Pete Rose simply can’t help himself.
Amidst all the uproar of the sign-stealing scandal involving the Houston Astros, one of the most perplexing turns in the saga has been Rose coming out of nowhere to argue that since Astros players aren’t being punished he shouldn’t be punished either.
Rose and his attorneys petitioned Major League Baseball for his reinstatement to the game shortly after Commissioner Rob Manfred released his report on the Astros in January. Manfred’s punishment of the Astros included a $5 million payment by the Houston club and suspensions for Astros field manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, for not cracking down on the player-driven sign-stealing. No Astros players were punished, which has led to far-reaching complaints across baseball, including some of the biggest stars of other teams who are beside themselves that Astros players are getting off easy.
Rose, who was given a lifetime ban from baseball in 1989 after an investigation into his gambling on baseball, has pursued reinstatement the same way he played the game. He is relentless.
This is sad, because Rose had seemingly been playing it right for a change. When people would ask about his getting into the Hall of Fame, Rose had finally gotten into the habit of saying he screwed that up, which of course is what he should have said all along.
But by using the Houston scandal as a way to try to work in his favor, Rose is being childish. It is the equivalent of a 5-year-old saying he shouldn’t be punished because other kids are doing bad things too. Rose misses the point.
His petition spells out all the details of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. It delves into the steroid era. It addresses the Astros story. It even goes into allegations of Ty Cobb being a racist. It is a virtual term paper on the history of bad behavior in baseball. It focuses on the “proportionality” of the punishment Rose has had to endure while others have not faced the same consequences.
Rose has never learned. And it is a shame, because if he had come clean at the beginning, it is possible he could be sitting today as an example of how to handle it when a person gets caught. Instead, his whining makes it worse.
He has been relegated to sitting in the stands, like the Diamond Seats behind homeplate at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. He has been honored with a statue, his number retired, and induction into the Reds Hall of Fame. He has been able to be on the field for special ceremonies. The one place Rose cannot go is into the clubhouse, which is where he would be the most effective in helping young hitters. This is Rose’s fault.
Rose has been forced to earn a (hefty) income by signing baseballs and photographs. He drew a large line at a collectibles show last year in Nashville. He is clearly still popular with many fans throughout the country, especially in Cincinnati. Former teammates have tried to help him. But the voice of reason has been Johnny Bench, who would respond to those who felt Rose should be in the Hall by asking if they have children. If they replied that they have kids, Bench would suggest that they go home and tell their kids that the rules don’t matter.
Rose broke the rules. To his credit, when he signed those baseballs he would inscribe some with “I’m Sorry I Bet on Baseball.” He also signs baseballs that say “4256 Hits, No Steroids.”
Rose’s argument now is that he is being treated unfairly compared to the players in the Astros’ scheme. When a baseball fan pays good money to watch baseball, that fan deserves to know that what is on the field is on the up-and-up. Once a participant is involved in gambling, perhaps especially a manager who can directly influence the outcome of a game, it brings that trust into question. For the longest time, Rose didn’t seem to understand that. Now, Rose doesn’t seem to understand what most children learn at an early age, that saying he shouldn’t be punished because other kids misbehave too is no excuse.
Rose would have been better off just to stay out of the Houston mess. Time and again, he not only goes down the road of a poor decision, he goes head first.