Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The sadness of Pete Rose

Paul Daugherty has long been one of my favorite newspaper columnists, his specialty being sports. He writes for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Yesterday, Reds Country was abuzz with the announcement that Pete Rose, long banned from baseball and separately barred from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown because he bet on baseball when he was a player and manager, would this year be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame at Great American Ball Park and his number 14 forever retired from use by the Reds.

Daugherty registered what is probably a widespread point of view among Reds fans in a column titled 'Sadness pervades Reds' Rose announcement.' This is how it ended:
Enjoy the local honor [Daugherty writes to Rose]. It’s not a consolation prize, not for someone who grew up on the West Side and still, in some small way, owes his personality to that part of town. It’s not Cooperstown, either, or even a batting cage. Sadness endures, even on a day of celebration.
I responded:
I'm a lifelong Reds fan and Rose was, in Big Red Machine days, my favorite player. (In retrospect, I tilt toward Morgan as the best all-around and most pivotal contributor to the team's success though.)

People like Bonds and McGuire should never be allowed a spot in Cooperstown because, while baseball delayed taking a hard stand against PEDs, they and others juiced themselves in ways that made their on-field exploits artificial. They cheated.

But because baseball didn't finally promulgate stricter rules to banish such cheating from the game until after McGuire, Bonds, Sosa, and the others had done their worst, their ilk can't be banished from baseball as they should be.

Separately, they're still eligible for the Hall, though I doubt that they'll ever get in.

I am disappointed in teams that hire them.

But this has nothing to do with Pete Rose.

Despite repeated protestations to the contrary, given over a period of years, Rose did bet on baseball and on the Reds.

And, unlike the PED-users, there was no ambiguity about the rules governing betting in baseball. Since 1919, this has been a cardinal sin of the game. Rose knew it. Every player knew it.

So, while it may be sad that Rose isn't in baseball and may be disgusting that PED-users can stay in the game and even be eligible for Cooperstown, there's nothing to be done about it. Rose clearly violated the rules of the game, even flouted them.

The McGuires and Sosas of baseball violated decency but no official rules. While they shouldn't be allowed in the Hall, baseball can't block them from the game ex post facto, after the game finally cleaned itself of the filth of PEDs.

It had cleaned itself of gambling long before Pete Rose dirtied the game he loved and the career he cherished.

My sadness for Rose has nothing to do with thinking baseball is wronging him. It isn't. My sadness comes from realizing how, like the character in a Greek play, someone with so much greatness tossed his career and his greatness aside.

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