In the end, new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred did the right thing.
First, Manfred was nice enough to even allow Pete Rose to make a case for his reinstatement. Given the overwhelming evidence against Rose, MLB’s all-time hit king, some commissioners wouldn’t have even bothered.
Nonetheless, Manfred on Monday delivered the news that Rose and his fans didn’t want to hear: Rose’s lifetime ban stands.
Honestly, it was the only decision.
This wasn’t about forgive and forget. It’s about right and wrong.
Knowing the harsh penalty – a lifetime ban – Rose bet on the game when he was both a player and a manager. It’s the ultimate sin against the game. Rose thought he was bigger than the game but no one is.
When you gamble on the game, you mess with the integrity of the game. Once that is lost, you have no game.
That’s why when you walk into a MLB clubhouse you see a huge sign warning players against gambling.
The Black Sox scandal in 1919 almost killed baseball. Trust in the game eroded. Fans weren’t sure if what they were watching was real or fixed for gamblers. That’s why the sport refuses to go soft in situations like this and it only makes sense.
Some thought MLB was softening on Rose because of what they did for him this past summer.
In a way, it was good that MLB looked the other way for a night. Instead of playing hardball, they let Rose take part in the All-Star Game in Cincinnati, the place he was born and the place that always loved him despite his betrayal of the game.
Baseball could have easily said no to Rose, even on this special occasion at Great American Ballpark. After all, the sport had basically been doing that for more than two decades after Rose accepted a lifetime ban for gambling on sport in 1989.
Instead, in middle America, Baseball finally allowed Rose to take a bow.
It was a nice, feel-good story. It’s one Rose will always remember and cherish, especially if he fails to ever be elected into the Hall of Fame.
But the home-cooking response he got that night didn’t erase a thing. Sure, it made Rose – a man getting older and older – feel loved, not the outcast some view him as.
Indeed, it was a moment, not a mandate.
Baseball, showing a human touch, bent the rules to fuel its online idea of fans picking the best four players in a team’s history. Rose was allowed to participate after he was voted in the “Franchise Four” for the Cincinnati Reds.
While the other 29 clubs had their selections presented on the video screen before the All-Star Game broadcast on Fox, the Reds’ team was announced on the field. First, Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench was named. There was a roar. Then Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin was announced. There was another roar. Next Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan emerged and received his roar.
Then came Rose, the man with the most hits ever in baseball – 4,256, to be exact – the only man standing in front of the mound that wasn’t inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
It didn’t matter to the fans there that night. They cheered. They roared. They continued to shower Rose with the love and admiration that was missing since his name turned to mud.
Rose, 74, admitted afterward that he got emotional during the brief ceremony. “You know, I’ve been going through this love affair for 30 years; the fans are great,” said Rose to reporters. “I am glad I didn’t go first.”
Even fans who don’t like Rose would have been hard-pressed to admit that Rose wasn’t still beloved there. It was a moment suitable for framing.
It’s not like they erased him from the game’s history. His achievements and memorabilia are all over Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Plus, there’s no asterisk next to his body of work.
It’s clear. Rose was a great player who made a terrible mistake. He shouldn’t be honored in a ceremony in Cooperstown. That’s his punishment.
Rightfully so, Manfred agrees.