Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pete Rose, Gambling and MLB Hypocrisy

Yesterday Pete Rose’s bid for reinstatement to Major League Baseball was denied by new commissioner Rob Manfred.  For those unfamiliar with the issue, Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader, was banned in 1989 for gambling on baseball, which is said to be the cardinal sin of baseball.  The first problem with this is that Rose was totally worked over by then commission Bart Giamatti.  According to Rose, and some investigative reporters, Rose agreed to sign a statement accepting a one-year ban from baseball, with no finding of fault, and then he would be reinstated at the end of the year.

But, during his press conference, Giamatti said Rose gambled on baseball and there was no agreement in place to limit the length of the suspension.  Giamatti then died 8 days later, and so Rose has been in perpetual limbo since then. As the ban went on Rose continued to deny that he had gambled on baseball, even though it’s pretty clear that he did, but he finally admitted it because he was told by numerous sources that if he did admit it, all would be forgiven and he would be allowed back into the game that he loved.  So he did, and the immediate response was “see we told you so, that’s why he can’t be allowed back in.”  MLB has given special permission for Rose to appear at official MLB activities, but only when it was useful to them (ie makes them money).

I honestly have no problem with Rose being banned, although I think it’s hugely hypocritical, which I’ll get to in a minute, my problem is that he is not allowed into the Hall of Fame.  The Hall has a rule which says that no one on the “permanently ineligible list” can be voted into the Hall.  That rule is not established by MLB but by the Hall itself.

What they need to decide is if they are going to be a shrine or a museum.  If they are going to be a shrine, and keep out all the “undesirables” then there are lots of current members that need to go. That includes Adrian “Cap” Anson who is largely responsible for creating the “gentleman’s agreement” which kept African-American players out of the game, or Ty Cobb, who was a rabid racist.  Those are just two of many that don’t belong in a “shrine.”

But if it’s a museum then they belong and Pete Rose also belongs, and how can you have one of the greatest players ever to play the game not included with the list of the greats.  Everyone knows how great he was and so it lowers everyone else included not having him there.  I think the easy solution is to leave him banned from MLB but have the Hall change their rules and put him in (getting the committee to actual vote for him is a whole other topic).

Now back to the hypocrisy.  The reason why gambling is the cardinal sin is because of the 1919 Black Sox scandal in which 8 players were accused of throwing the World Series, thus impacting the “integrity of the game.”  We’ll ignore the fact that no African-American players were allowed to play in the game at the time, and so how much integrity could they really have?  But, MLB also quickly overlooks the case of collusion in which the owners and managers of the league made an agreement not to sign free agents in order to keep salaries down.  The courts found that this took place from 1985-1987, although some speculate it was longer than that.

But what this meant is that teams did not go out and get players that could make their teams better, get players that might be able to get them into the playoffs and perhaps even to the World Series.  Which means, in fact, that the owners of the teams worked to fix the World Series for at least 3 years.  They didn’t throw it the way the White Sox allegedly did, but it worked out to the same because some teams were clearly kept from becoming better and thus becoming contenders (including my Yankees).  Many of those who were responsible for this will end up in the Hall.  Why are they not being permanently banned in order to protect the “integrity of the game”?

And finally, MLB is in deep in the online daily fantasy games, including being a part owner of DraftKings.  But at the same time they have forbidden any MLB players from participating in DraftKings, you know, “for the integrity of the game.”  So it’s okay for the owners and league to make money from gambling but not the players, and there is no integrity issues for the league on this because “it’s good for the game and drives up interest.”  Of course what they also say is that it’s not truly gambling, even though many states have now forbidden it because they consider it gambling, and they have forbidden the players to do because it’s gambling.

And to me fantasy gambling is an even greater threat to the game, because it’s not about who wins or loses, but about how players did.  So far there has been no proof that Rose ever bet against his team, but there is evidence he bet for his team.  The problem with the White Sox is that they bet against themselves.  But when everything comes down to the individual, it’s much easier to get one player to do something that can affect stats, to bet against themselves.  It might or might not hurt their team, depending on what it is they are doing, but could make gamblers lots and lots of money.

But don’t worry because MLB says this is okay, and they are making money off it, and we just have to overlook the hypocrisy of it all and take our animosity out on the person who truly deserves it, Pete Rose.

(And just to mix a little religion into the matter, thinking that Manfred would overturn it was like believing that Pope Clement VII was going to overturn the ruling of Pope Julius II that had allowed Henry VIII to marry Catherine of Aragon in the first place by giving him an annulment.  Popes don't like to overrule other popes because it makes them look like they were wrong, and so Manfred was not going to essentially overrule the decisions of three other commissioners.)

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