Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Last Word on Pete Rose?

Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader.

Will baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision last week to not reinstate Pete Rose finally be the last word on Rose’s case? Probably not, seeing as how Rose has become a constant media presence, but Manfred’s decision does seem to slam the door on Rose’s possible reinstatement for a very long time, if not forever.

I’ve thought about Pete Rose a lot in the last year. Last December I read Kostya Kennedy’s book Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, and I also read Michael Sokolove’s excellent biography of Rose, Hustle: The Myth, Life, and Lies of Pete Rose. I concluded my review of Hustle with these words: “he doesn’t deserve to be reinstated and let back into baseball. If and when Pete Rose ever truly changes his ways, maybe he can get back into baseball. But until then, he will remain on the outside looking in.” That has remained the case, as Manfred’s report makes it clear that Rose has not changed his ways, as he still places legal bets on baseball games. Read Manfred’s footnote for the whole story: in true Rose fashion, he said he doesn’t currently bet on baseball, and then backtracked later in his interview to say he does still bet on baseball.

I agree with everything Manfred said in his statement, I don’t think Rose truly understands the gravity of what he did. "Mr. Rose's public and private comments, including his initial admission in 2004, provide me with little confidence that he has a mature understanding of his wrongful conduct, that he has accepted full responsibility for it, or that he understands the damage he has caused," Manfred wrote. Manfred also wrote, “I am also not convinced that he has avoided the type of conduct and associations that originally led to his placement on the permanently ineligible list.” I think Manfred hits the nail on the head. Rose lives in Las Vegas and makes his living signing his autograph in stores that are attached to casinos. Not exactly the kind of environment you’d want a supposedly reformed gambler to be around. 

Pete Rose’s story is a sad one, of how one man worked extremely hard to get to the very top of his profession, and then threw it all away. Pete Rose seemed to have everything, but that wasn’t enough for him. Someday someone should write a novel or an opera about Pete Rose’s life. A work of art like that might capture the full spectrum of his life, which has been both triumphant and sad.

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