On Monday, MLB Commission Rob Manfred ruled on Pete Rose’s ban from baseball. Rose’s ban, initially imposed by Bart Giamatti in 1989, was upheld by Manfred for numerous reasons, including the fact that Rose “has not presented credible evidence of a reconfigured life either by an honest acceptance by him of his wrongdoing, so clearly established by the Dowd Report, or by a rigorous, self-aware and sustained program of avoidance by him of all the circumstances that led to his permanent ineligibility in 1989”.
In other words, Rose still gambles on baseball (legally, I might add) and saw nothing wrong with the fact that he gambled on baseball as a player.
The main argument for reinstating Rose usually comes down to one of three points: Rose has served his time and should be reinstated, MLB hasn’t banned PED users for life from baseball and that’s worse than gambling, or MLB is hypocritical because it has a sponsorship daily fantasy site DraftKings, which many consider gambling.
Let’s work backwards. At the beginning of the 2015 MLB season, MLB and the MLBPA reached an agreement barring players from playing daily fantasy games like DraftKings and FanDuel. While no punishments were announced, one would assume the consequences would be severe. Why does it matter that MLB has an agreement with DraftKings when MLB players are barred from playing? It’s not as if Kris Bryant is cashing in five figures a night creating lineups and getting off scot-free – he can’t do that without facing punishment from MLB, just like Rose was punished by MLB after years of betting on games.
PEDs have been a hot button issue in baseball for 15 years, and like gambling, there is a punishment structure for failed tests – 80 games for one, 162 games for two, and a lifetime ban for three. No MLB player has failed three tests and faced a lifetime ban, though a handful have been dealt multiple suspensions, including Neifi Perez, Manny Ramirez, and most recently, Jenrry Mejia. Comparing PED discipline to gambling discipline is essentially clamoring for the punishment for one positive PED test to be a ban for life, something MLB would need to collectively bargain with the MLBPA. Until that happens, the punishments for gambling and PED use will be different.
Finally, the “served his time” argument, one that is highly subjective and open to opinion. This was the third time Rose officially applied for reinstatement, and the third time his application was denied (following Bud Selig turning Rose down in 1997 and 2003). As Manfred noted in his statement about Rose’s application for reinstatement, he feels that Rose hasn’t shown that he’s reconfigured his life by either avoiding gambling or honestly accepting responsibility for his gambling throughout the mid to late 1980s. Again, it’s subjective, but his opinion is the only one that matters in this situation.
No one is denying that Pete Rose had a fantastic career as an MLB player. But Manfred lifting his ban wouldn’t immediately send him to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown – in fact, Manfred actually notes in his response that this isn’t his responsibility.
It is not part of my authority or responsibility here to make any determination concerning Mr. Rose’s eligibility as a candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame (“Hall of Fame”). In fact, in my view, the considerations that should drive a decision on whether an individual should be allowed to work in Baseball are not the same as those that should drive a decision on Hall of Fame eligibility.
Rose’s ban from the Baseball Hall of Fame is a separate ban than his ban from baseball. In 1991, the Hall’s board of directors (unanimously) voted to ban Rose (and all players on baseball’s ineligible list) from induction. If the Hall wants to allow Rose to be inducted, they can do that, but he’d still need to be elected by the Veterans Committee or the electorate. If the Hall allowed the Veterans Committee or the BBWAA to vote on Rose’s candidacy and he didn’t receive the required support, where would the ire turn then?
In summary, there is really no reason for Manfred to lift the ban. The ban itself prevents Rose from working within baseball, and even if the ban was lifted, there’s no guarantee he’d coast into the Hall of Fame tomorrow. And really, isn’t that what this is all about – getting Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame? If he was still banned for life but had a plaque hanging up in Cooperstown, would anyone still care about the ban? And on the other token, if Rose’s ban was lifted and he didn’t get elected into the Hall, would people care any less that he technically wasn’t banned any more?
The issue isn’t Rose and his ban from baseball – it’s Rose not being in the Hall of Fame, which is a topic that deserves to be broken down with more vigor on another day.