I don’t care whether or not Pete Rose ever makes the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not because I think enshrinement in the Hall of Fame is an unworthy argument – to the contrary – but because I understand and respect both sides to this particular argument.
Without getting into the nuance of each, they basically boil down to “His career stats are worthy of the Hall of Fame, end of story” vs. “He committed the original sin – betting on baseball – and has shown little to no remorse.” Neither of those statements offend my sensibilities. But whatever decision is eventually made on this issue, anything Rose has to say in his own defense should be ignored completely because yesterday, once again, we were reminded that trying to believe anything Pete Rose says is a frivolous exercise.
In March of this year, Rose applied for reinstatement into baseball with new Commissioner Rob Manfred. The next month he told Michael Kay of ESPN Radio New York that he never bet on baseball as a player, something he has been saying for the last 26 years since he was first banned for life in 1989. He hammered this point home with, “That’s a fact.” Is it? Not according to ESPN’s Outside the Lines. Based mostly on old but authenticated betting slips, OTL reported on Monday that Rose actually bet rather extensively on baseball through mob-connected bookmakers while he was a player, most notably between 1984 and 1986. If OTL’s report is correct, Rose’s claim that he never bet on baseball when playing is his longest standing lie in this saga.
Not his only lie, of course. In December 2003, after nearly 15 years of steadfast denials, Rose reversed himself to ABC’s Charles Gibson and stated that he had revealed to then Commissioner Bud Selig in a meeting in 2002 that he had bet on baseball while he was a manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Conveniently, the revelation with Gibson occurred one month before his book, My Prison Without Bars, was released. Also convenient was the distinction between betting on baseball as a player vs. as a manager, since some of the argument that Rose deserves to be in Cooperstown hinges on the idea that what occurred while he was a manager should not count against him as a player. At the time of the interview with Gibson, Rose also attempted to mitigate the situation by declaring he never bet on the Reds to lose, something he has repeated in interviews several times since.
In January, in what has now become an infamous interview, Natasha Vargas-Cooper and Ken Silverstein of The Intercept talked to Kevin Urick, lead prosecutor of the case featured in the popular Serial podcast. When discussing the reliability of Jay Wilds, the state’s star but troubled witness (which is putting it mildly), Urick had this to say: “Like I said, people who are engaged in criminal activity, it’s like peeling an onion. The initial thing they say is, ‘I don’t know a thing about this.’ And then ‘Well, I sort of saw this.’ You get different stories as you go along.”
I was reminded of this quote when I read the OTL report because this is exactly what Pete Rose has been doing since he was first banished from baseball in 1989. He never bet on baseball until he did. And then, fine, he bet on baseball, but he never bet on the Reds to lose. Or maybe he did. Well, be that as it may, he never bet on them while he was a player. Of course, as we learned yesterday, he probably did that, too. Perhaps Rose will soon admit that he did indeed bet on the Reds as a player but, again, not to lose. Rose gauges what he thinks the public knows, and then says what he thinks they might still be willing to believe.
Lifted from the OTL report is this statement from Rose regarding yesterday’s report, released through his lawyer Raymond Genco: “Since we submitted the application [for reinstatement] 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.”
Again, I don’t care if Commissioner Manfred reinstates Pete Rose, baseball will surely survive either way. But it would be a waste of everyone’s time for the Commissioner to meet with him, as this latest report has shown once again that the hit king is a lousy source – especially when the subject is himself.Next post: Rebuilding the Reds
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