For Pete Rose, There's No Such Thing as the "Right Time" for Reinstatement

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For Pete Rose, There's No Such Thing as the
(Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

It’s that time of year again. Boy, I say that a lot.

A couple of players get inducted into the Hall of Fame; Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy don’t because they played one era before their accomplishments were rendered obsolete; ESPN speculates on who will get in next year; someone mentions that Pete Rose should be reinstated.

Reinstatement? Really? For Rose? Pete Rose?

You must be higher than Ricky Williams in Amsterdam.

Yet according to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, Bud Selig is considering reinstating Rose after hearing that some of his fellow legendary (but not Hall of Fame) brethren wish to see him forgiven.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the late Bart Giamatti’s lifetime ban of baseball’s hit king, it seems fitting that baseball revisit whether Rose should be reinstated.

On Aug. 24, 1989, Giamatti ended Rose’s association with Major League Baseball with one decision after evidence that Rose bet on baseball games—including, as Rose would later admit, games he was a part of—surfaced.

Sadly and completely unrelated, eight days later, Giamatti died of a heart attack.

But before he left us, Giamatti made clear what he thought.

“The banishment for life of Pete Rose from baseball is a sad end of a sorry episode,” Giamatti said in a television interview.

“One of the game’s greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game, and he must now live with the consequences of those acts.

“There is absolutely no deal for reinstatement.”

Those harsh, just words live on, at least for the time being.

Even if Rose did not ever bet against himself; even if he never tried to throw a game or ground into an inning-ending double play or put the wrong relief pitcher in when he was a manager; even if the evidence and his belated confession were wrong and he only bet on baseball once, and it was in a game that did not involve him at all, Pete Rose should never be reinstated. Period. End of discussion.

Why is this even under consideration?

Pete Rose, somewhere between accumulating 4,256 hits and 417 wins as the Cincinnati Reds manager and, for a few years, player-manager, committed one of baseball’s two mortal sins. And in committing that one, he made possible committing the other.

Rose, to steal a previously used saying, “engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game.”

A variety. That stained.

To steal more verbiage, the result was a “banishment for life” that brought forward a “sad end.”

The end, as in over, done with, not to be continued or altered ever again.

Seems pretty ironclad to me.

But even in comparison, at least what Mark McGwire did was legal, and it doesn’t look like he will be forgiven anytime soon.

Yet more than anything, or at least anything other than throwing a game, betting on baseball is the sport’s number one sin. It’s unforgivable.

Take, for instance, William Cox.

In 1943, he bought the Philadelphia Phillies, baseball’s worst franchise.

A sprightly 33-year-old businessman, Cox was always up for a little fun.

So what better to do than to bet on the games for a little added excitement?

By the end of the year, he was banned for life and forced to relinquish the team, even though he had apologized and repented for his sin against the sport.

No avail.

Forty-six years later, Cox died.

What push has there been to get him reinstated?

Exactly.

Yet we think Pete Rose has served his time.

Cox bet on baseball, admitted it immediately, and apologized. It has been 66 years, and he’s still as missing as Jesse Orosco’s Astrodome glove.

Rose bet on baseball, vehemently denied it—correction, lied that he did not—waited 15 years, and then apologized. Yet he continues to stay like a mother-in-law, as Michael Wrona would say.

And five years since his confession is enough time to forgive him?

I think not.

It’s not like Pete Rose took steroids while they were legal to gain an edge; it’s not like Pete Rose refused to sign black players during the 1950s while the nation was still divided on racial lines; it’s not like Pete Rose snorted crack every day.

For the rest of this article, I am using both his first and last name so there is no chance you slip off and think I’m talking about someone other than Pete Rose.

Pete Rose bet on baseball—Pete Rose broke the cardinal sin of his profession.

If you give company secrets to your main rival, do you think, even after 20 years, your old boss would bring you back?

Please. Let’s get real for a second.

Pete Rose, the Pete Rose, bet on baseball in games he managed and in games that he could control.

And Pete Rose, the Pete Rose, was banned from baseball. Banned from managing. Banned from having any influence or association with the sport he dominated for two decades.

And rightly so.

I don’t care what Henry Aaron has to say; I don’t care that Henry Aaron thinks that Pete Rose deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame right alongside Henry Aaron and Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice and Joe Gordon.

Just because Henry Aaron says something does not mean he is correct.

No, Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame as much as you do. As much as I do.

Every on-field accomplishment, every dugout accomplishment, does not exist—at least not anymore.

Pete Rose committed his sport’s mortal sin, and Pete Rose was forced to pay. No amount of time can undo that.

Not 20 years, not 66 years, not 1,000 years.

Over time, we grow to forgive people for what they did.

We forgave Tom Yawkey for keeping the Red Sox segregated until the end of baseball’s Golden Era because in those days, it wasn’t abnormal.

We’ll eventually forgive Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Jason Giambi—and any other star you name—for taking steroids.

Even baseball has forgiven before, such as when it reinstated Ferguson Jenkins a year after it banned him for repeated drug offenses.

But there are two things baseball never forgives: throwing games and betting on games.

Never.

Those two sins can never be forgiven.

Not after 20 years, not after 66 years, not after 1,000 years.

If Bud Selig reinstates Pete Rose, even if Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Buddha, and Zoroaster themselves come back and ask Selig to do so, Selig has tarnished the game.

No, wait—that’s not the right word choice.

Selig would have stained the game.

Just like the variety of acts he committed over the 17 years prior.

Sound familiar?

I don’t care who says what; Pete Rose has gotten what he deserves. Any change to his punishment of “banishment for life” would kill one of the last impressions of the late Bart Giamatti.

Selig, for the sanctity of your sport, let Giamatti’s words live. Let them live for eternity, and don’t reinstate Pete Rose.

Don’t reinstate him ever.

No matter how sorry he is—no matter how much he has changed—Pete Rose does not deserve a second chance.

He’ll never deserve it.

Not in 20 years, not in 66 years, not in 1,000 years.

And that is exactly how it is meant to be.

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