That should be as obvious today as it was the day that he disingenuously agreed to the lifetime ban former Commissioner Bart Giamatti slapped on him 20 years ago next month. Rose violated the only rule that baseball holds to be inviolable. He bet on games he was managing. That put him in the same category as Eddie Cicotte and Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the 1919 Black Sox conspirators. None of them have been reinstated. Rose can’t be, either.
But if recent reports in The New York Daily News are correct, Commissioner Bud Selig is seriously considering letting Rose back into baseball. One of the reasons for Selig’s apparent change of heart is the fact that many Hall of Famers have been lobbying the commissioner to show mercy to their buddy.
I love baseball’s legends. Joe Morgan, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson, who have spoken out for Rose, are the epitome of what baseball players should be. But there’s no way I’m ever looking to current or former jocks of any ilk for moral guidance.
Selig, according to the reports, feels differently. He not only respects the game’s legends as much as any true fan does, he also values their opinion, even on issues they’re not qualified to judge.
No sense mincing words here: These legends of the game don’t know what they’re talking about.
These are among the same gang of former players who are leading the drive to either slap asterisks on the accomplishments of players suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs or to ban them from the Hall of Fame. Yet they think that Rose should be forgiven.
What’s so pathetic about this is that the players — and Selig — are incapable of seeing their own hypocrisy.
Again: Rose broke baseball’s cardinal law. He bet on the game. His myriad and morally blind fans defend him by saying he never bet on his Reds to lose, so he didn’t really do anything all that bad. Plus, after a decade or so of denial, he finally admitted to what he did.
But Rose’s actions are indefensible, which is why Giamatti, who was as moral and ethical a person as ever held the office of commissioner in any sport, banned him for life. There are a number of reasons why betting on his team to win is just as bad as betting on it to lose.
The first is the obvious. Rose was betting big money — five figures per game. And he was an addicted gambler. He could easily have fallen deeply in debt to guys who use baseball bats to shatter shinbones. It would have been easy to fall into a situation in which he was forced to trade inside information — or even to fix games — for his personal well being.
A second reason is more subtle. As a manager who has big money on his own team to win, he undoubtedly found himself in situations where he had a tenuous lead late in a game. In such cases, he would have done what anyone would have done in his situation. He would have brought in his closer early and kept him in longer to preserve the win.
In the process, he would lose the closer for the next game; maybe the next two games. That changes everything not just for his team, but for every other team fighting for a playoff slot. That goes directly to the integrity of the game.
Also, when Rose didn’t bet on his team, or bet a lesser amount, he was telling gamblers — we’re talking criminals here, folks — that he didn’t think as much of his chances that night. He may as well have called them with inside information.
You still think what he did was harmless? If so, I suggest reading a book on personal ethics, although I doubt it will do you any good. You’re blinded by the wonderfulness of a guy you idolized as a player.
That puts you in the same ballpark with the legends who are defending him. They, too, are blinded by their admiration for the way he played.
And Rose was an all-time great. There’s no question about that. But so was Shoeless Joe, and he did less than what Rose did. Jackson did accept money to throw the 1919 World Series, but then he went out and led everybody in hitting. When it came down to it, he was incapable of throwing a game; the man was too competitive.
I don’t care if the Hall of Fame dedicates a room to Rose’s accomplishments as a player. In fact, I’d applaud it. But he doesn’t deserve to be cast in bronze and hung on the wall with the men who played the game the right way. And he doesn’t deserve to make money from the game he betrayed.
Remember, Rose broke an actual rule that’s posted on every locker room door in three languages. Compare that to the alleged steroids users the old-timers so love to execrate. They didn’t break any rule that baseball had in place at the time. The old-timers say it doesn’t matter, because the young guys with the chemically enhanced muscles used an illegal drug to get an advantage.
I’d say they have a point if it weren’t for the fact that the same guys complaining about steroids cranked their energy up for games by downing amphetamines by the handful. Amphetamines are just as illegal as steroids and were taken for the same reason — to get a physical advantage. I won’t even go into all the other ways these guys cheated — and bragged about it later.
So they should all shut up about what the modern kids did. They should shut up about Rose. They should shut up about everything but sharing stories about the wonderful days they played in and the great people they played with.
And the next time Selig needs advice on ethics, he should find somebody who understands what the word means.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.