Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rose had plenty of thorns as a player

As more than a quarter century has passed since Pete Rose received a lifetime ban from baseball, there was a sense that reinstatement may have been imminent. For nearly 15 years Rose vehemently denied he bet on baseball while manager of the Cincinnati Reds despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But when he finally came clean in January 2004 (I maintain it was to hype his new book), some were willing to let bygones be bygones.

As new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred assumed his post less than a year ago, one of the first subjects he broached was reinstatement of Rose. Manfred seemed genuinely torn as to what extent he could bring Rose back, if at all.

Something tells me that Monday's revelations could severely hamper any chance Rose may have had to be reinstated.

For 26 years, Pete Rose has kept to one story: He never bet on baseball while he was a player.

Yes, he admitted in 2004, after almost 15 years of denials, he had placed bets on baseball, but he insisted it was only as a manager.

But new documents obtained by Outside the Lines indicate Rose bet extensively on baseball -- and on the Cincinnati Reds -- as he racked up the last hits of a record-smashing career in 1986. The documents go beyond the evidence presented in the 1989 Dowd report that led to Rose's banishment and provide the first written record that Rose bet while he was still on the field.

"This does it. This closes the door," said John Dowd, the former federal prosecutor who led MLB's investigation.

The documents are copies of pages from a notebook seized from the home of former Rose associate Michael Bertolini during a raid by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in October 1989, nearly two months after Rose was declared permanently ineligible by Major League Baseball. Their authenticity has been verified by two people who took part in the raid, which was part of a mail fraud investigation and unrelated to gambling. For 26 years, the notebook has remained under court-ordered seal and is currently stored in the National Archives' New York office, where officials have declined requests to release it publicly.

Rose, through his lawyer, Raymond Genco, issued a statement: "Since we submitted the application earlier this year, we committed to MLB that we would not comment on specific matters relating to reinstatement. I need to maintain that. To be sure, I'm eager to sit down with [MLB commissioner Rob] Manfred to address my entire history -- the good and the bad -- and my long personal journey since baseball. That meeting likely will come sometime after the All-Star break. Therefore at this point, it's not appropriate to comment on any specifics." Bertolini's lawyer, Nicholas De Feis, said his client is "not interested in speaking to anyone about these issues."

The timing couldn't be worse for Rose, who was expected to be at the All Star Game next month in his hometown of Cincinnati, where he is still revered. There was even some speculation that this event would be used as a backdrop to announce Rose being allowed back into baseball in a very limited capacity, which for him would be the first substantive steps towards reinstatement since his lifetime ban was instituted. But I have to believe now that is all in peril.

A lot of the reaction from Rose apologists was pretty typical. In a nutshell, they feel Rose should still be in the Hall of Fame because betting on baseball didn't result in additional base hits like, say, steroids could have. And while it's true that when Rose bet on his team, he always bet on them to win, what do you think was gleaned from the instances where he didn't place a bet on his team? Bookies took that as a sign that Rose used his intimate knowledge of the Reds to not place a wager on a given game. As such, Rose unwittingly assisted bettors in wagering against the Reds.

In the end, what Rose really wants in all this is what he believes is his rightful place in Cooperstown, NY. But even if he is reinstated, Rose is far from a certainty to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Once a player is out of the game more than 15 years, his HOF candidacy is taken up by the Veterans Committee, which is made up of baseball veterans. While Rose might have had a chance with the Baseball Writers Association of America, he's got virtually no shot to be voted in by the VC. And that was the sentiment even prior to Monday's bombshell.

Can't wait to see how Rose will try to weasel out of this one.



Mr. D said...

Really good synopsis, Brad. Betting on games is a mortal sin. It has to be.

R.A. Crankbait said...

Pete Rose should have a HOF bust and placque describing his accomplishments and his disgrace. But they should be placed on a pedestal in the parking lot outside of the Hall, facing the front door, from where it can look wistfully at the Hall for eternity.