December 15, 2015 - 6:19 pm
I always believed Pete Rose to be the little boy who keeps touching the hot stove, even though he has been warned countless times that such a decision will inevitably result in pain.
I just don’t think he gets it.
Or ever has.
It’s true that Major League Baseball plays the part of hypocrite better than any entity this side of Roger Goodell’s office, that a clear distinction should be drawn between Rose’s reinstatement to the game and his eligibility for the Hall of Fame. Baseball tends to pick and choose where to assign its moralistic verdicts, that while Rose continues to be banished for life from having any sort of intimate relationship with the game he loves perhaps more than anyone, the records that define it are forever tainted and deemed meaningless by the image of players juiced to the gills.
Rose was contrite a day after baseball, for all intent and purposes, closed the door a final time on the all-time hit king’s pursuit of reinstatement. He held a news conference Tuesday on an outside patio at his restaurant on The Strip, saying he was disappointed in commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision to uphold his ban for continuing to gamble and bet on games when he was playing for and managing the Cincinnati Reds.
That, and for 26 years worth of lies and untruths and bold-face denials that few believed.
“I’m not going to sit here on Las Vegas Boulevard and complain about something, because I’m the one who screwed up,” Rose said. “I’m the one who made the mistakes. That’s the way it is. It’s part of life. If I could change the way my life was lived, obviously I would. But you can’t.”
He still gambles. That’s the point. He broke the one rule you absolutely can’t in baseball and never learned its complete lesson. If there was one thing then-commissioner Bart Giamatti meant about Rose reconfiguring his life when handing down the ban, it was that he needed to erase that part from his existence, to offer evidence that he no longer made wagers on sports, specifically baseball.
He couldn’t do it.
“Why did I continue to gamble?” Rose asked. “I worked hard my whole life. I’m 74 years old. That’s the way I get my enjoyment. I’m not a stock market guy. I’m not a Draft Kings and online guy. I don’t do that stuff. But if I want to bet on a football game and go home and watch it, that’s how I get my enjoyment. I probably shouldn’t, but you have to live your life.
“There was a time when I was out of control gambling. But I worked hard at it the last several, several, several years and I have it under wraps. I’m in control of my life. I’m a recreational gambler now. I don’t bet every day. Everything I do is legal. No more behind-the-scenes stuff that got me in trouble. I tried to be as honest as I could with the commissioner, and I think he respected that. I’ll continue the part of reconfiguring my life. All I can do is try to be a better person every day where eventually they will want me back. If I kick the bucket, my son can make the speech (at the Hall of Fame) in Cooperstown.”
I wouldn’t start drafting any outlines, but Manfred did leave open the door ever-so-slightly for Rose to perhaps one day make that speech in a village in Otsego County, New York.
In announcing his decision, Manfred made clear his authority doesn’t cover any determination concerning Rose’s eligibility as a candidate to the Hall of Fame. He has apparently left that part in the hands and votes of those that comprise the organization. Maybe that part isn’t over, even though there appears to be no push whatsoever from the Hall to review or change its rules as it pertains to Rose and any possible candidacy.
For anyone in Manfred’s position or within his office to speak on the integrity of baseball is comparable to Larry King talking on the sanctity of marriage. It’s laughable given the game’s soiled image of steroids.
But as much good as the two attorneys flanking Rose said about him Tuesday — that he has worked tirelessly to live an honorable life, that he treats others with compassion and has an unceasing love for his family and the game, that he constantly volunteers for programs with wounded warriors and handicapped children and adults — there remains the one truth that Rose will never be able to escape.
To this day, he has never stopped doing the one thing that delivered him to this place.
“It’s undisputed Pete broke the cardinal rule of baseball,” said Los Angeles-based attorney Mark Rosenbaum. “But he is a changed man. He is a repentant man. He is a man whose life is under control. He lives an orderly, I would say boring, life. A disciplined life.
“I wonder if it is worth asking this simple question: What does baseball gain by keeping Pete Rose from even being considered for entry or eligibility into the Hall of Fame? The determination as to whether he should be eligible for the Hall of Fame has always been based on achievement in the field. Pete’s accomplishments warrant his inclusion, at minimum, for consideration into the Hall of Fame. He has been punished and punished severely. The Hall of Fame, by design, reflects achievements on the field and not character or behavior off the field. It is, after all, the Hall of Fame and not the Hall of Saints.”
Baseball is hypocritical. It picks and chooses where to to assign its moralistic verdicts and swing its virtuous bat. Rose’s career is obviously Hall of Fame worthy. That’s all true.
But so is this: You don’t have to like or agree with the rules, but Pete Rose chose not to follow them when he played and managed, then chose to lie about it for nearly three decades, and now chooses to continue gambling on baseball to this day.
He doesn’t get it.
I don’t believe he ever has.
Ed Graney can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be a heard on “Seat and Ed” on Fox Sports 1340 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Twitter: @edgraney