Allan Huber Selig is retiring as baseball commissioner at the end of this season. Naturally, there are those who wonder if Selig’s replacement, Rob Manfred, might take a fresh look at Pete Rose’s lifetime ban from baseball. The timing of Selig’s departure — coinciding with today being the 25th anniversary of Rose’s exile — had led to a boomlet of articles on the issue.
Jerry Crasnick (ESPN) was the beat reporter for the Cincinnati Post in 1989 when Rose was coping with the investigation. His 4,500-word article offers new reporting on that summer and offers his perspective on Rose:
Amid the smiles and signatures, Rose is trapped in a bizarre time warp in which he seeks forgiveness and a trace of a wisp of a presence. But baseball studiously avoids him, and the anniversary of his ban amplifies how little has changed. Giamatti famously told Rose he needed to “reconfigure” his life. Twenty-five years later, Rose is still pleading his case and wondering aloud why he’s the only person in the game who can’t get a second chance. As jerseys, bats and balls go out the door, he’ll always be pitching Pete Rose.
Gregg Doyle (CBS Sports) writes that 25 years is enough and that there is reason to believe that Manfred may not follow Selig on every issue:
But (Selig) is leaving, and in January when baseball has a new commissioner, it will be Rob Manfred’s call.
On the surface, there’s nothing here for a Rose guy — and I am one, at least as far as wishing away his lifetime ban — to be optimistic about. Manfred was Selig’s right-hand man for years. He is Selig’s hand-picked successor. On the surface that would suggest Manfred and Selig see eye-to-eye on most issues.
And they probably do. But on all issues? Is it logical to assume Rob Manfred, a labor lawyer out of the Ivy League, is in intellectual lockstep with Bud Selig — a car-lot owner from the University of Wisconsin — on every single issue? Of course not. That’s not logical. That’s delusional. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was Paul Tagliabue’s right-hand man; does anyone think Goodell is another Tagliabue? Same goes for David Stern when he replaced Larry O’Brien as NBA commissioner. Right-hand men become their own man when they get to sit in the big chair.
Selig could pardon Rose on his way out the door. That would remove a thorny issue from his successor’s agenda. In the waning days of his Presidency, Ronald Reagan essentially recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization, a distasteful but necessary step. Dan Epstein (Rolling Stone) thinks its possible:
Despite all that, it’s still possible that Selig will pardon Rose; short of donning a thong and doing stripper gyrations on Pesky’s Pole, there would certainly be no bolder way for the commish to cap his own controversial career. The return of baseball’s prodigal son would be big news indeed, and maybe even renew the interest of some old-school fans who drifted away from the game during the steroids era.
Mike Downey (CNN) thinks a life sentence is too harsh.
In my opinion — with utmost respect for all who feel otherwise — a life sentence is unduly harsh. We live on an Earth in which past sins can be forgiven, in which those who commit crimes do their time, pay their debts, then pray for a drop of milk of human kindness. A case could be made that Pete Rose needn’t be crucified for what he did, that it wouldn’t kill the game of baseball to finally let him off the hook.
Ray Slover (Sporting News) has a different take:
Yes, America does lean to the forgiving side. But baseball doesn’t forgive its ultimate transgressors.
Nor should it forgive Rose. If Bud Selig doesn’t do it, and he has been sitting on Rose’s appeal for a decade, it will never happen. No baseball commissioner wants to be the man to open baseball to gambling, any more than Roger Goodell would to the NFL or Adam Silver would to the NBA. Their contemporaries in American sports wouldn’t dare do it. Nor would or should any leader of college sports condone or accept gambling as a part of its athletics atmosphere.
Rose made his deal with the devil when he decided to bet on the game. He will sleep on brimstone for it.
And John Errardi (Enquirer) tamps down speculation that the commissioner transition will lead to Rose being pardoned.
Those close to Rose professionally didn’t want to talk for the record, but it’s clear that none of them believes Selig on his way out the door will pardon Rose, not even for the limited purpose of clearing the way for him to go on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. The opinion on Manfred is less certain, but nobody believes a pardon would be the first thing on Manfred’s plate, even though it would be a good way for him to show he’s his own man, not a Selig clone.
Here are a few opinions on the topic from Redleg Nation writers:
Doug Gray: I’m sure it won’t go over well, but Doyle is wrong. The rule against gambling held a punishment of a lifetime ban. Pete knew it when he began gambling while he was a player. Pete knew it when he continued gambling as a manager. Yes, the Hall of Fame added the clause that kept him from being eligible to be voted in after the fact, but the ban from baseball was known to Pete and apparently that was a risk that he was willing to take. Then for years and years he lied to baseball, to the Reds and to fans about having gambled on baseball. Then when he finally came clean about it all, he did so in order to sell a book. Pete could have been a great thing for the city of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Reds franchise and for Major League Baseball. Instead he is a black eye on all three.
Nick Kirby: I never got to watch Pete Rose play in person. Growing up, I always admired Pete Rose’s game from stories my grandfather told, and was always a strong advocate of Pete getting placed in the HOF. As I’ve grown up, I have flipped my view a bit. While Pete’s accomplishments clearly warrant him being in the hall, I don’t think he should be an elected member. Pete Rose did cheat the game of baseball, any way you look at it. Pete cheated the game just like the steroid users did (we can argue all day which is worse, but the fact remains that both cheated). I heard a while back someone say (and I can’t exactly remember who) that while Pete might not have ever bet against his own team, he compromised the integrity of baseball because of the way he managed the games he bet on, compared to the games he did not bet on. For instance, if Pete bet on a game on Monday, and not on Tuesday, he would manage the two games differently. Pete might have unnecessarily used important relievers on Monday to get the win, and then not have them available for Tuesday.
Jason Linden: I am a post-Pete Reds fan. What memories I have of him are as a manager, and even then it was mostly a banished manager. I was ten in 1990, and that was the year that crystalized me as a Reds fan. Being post-Pete, I don’t have the attachment many do. I think he was a great baseball player (though nothing like the greatest). He also broke the rule that may be most important in insuring the games we watch to not approach the authenticity level of the WWE. And then he lied about it basically forever. I guess odds are he’s admitted to all of his lies now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he recanted on something else tomorrow. Still, he has clearly been barred from the love of his life for a very long time. His fate is sad. Pete is a fascinating character. I can simultaneously feel an intense dislike for him and pity him deeply. But his exile is entirely of his own making. In the end, I believe Pete should be in the hall. Plenty just-as-shady characters are. I also think he should be allowed to participate in ceremonial celebrations. But he should never, ever, ever be allowed to hold any kind of job in major league baseball again. It’s possible, in this case, to show mercy, without inviting someone to hurt you again.
John Ring: Pete Rose’s banishment should end. 25 years is long enough. What he did was wrong but there’s 4,256 reasons why he should be in the Hall of Fame. His baseball resume is deeper than just hits; he played big in big games, such as Game 4 of the 1973 NL playoffs against the Mets, was the MVP in the World Series of 1975 and literally “willed” the Reds to wins. If the Lords of Baseball are smart, they could capitalize on returning Rose to the good graces of their sport during All-Star week in Cincinnati next July. Think of the nationwide audience for television the night of the All-Star Game if Rose is allowed to participate in pre-game festivities. It would be good for baseball, good for the Reds and most importantly, good for Pete Rose. Lift the ban. Get the Hit King in the Hall of Fame, where he belongs.
For those of you who like an ironic wager now and again, the odds are 8-1 that Manfred will re-instate Rose and 40-1 that Selig will. Gotta wonder which side Pete has his money.