By Steve Kallas
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Last week, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred gave ESPN an interview on his thought process behind his denial of Pete Rose’s request to be removed from the permanently ineligible list.
Certainly, with a well-written opinion and a well-thought-out interview, Manfred painted the picture that Rose had not “reconfigured his life.” The question, from T.J. Quinn, was asked of Manfred this way: “The standard, ever since Bart Giamatti signed that agreement — through Fay Vincent, Bud Selig –has been he had to reconfigure his life. What did that mean to you?”
WHAT REALLY WAS THE STANDARD, AT LEAST FOR THE HALL OF FAME?
But that is definitely the WRONG question to ask about the possible induction (or, at least, eligibility) of Rose into the Hall of Fame. Here’s why.
When Rose was banned for life in 1989, commissioner Bart Giamatti was asked, point-blank, whether his banned-for-life status would have any bearing on his (eventual) Hall of Fame candidacy.
Giamatti would have none of it, saying, “You (referring to the baseball writers who vote for the Hall of Fame) will decide whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”
While Rose wouldn’t be eligible for the Hall of Fame for another two years (five years after retirement), Giamatti died a few days later, paving the way for a “sham” committee to eventually pass the “Pete Rose” rule. That paved the way for Vincent, Selig and now Manfred to ignore the directive of Giamatti.
Up is down, down is up. How could this happen?
HERE’S HOW IT HAPPENED
Kostya Kennedy, in his fine book, “Pete Rose: An American Dilemma,” goes into detail about the “sham” process that eventually would not allow Rose to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Remember, up until this meeting in 1991 when the Rose rule was passed, Shoeless Joe Jackson was eligible to get into the Hall of Fame and he did receive some votes.
Kennedy goes into great detail in Chapter 17 about what a joke the meeting was. (It took place in a New York City hotel on January 10, 1991. Rose would have been eligible for consideration later that year.) According to the book, it was a done deal that this “special committee” was going to bar Rose from getting into the Hall. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of the 10-member committee would simply agree with the proposal of the rule to eliminate all people on the permanently ineligible list from being considered for the Hall.
Kennedy makes a compelling case that Lee MacPhail, a former American League President who was influential in baseball circles, was the ringleader in keeping Rose out. According to Kennedy, it was MacPhail who made the motion, actually saying that he was “very concerned” that Rose might be inducted. MacPhail proposed the following language, which passed but was eventually slightly changed: “Persons on the ineligible list cannot be eligible candidates.”
Two famous baseball writers, Jack Lang and Phil Pepe, were on the committee. They strongly disagreed with the notion of removing the writer’s authority to let them vote on Pete Rose. Apparently there is no record of whether Giamatti’s explicit direction — that the Rose ban would not have anything to do with whether he makes the Hall of Fame — was discussed.
Hall of Fame writer Lang, discussing the committee process, said, “It was a sham, from start to finish.”
WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO THE PRESENT TIME
Another question asked of Manfred was a perfectly good one. To paraphrase, he was asked how PED-linked players can get back on the field, but Rose can’t. Manfred’s answer was fascinating. After stating that gambling hurts the integrity of the game — PEDs don’t? — and the public’s confidence in the game, the commissioner said, “(T)he fact of the matter is, (PED usage) does not create a suggestion that somebody’s not trying to win the game. As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite. They’re trying too hard to win the game.”
Yikes! Does anybody thing that Rose wasn’t trying to win the game? Do you think that any PED user wanted to win more than Rose? Like him or not, here’s a man with more competitive drive and will to win than, arguably, anybody who has ever played the game.
Once again, people don’t understand the difference (and it’s a big one) from betting on your team to win and betting on your team to lose. It’s gigantic, and should result in different penalties under Rule 21(d).
TIME TO TALK TO JEFF IDELSON
Manfred actually dodged the Hall of Fame question by saying it’s not for him to decide. (It’s hard to believe that Giamatti would have seen it this way). Rather, he said, it’s up to the Hall of Fame. Jeff Idelson, the head of the Hall of Fame and a well-respected and intelligent man, said he saw no reason to change the rule as it presently is (making Rose and Jackson, among others, ineligible).
But maybe someone can send Idelson a copy of Kennedy’s book — discussing, at length, the sham process — and tell him about Giamatti’s directive on the day Rose was banished for life.
Maybe he will see the light.
But don’t bet on it. (No pun intended.)