Wash, Rinse, Re-Pete: Why I’ve Just Stopped Caring About Pete Rose’s Reinstatement

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has proven in his nascent tenure as baseball’s boss that he’s willing to be progressive. He’s openly discussed potential changes to the strike zone and recently announced a deal to stream in-network games in half of the league’s markets. He even allowed one Peter Edward Rose to attend the All-Star Game festivities in Cincinnati, a furlough that, along with similar ones in 1999 and 2010, led many to believe a full pardon might be in the offing.

But alas, when it came time for Manfred to weigh in on the matter of full reinstatement, the commissioner felt as though Charlie wasn’t ready to quit his hustle. In his decision, the full text of which can be seen here, Manfred concluded that, among other things, the hit king had made little to no effort to reform his lifestyle.

Most important, whatever else a “reconfigured life” may include, in this case, it must begin with a complete rejection of the practices and habits that comprised his violations of Rule 21. During our meeting, Mr. Rose told me that he has continued to bet on horse racing and on professional sports, including Baseball. Those bets may have been permitted by law in the jurisdictions in which they were placed, but this fact does not mean that the bets would be permissible if made by a player or manager subject to Rule 21.

In short, Mr. 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. Absent such credible evidence, allowing him to work in the game presents an unacceptable risk of a future violation by him of Rule 21, and thus to the integrity of our sport. I, therefore, must reject Mr. Rose’s application for reinstatement.

I am possessed of neither Manfred’s gravitas nor his jurisprudence, so I’m going to try to translate his words into something a bit more succinct. Basically, Rose is a bit of a scallywag and had showed either an unwillingness or inability to reform his ways. And even if the former is true, fear of the latter, along with a consistent pattern of being a lying sumbitch, is what drove this decision. That make sense?

Pete Rose just couldn’t get out of his own way, and it has cost him time and again. I suppose there’ll be more opportunities for him to appeal, though, at 74 years old, I’m not sure how much longer he can keep up the fight. But as with anything else, it’s the cover-up that has cost him. I can’t help but think of my seven-year-old son, who, even after being caught in the act of [insert inappropriate action here], will deny it.

“Pete?”

“Yeah, dad?”

“Did you bet on baseball?”

“Nope, never.”

“Peeeete. I know you did it, just admit it and we can try to move on.”

“Well…..”

“Pete!”

“Okay, fine, but it was never on my own team.”

“Excellent, now we’re getting somewhere. But are you sure that’s all?”

“Yeah. I mean, kind of. Well, I did bet on the Reds a few times, but only to win.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me that at the start?”

“Well, I thought you might be mad. Besides, I didn’t really want to expose myself as a degenerate gambler until enough time had gone by to sway public opinion to the extent that you might feel more pressure to just, you know, sweep this all under the rug.”

“Huh, fair point. But you’re still grounded.”

I almost wish I was melting my keyboard as the flames from my hot Pete Rose takes licked from my fingertips, but even after pulling my thoughts from the oven, they’re still kinda icy cold in the middle. Any righteous indignation I once harbored regarding baseball’s ban of the man with more base hits than any other has long since eroded. Once a reinstate-Rose hipster, my views were tempered as I aged, eroded to the point that they’re now just meh.

And meh is really the best way I can describe it. I don’t care that much about Pete Rose anymore, and I can’t see that changing. In fact, I care so little that I wrote over a thousand words on just how apathetic I am. Each time he chose to lie or to tell only half-truths, I lost a little more sympathy and respect for him. But I also wonder if maybe, just maybe, having his ban upheld might be the best thing for Rose at the end of the day.

In life, just as in baseball, this is a prolific man. The hit total is incredible, but it pales in comparison to the number of autographs he’s signed. For the last decade or more, Rose has traveled the country hawking his John Hancock to any fan willing to stand in line and buy something to sign. Even a conservative estimate puts him around a quarter-million autographs, and for that he’s earned millions (that the IRS knows about).

Despite his obvious foibles — actually, it’s probably because of them — Rose has become a sympathetic figure, a schtick he has milked for all it’s worth. While being granted entrance back into the game, Rose risks losing that which has kept him relevant these past years. Sure, he’d still be baseball’s all-time hits leader either way, but the specter of his sentence ever looming over his shoulder has added an element of curiosity that keeps the crowds coming.

Were he to have the excommunication rescinded, Rose would certainly be able to ride the initial tidal wave to a measure of increased notoriety. But how long would that last? A magician can keep performing the same trick over and over, but what happens when the illusion is exposed? Maybe I’m way off base here, led by my indifference to believe that keeping status quo is actually what’s best for everyone.

For what it’s worth, I’ve spent some time thinking about my reaction to news that Rose was being let back it, and I’ve felt similarly unmoved. The man has become such a caricature that I no longer find it possible to take him or his plight seriously. I’m sure this issue will bubble up to the surface again the next time Rose reveals a little more of the truth about his lot-casting or when PED-era players are discussed, and that’s fine I guess.

When it comes to Rose and his future in the game or the Hall, I’m just … I don’t know. I’ll try to remember to zap my next take in the microwave for a few minutes before I serve it. Whatever.

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