The Name of Rose

April 7, 2015

 

 

There has been a lot made of new commissioner Rob Manfredís comments regarding Pete Roseís recent bid for re-instatement but the fact is that he deserves the fate heís been given. Actually, ďgivenĒ is not the appropriate word; Rose has been the architect of everything that has happened to him. Everything has been due to the choices he made. The fact that he never considered the repercussions of his actions is his fault and nobody elseís. Pete Rose should be banned from baseball and the Hall of Fame. End of story.

 

From the outset, there is one thing that will get you banned from baseball permanently. It is elaborated in Rule 21 (d). It states:

 

Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.

 

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.

 

Permanently ineligible. Itís pretty clear.

 

And itís not like players and managers are told this once on the first day of their major league career and never told again. This rule is re-iterated literally more than a hundred times every season, from the first days of spring training until the final game of the World Series. It is impossible for anyone in baseball to not be aware of this rule and its specifics.

 

And in Pete Roseís case weíre not talking about one instance. Or even two. Or three. In the Dowd investigation report they catalogued more than 400 pieces of evidence that connected Rose to betting on baseball games.

 

Some have offered the caveat that the evidence in the Dowd report points to Rose having only bet as a manager and never as a player and should thus be enshrined as a player in the Hall of Fame. To that I would counter who has more control over what happens in a game? A player, who bats four or five times and maybe has eight or nine plays in the field, or a manager who influences every pitch both when his team is pitching and when they are hitting. A manager calls pitches, positions the fielders, puts plays on, decides when pitchers will pitch and when pinch hitters will be used or not used, etc. A manager who bets on baseball has exponentially more influence on how that bet plays out than a player does. Itís not even comparable. The reason thereís a ban on betting is because of the damage it can cause to the integrity of the game. So if a manager can cause exponentially more damage, then it really doesnít matter if he didnít do it as a player. (As it turns out, later evidence proved that he bet as a player as well).

 

Some have offered that he never bet on the Reds to lose and that should carry some relevance? Really? A managerís job is to allocate resources for 162 regular season games in order to give his team the best chance of winning a post-season berth. Sometimes that means accepting a loss today so that the team is in a better position to win the next two or three games. For example, if a starting pitcher gives up four runs in the first inning, during the regular season a manager is likely to let him stay out there and for a number of reasons. The first reason is that four runs, in the grand scheme of a 9-inning game, isnít an insurmountable lead. Lots of teams come back from a four-run deficit, especially with that much of the game yet to be decided. The second reason, and perhaps most importantly, is that the starting pitcherís job is to go for as long as he can in a game in order to preserve the bullpen. Having a rested bullpen is one of the surest formulas for post-season success.

 

But letís say the manager has bet on his team to win this game. Now he has an incentive to manage this game more like a playoff game, where he has to make certain that no further runs will be scored. So a manager who bet on his team to win could and probably would be inclined to take his starter out and bring in the relievers so that the deficit doesnít become greater. So now one has to get eight innings out of what in most cases is a crew of seven or eight pitchers. Typically, that many innings will be covered by four or five pitchers Ė one long reliever who could go three innings before being taken out for a pinch hitter, and then two or three middle relievers and then a closer to finish the game. The problem arises in what happens on the subsequent days. Relief pitchers can usually go on back to back days, but few can go more than two games without a rest of a day or two. So if the manager used 5 relievers to win the game he bet on, it is likely he can not use those same pitchers the following day and the day after. Heíll have to make decisions over the next few days that he normally would not make or need to, which means in order to win one game, he has decreased his teamís chances of winning the next two or three.Maybe my math isnít great but I thought the managerís job was sometimes to lose one in order to win two, not the other way around.

 

Some have offered that the reason Rose isnít in the Hall of Fame already is because of the way he went about handling his transgression. Oh really? Do you mean the sixteen years of denials, and accusations that there was no evidence? Or that when he finally did admit that he bet on baseball, he did it in an autobiography instead of to a reporter, and that the biography was published on the same day that the Hall of Fame voting was announced, thus upstaging one of baseballís most celebrated days? So even when he did finally admit to committing baseballís ultimate sin, he did it in order to make a buck off it. Or was it showing up in Cooperstown year after year to sign autographs but only during the Hall of Fame weekend? Or was it applying for re-instatement on the same day that the new commissioner got his job after more than a decade of stiff-arms from the previous commissioner? Or was it his whispering campaign through Will Carroll that commissioner Selig was going to re-instate him, thus forcing the commissioner to re-iterate the previous findings, again putting Rose in the spotlight.Yes, that behavior certainly doesnít help his case. In fact, it paints Rose as exactly who he is.

 

Contrary to the pro-Rose argument, Rose has never had baseballís best interest in mind. NEVER. It has always been about Pete Rose because he believes he is bigger than the game. Why else would he write himself into the line-up as a player manager for the final six-years of his career, even when it was clear the Reds had some pretty good minor leaguers ready to play. Does anyone really think the Reds could not have done better than a 40+ year old first baseman with no speed and no power with a slash-line of .256/.349/.305 (!) from 1983-1986?Rose collected more than 1700 plate appearances over that span and hit exactly 2 home runs. He averaged 12 doubles per season.Nick Esasky, Roseís replacement at first base in 1987, did more than that as a part-time player in 1986 alone. To illustrate how pathetic Roseís performance was, only 21 first basemen in the live ball era (since 1920) have posted even a single season in which they slugged lower than .320. Rose is the only one to do it twice. Heís also the only first baseman during that period to post three sub-.350 slugging seasons. He was one of the worst hitting first basemen in history during his march toward breaking Ty Cobbís hits record.Esasky made his major league debut in 1983.You know who else played outfield for the Reds part-time as early as 1984? Eric Davis, one of the best centerfielders of that era. But it wasnít until 1986 that he saw more than 400 plate appearances. From 1985-1988 the Reds finished in second place every year.Is it possible that allowing better players to play could have made up the difference in the standings?The Reds won the World Series in 1990 with one of the best teams in baseball history so itís not as if they were far away while Rose was their manager.

 

Suppose Rose only bet on baseball games in which he was not directly involved, what then? The first part of Rule 21 (d) states that any bet made on another baseball team requires a suspension for one year, and since we have evidence of more than 400 potential occurrences, the punishment might as well be considered a permanent ban.

 

Baseball takes gambling very seriously, even if they donít consider other issues that affect competitiveness as much. Both Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were banned from baseball after their playing careers were over for simply advertising for two casinos. Both men were working as instructors for major league teams at the time and both men were relieved of their duties by the commissioner and kept out of any further official baseball capacity. They were later re-instated by subsequent commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, who made the exception for only those two players because they had been so great and in significant part because the casino industry had become so regulated. This is not what Rose partook in. Mays and Mantle never made bets. They occasionally shook hands with visitors at events. What they did was hardly different that what Mike Trout does for Subway. Rose actively sought bookmakers to make bets with. Huge difference.

 

Mantle and Mays are two of the top 10 players to have ever played the game. As much as Rose and his supporters bleat that he belongs in the same category, he clearly does not. Yes, he tallied the most hits in history. He also tallied the most outs in history and the worst stolen base success rate (59%) for anyone with at least 150 attempts. Dave Concepcion and Tony Gwynn are the only two players to have more grounded into more double plays yet hit fewer home runs than Rose. He often gets the benefit of the doubt because of the way he played and because of his hit record, but the fact of the matter is that Rose is as much a product of marketing (both good and bad) as he is a product of his actual performance.Unfortunately for everyone, no amount of marketing will change the substance of his transgression. And that substance has a well-known and permanent price.