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August 12, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

I think I'm going to throw up. I really hope that Prospectus is wrong.

Here's a crappy article I wrote for my school newspaper last winter:

Note: This article was originally published in The Monroe Doctrine on February 28, 2003, titled "On The Road Back To Major League Baseball", along with several very poor editorial decisions, much to the dissatisfaction of the author (Contraction was changed to contractual. Yeah.). This is the unedited version, with its original title.

Charlie's Hustle
Pete Rose's Attempt To Get Back Into Major League Baseball
by Donald L. Mahnken

In recent weeks, reports have surfaced that Pete Rose, holder of the Major League record for base hits, may be reinstated after 13 years of banishment. The general public, which has generally been supportive of Rose throughout his career, has met these reports with approval. It is likely that Commissioner Bud Selig’s motivation for considering Rose’s reinstatement is the approval of these fans, who have laid the blame for last year’s contraction threats, labor strife and All-Star Game fiasco at his feet. It certainly cannot be on merit, because Rose’s appeal has none.

Rose agreed to be declared permanently ineligible to participate in professional baseball in August of 1989, after an investigation revealed that he had bet on Major League Baseball games, including games of the Cincinnati Reds, for whom Rose managed at the time. Although the agreement Rose signed clearly states that Major League Baseball had enough evidence to show that he did bet on the Reds, and that the punishment was warranted, he has continually denied ever wagering on baseball. The mountain of evidence against Rose is available to the public in the Dowd Report, which can easily be found online. Despite his continued pleas of innocence, there can be no reasonable doubt that Pete Rose placed bets on the Reds.

For 13 years, fans have supported Rose’s attempts to be reinstated, which would allow him to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Their support is irrational. Rose represents everything that people despise about professional athletes. He was a hot dog, exhibiting false hustle in ever situation: running to first on a walk, leaping at the wall for balls fifty feet over his head, plowing into Ray Fosse at home plate during a meaningless exhibition game, ruining the young catcher’s promising career. He charges exorbitant prices for his autograph. He associates with bookies and drug dealers. He is a horrible husband and father. He bet on baseball, and he has lied about it for more than a decade. In short, Pete Rose is scum, and there is no good reason to like him, and no logical reason to reinstate him.

And yet Major League Baseball seems prepared to do just that. Reports indicate that Rose is willing to admit that he bet on baseball (but not his own team) in exchange for reinstatement, and that MLB is willing to accept these terms. This makes no sense. Since when has publicly admitting guilt, after one has already been convicted and sentenced, become grounds for a pardon? In Rose’s case, he is pleading guilty to a lesser crime than the one for which he was convicted 13 years ago. A defendant who confesses before being tried should be shown some measure of leniency, but one who confesses after conviction should not.

Short of actually throwing a ball game, wagering on games in which one has a duty to perform is the worst crime and athlete can commit. It undermines the integrity of the game, the player or manager having personal motives other than the ultimate success of the team. A manager who has money riding on a game might use a reliever longer than he should, knocking him out of action for other games, or he might bring an injured player back from the disabled list earlier than he should. Reinstating Rose sends a message that gambling is a tolerable offense. It would be the action of a leader who cares nothing for the welfare of the game, only his own image and wealth.

Expect Rose to be reinstated this spring.