By Jared Max
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In the same country where current, active major league baseball players endorse fantasy baseball leagues that award cash prizes, the most prolific hitter of America’s pastime is being prosecuted — again — in the court of public opinion for having bet on baseball games.READ MORE: In-Person Graduation Ceremonies Allowed For Class Of 2021 In New York State
Since a bombshell report surfaced Monday that links Pete Rose to gambling on numerous baseball teams while he was playing, many who previously supported the game’s all-time hits leader have changed their tune. “This is the last straw! Lock him up, and throw away the key,” screams a seemingly confused portion of society.
Not me, though.
What did we learn yesterday? Pete Rose may be a bigger slime ball than many had previously believed? OK, but what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? How did Rose’s gambling problem play a role in any of his 4,256 career hits? He was a baseball player, not a man of the cloth, nor an educator.
Yes, Rose broke a rule. A big one. But did he dishonor the game?
MLB’s staunch line against betting on baseball games was born from the Black Sox scandal — where several members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox took money from gamblers to intentionally lose the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.
Evidence presented in this latest assassination attempt on Rose fails to suggest that Pete bet against his own team. Until presented with evidence of this kind, my opinion on Pete remains intact. Greatest hitter ever. Dirtbag. Victim of a two-faced, self-righteous America.
Question: How many U.S. presidents have exercised less-than-Christian values regarding the honor of their marriages, yet still been terrific, successful leaders — independent from their personal indiscretions?
MAKE UP YOUR MIND, MLB
Six years ago, I asked then-MLB Commissioner Bud Selig if he had a problem with his players taking part in fantasy baseball leagues that involved cash prizes. Selig’s response was identical to those of Roger Goodell, David Stern and Gary Bettman, who I asked the same question. MLB, like the NFL, NBA and NHL voiced no such concern about potential unscrupulous behavior. As each commissioner answered in similar tone, my inner Andy Dufresne (Shawshank Redemption) wondered, “How could you be so obtuse?”READ MORE: Group Marches Across Manhattan Bridge To Protest Shooting Death Of Daunte Wright In Minnesota
Six years later, MLB has done an about-face. But it does not seem to know which face it wears, day to day.
While it has a partnership with fantasy sports giant DraftKings, the league reached an agreement with the players union before this season to prohibit players from participating in fantasy baseball games that offer money or other prizes. In April, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told BloombergBusiness, “We want it to be about competition on the field and for on-field personnel to have no other outside influences on them with regard to the game.”
Hallelujah! Progress! And it only took MLB six years to reach the level of awareness and concern that I presented to the game’s biggest boss in 2009.
MAKE UP YOUR MIND, FANS
Many of the same people who criticized Alex Rodriguez for being a serial cheater and liar before the 2015 season now celebrate his milestones, as if there is not a connection between statistics and steroids. These folks do not want to hear about the possibility that Rodriguez is still cheating. “Why do you have to go there?” yell the ostriches wearing rose-colored lenses. Evidence suggests that Rodriguez has used PEDs for much of his playing career. He has lied about it and been caught several times. I trust Alex as much as the spouse of a serial philanderer can forget past indiscretions. Fool me once…
Still, I’m rooting for Alex and am genuinely happy for his success. Happy to see him happy. But this does not erase reality.
How can somebody have compassion for A-Rod — having cheated throughout his career — but deny Pete Rose the same understanding for his apparent addiction? The difference between these two is that Rose did not cheat to become a better baseball player. His Hall-of-Fame-worthy statistics are legitimate. His bets had no bearing on 4,256 hits.
We live in a world where potential gambling addiction is sold as sexy entertainment (aside from the obligatory “Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER” message that tags the first 58 seconds of commercials), and where high-and-mighty Major League Baseball wags its finger at Rose, yet condones its players endorsing fantasy leagues. It reminds me of TV commercials that glorified smoking cigarettes. How do we feel about such advertising now?
I still do not get it. If there are addicts and liars enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, why is Pete Rose not allowed in?
Oh, and for the record, I do not condone what he did — betting on games while playing, or managing. This is not the subject at hand, though.MORE NEWS: Hundreds Gather At Police Dept. In Minneapolis Suburb For 2nd Night Of Daunte Wright Protests
Jared Max is a multi-award winning sportscaster. He hosted a No. 1 rated New York City sports talk show, “Maxed Out” — in addition to previously serving as longtime Sports Director at WCBS 880, where he currently anchors weekend sports. Follow and communicate with Jared on Twitter @jared_max.