Thursday, December 24, 2015

Latest commissioner ignores Bart Giamatti’s Pete Rose directive

By Steve Kallas (posted by Rick Morris)

Last week, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred gave ESPN an interview on his thought process behind his denial of Pete Rose’s request to be removed from the permanently ineligible list.

Certainly, with a well-written opinion and a well thought-out interview, Manfred painted the picture that Rose had not “reconfigured his life.”  The question, from T.J. Quinn, was asked of Manfred this way:  “The standard, ever since Bart Giamatti signed that agreement, through Fay Vincent, Bud Selig, has been, he had to reconfigure his life.  What did that mean to you?”


But that is definitely the WRONG question to ask about the possible induction (or, at least, eligibility) of Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame.  Here’s why:

When Pete Rose was banned for life in 1989, Commissioner Bart Giamatti was asked, point blank, whether his banned for life status would have any bearing on his (eventual) Hall of Fame candidacy.  Giamatti would have none of it, saying: “You [referring to the baseball writers who vote for the Hall of Fame] will decide whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”

While Rose wouldn’t be eligible to the Hall of Fame for another two years (five years after retirement), unfortunately Bart Giamatti died a few days later, paving the way for a “sham” committee to eventually pass the “Pete Rose” rule, and paving the way for Fay Vincent, Bud Selig, and now Rob Manfred, to ignore the directive of Bart Giamatti.

Up is down, down is up.  How could this happen?


Kostya Kennedy, in his fine book, “Pete Rose: An American Dilemma,” goes into detail about the “sham” process that eventually would not allow Rose to be considered for the Hall of Fame (remember, up until this meeting in 1991 when the Pete Rose rule was passed, Shoeless Joe Jackson was eligible to get into the Hall of Fame and did receive some votes for the Hall).

Kennedy goes into great detail in Chapter 17 of his book as to what a joke the meeting was (it took place in a New York City hotel on January 10, 1991 – Rose would have been eligible for consideration later in 1991).  According to the Kennedy book, not only was it a done deal that this “special committee” was going to bar Rose from getting into the Hall, but also there was an overwhelming majority of the 10-member committee who simply would agree with the proposal of the rule to eliminate all people on the permanently ineligible list from being considered for the Hall.

Kennedy makes a compelling case that Lee MacPhail, former American League President and influential in baseball circles, was the ringleader in keeping Rose out.  According to Kennedy, it was MacPhail who made the motion, actually saying that he was “very concerned” that Rose might be inducted.  MacPhail proposed language that was eventually slightly changed but passed: “Persons on the ineligible list cannot be eligible candidates.”

Two famous baseball writers, Jack Lang and Phil Pepe, were on the committee and strongly disagreed with the notion of removing the writer’s authority to let them vote on Pete Rose (apparently there is no record of whether Bart Giamatti’s explicit direction, that the Pete Rose ban would not have anything to do with whether he makes the Hall of Fame, was discussed).

Hall of Fame writer Lang, discussing the committee process, said: “It was a sham, from start to finish.”


Another question asked of Manfred is a perfectly good one (paraphrasing here): How can PED guys get back on the field when Pete Rose can’t?  Manfred’s answer is fascinating: after stating that gambling goes to the integrity of the game (what?  PEDs don’t?) and the public’s confidence in the game (what? PEDs don’t?), here’s what the commissioner of baseball said: “[T]he fact of the matter is, it [PED usage] does not create a suggestion that somebody’s not trying to win the game.  As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite.  They’re trying too hard to win the game.”

Yikes!  Does anybody thing that Pete Rose wasn’t trying to win the game?  Do you think that any PED user wanted to win more than Pete Rose?  Like him or not, here’s a man with more competitive drive and will to win than, arguably, anybody who has ever played the game.

Once again, people don’t understand the difference (and it’s a big one) from betting on your team to win and betting on your team to lose. It’s gigantic and should result in different penalties under Rule 21(d). 


Rob Manfred actually dodged the Hall of Fame question by saying it’s not for him to decide (hard to believe that Bart Giamatti would have seen it this way).  Rather, he said, it’s up to the Hall of Fame.  Jeff Idelson, head of the Hall of Fame and a well-respected and intelligent man, said he saw no reason to change the rule as it presently is (that is, ineligibility for Rose and all others, including Shoeless Joe).

But maybe someone can send Idelson a copy of Kennedy’s book (discussing, at length, the sham process) and tell him about Bart Giamatti’s directive on the day Pete Rose was banished for life.

Maybe he will see the light.

But don’t bet on it (no pun intended).


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