Rose's past, flaws made MLB's decision easy
It is possible to be one of the greatest players in the history of baseball and still be a truly tragic figure.
That is Peter Edward Rose, better known as "Charlie Hustle." He is the game's all-time hits king. And he remains banished from baseball for life.
But Rose is not a victim. He did this to himself.
Commissioner Rob Manfred's decision to deny Rose's appeal of the ban was the only thing that could happen. Since Manfred has taken office, credible evidence has emerged that Rose not only bet on baseball as a manager, but also bet on baseball as a player.
Years pass -- 26 since Rose's lifetime banishment -- and somehow, his case for reinstatement becomes progressively worse.
In 1989, when then-Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti handed down the banishment, Rose was in the midst of an apparent contradiction. He denied betting on baseball. And yet he accepted a lifetime banishment for betting on baseball.
Rose's denials persisted for the next 15 years. They were oft-repeated. They were always vehement.
By 2004, there were numerous people telling Manfred's predecessor as Commissioner, Bud Selig, that Rose had served his time, that Rose, with his MLB-record 4,256 hits, should be allowed back into the game, and thus, presumably, into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, whose rules dictate that anyone on the banned list are ineligible for Hall of Fame candidacy. Selig was at least listening with an open mind to these arguments.
And then Rose's autobiography, "My Prison Without Bars," was published. Rose admitted in the book that he had bet on baseball. His approach to 15 years of falsehoods on this topic essentially came down to, "I lied; so what?"
The element of penitence, which would have been a prerequisite for reinstatement, was nowhere in evidence. The window of opportunity for Rose's return to the game was closed. And it was slammed shut by Pete Rose himself.
Eleven more years have passed. Rose is now 74. There is precious little evidence that he has gained a useful perspective on all of this, any of this.
In his decision on Rose's appeal, Commissioner Manfred wrote:
"Mr. Rose's public and private comments, including his initial admission in 2004, provide me with little confidence that he has a mature understanding of his own conduct, that he has accepted full responsibility for it, or that he understands the damage he has caused."
And then, Tuesday afternoon, you saw Pete Rose on television. His attorneys urged the Hall of Fame to change its rules so that Rose could be enshrined. There is virtually no chance of that happening.
Rose broke the one rule that can't be broken in baseball. This isn't like taking steroids. This isn't like taking amphetamines. The anti-gambling fixation is the legacy of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, otherwise known as the "Black Sox."
You remember Rose as a player; a bundle of intensity, of will, of determination, of fury, when it came to that. He was one of a kind, and his hit total proved it.
But then you saw him Tuesday, trying to plead a case that has been lost for years.
"I want baseball and Pete Rose to be friends," he said. "That's all I want."
Baseball tried that relationship. Pete Rose, either by compulsion or a belief that he was bigger than the game, or both, broke the most basic of rules. Now, his situation doesn't change, other than to become increasingly sad. Like the lifetime ban, his fundamental flaws remain.