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The MLB Needs to Wake Up and Smell the Roses (Opinion)

Robert Powell '19

He has 4,265 hits. He played in 3,562 games. He is a 3 time World Series champion. He is the 1975 World Series MVP, the 973 NL MVP, and a two time Golden Glove winner. He is one of the greats, maybe even the greatest to ever play baseball.  But he will probably never get into the MLB Hall of Fame. He is Pete Rose.
Pete Rose, or “Charlie Hustle”, is that all time great. His hits and games played stats rank first all time in Major League Baseball history. So what happened?

In 1989, Pete Rose accepted a lifetime ban from working within the MLB, as well as a lifetime ban from entering the Hall of Fame. Rose was accused of gambling on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds during the 1986 season. He later admitted to doing so, and accepted a lifetime ban from all baseball activity.

Nearly 30 years later, Rose remains banned. Some things have changed though, like the fact that the MLB has now partnered up with MGM as their official gambling and entertainment partner according to ESPN.

Weird, right? The league that just a couple decades before banned arguably the greatest player to ever play the game for gambling, is now supporting and making money off of sports gambling.

So, what does this mean for Pete Rose?

As far as the league is concerned, absolutely nothing. The MLB is very openly against even connecting themselves to Rose, which is why the whole league office should be labeled utter hypocrites. If someone is against gambling, they don’t normally do business with those who endorse it.

Yes, Pete Rose was indeed wrong for what he did. Gambling on the games you are managing is wrong. There is no defense for his actions, but there should be room for forgiveness.

For decades the MLB fought gambling within their league. The most infamous case of this was the 1919 World Series, or the “Black Sox Scandal”, where players accepted bribes from Chicago businessmen to throw the World Series. Obviously, 100 years is a long time to hold a grudge, but for the MLB this was devastating. Maybe this is why Rose was made an example to all current and future employees of the MLB. He was the last straw.

To ban Rose for life from working in the MLB at any position is justified. He gambled while he was managing the Reds.

Banning him from ever entering the Hall of Fame however, is where they went wrong. They did not separate the player from the manager. They went after Pete Rose as a whole.

Pete Rose, the player, was a man who played the game fairly and gave it his all. For 24 years Rose exemplified what it meant to leave everything you had on the field, and the stats most certainly back it up. Rose will never get to walk across the stage in Cooperstown, see the bust that would immortalize him, and never wear the label of “Hall of Famer.” Not because of anything he did while he was playing, but for what he did as a manager.

When the scandal broke in 1986, Rose was still technically a player. At this point he was a player-manager according to Baseball Reference, who only played when he felt it was absolutely necessary. “Charlie Hustle” was no more, and instead it was the 45 year old Pete Rose who would go to bat occasionally during that final 1986-87 season.

That Pete Rose is the one who needs to be punished, not Charlie Hustle.

If MLB officials are going to penalize Rose the way that they have, the same standard must be applied for all.

Steroid usage in baseball is a newer problem in the league, really coming to light just a short decade after Rose’s ban. When players take steroids they gain a physical advantage over players who don’t. Their athleticism skyrockets with every dosage. Or to put it into simple terms, these players are cheating.

Alex Rodriguez is probably one of the most notable cases of steroid use, as he has been caught doping multiple times. Despite this, his harshest punishment was in 2014, when Rodriguez was banned 211 games for steroid usage according to SB Nation. One lousy season, for enhancing his game by means of illegal drugs. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame, and all of his records remain intact. Pete Rose gambled on baseball games after his playing career was essentially over. Alex Rodriguez used artificial means to gain an advantage over players he thought he couldn’t compete with otherwise, lied about doing so, and was caught doing it multiple times and his punishment was relatively light.

I’m not here to say that there is a clear double standard going on… but who could blame anyone that sees it that way?

Alex Rodriguez’s hardest punishment came while he was playing for the New York Yankees, arguably the league’s most recognizable franchise. Why would the MLB punish their biggest franchises star player?

Rose was managing the Cincinnati Reds when he was caught, the same team he spent the glory days of his career with. But the Reds are a team most known for two things, being Pete Rose’s team, and being in the MLB; things that don’t carry the same legacy.

There are three ways that the MLB can go about handling this problem in the future. The first is that the MLB removes the full ban on Rose. This would allow him to not only enter the Hall, but also work within the MLB again. Quite frankly, this is so unlikely to happen there is no reason to explain it. Rose had his chance to work within the MLB and blew it. Case closed.

The second is that Rose remains banned from working within the MLB, but is allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose is now 77 years old. Based on the life expectancy in the United States, he has about a year left on this planet. It is time to let him in. If the league waits until Rose passes to let him enter, the criticism of the ban will reach an all time high. It will make the ban more about Rose and less about what he did.

At this point, the league has never been in a better position to bury the hatchet. This deal with MGM, though it may seem entirely unrelated, is the perfect start. The league is clearly loosening up on gambling. The nail in the coffin that would show they are truly ready to enter this new era of sports would be to forgive Rose.

The third and final solution is the most likely of the three. The league will do nothing. The league will keep the ban in place, keep Rose out of their hall, and never associate with him again. Why? The league has never seen a reason to extend an olive branch in the last 30 years, so why would they now? The MGM deal was about the money and the money only. The MLB definitely was not thinking about Pete Rose when signing that check. The league has made it abundantly clear… Pete Rose is not their problem anymore.

As the years have gone by, the conversation about Pete Rose has slowly dissipated. Not because people are starting to side with the MLB. Instead, they see this is an uphill battle they will not win. If the MLB wanted to make the right choice and allow Rose into their Hall of Immortality, they would have done it years ago. As the old saying goes, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

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