permanently ineligible.

Pete Rose ran into trouble in early 1989, when allegations came up that he bet on baseball. He had been gambling for years, but betting on baseball was a different matter entirely, and then-commissioner Bart Giamatti hired attorney John W. Dowd to investigate. The Dowd Report came to be, and they reached a settlement where Rose accepted entry onto baseball's ineligible list and MLB would not make pursue action on the gambling allegations.

This is where things got hairy. Without any documented findings on his actions, lots of discussions opened up about whether or not Pete did anything wrong. In fact, Pete started a lot of that discussion. He adamantly refused to admit that he was guilty of any part of the things of which he was accused. He insisted that he did not bet on baseball. Pete is a popular guy, so many of his fans – myself included – rushed to his defense. Feelings of outrage at the injustice were commonplace among his fans – again, myself included. Baseball trapped him in a settlement from which there was no way out, and the commissioners – from Fay Vincent to Bud Selig – would not give him his application for reinstatement and a platform from which to state his case. Don’t even get me started on the despicable treatment that he got from NBC’s Jim Gray at the All-Century Team ceremony (yes, I signed the petition to have him fired).

Then he went and wrote an autobiography, “My Prison Without Walls”. In it, he admitted to betting on the Reds when he was the manager. He qualified it by saying that he only bet on them to win, never to lose, but that is a moot point (see above – Section D of Rule 21). He went on to admit it in his own voice on the radio and on TV. That is the point at which I changed my position. The rules were clear, and he broke them. The penalties were obvious, and he was living with the consequences. The rules are not there to be a killjoy. Rule 21, in particular, is there to protect the integrity of the game. Fans need to trust that the teams play the game fairly. Unless there is something that we do not already know, when he bet on games that he was managing, he violated the rules and the trust of the game and the fans.

Despite all this, Robert Manfred feels that Pete Rose is entitled to a fair hearing. I applaud him for saying that, and I will further applaud him when he carries it out. This ugly dance between Pete Rose, MLB, the media, and the fans needs to end. Manfred has the opportunity to bring fairness to a process that has lacked integrity and transparency. Honestly, I feel bad for Pete Rose. In his interviews, he seems to be a very likable guy. He was certainly very popular. His career accomplishments have been well documented – most career hits (4256), the 44-game hitting streak, and a million images in the fans’ minds of him going all out to get an extra hit or an extra base. I know my editor and many of my fellow writers love him.

Honestly, I do not see how he gets into the Hall. If his admission and the language of the rules were not so clear, he might have a chance. In case the thought enters anyone’s mind, a fair hearing does not mean that Manfred gets to change the rules. Changing the code of conduct to allow a rule breaker to enter the Hall of Fame puts baseball on such a slippery slope, I could write volumes on all the problematic situations out of which Manfred would have to wriggle. Nobody could be that dumb. However, I do hope that it brings some closure for Pete and his fans and that we can move on.

--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
Twitter: @KingAgamemnon
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row

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