By Matthew Pertz, Contributing Writer
In 1989, baseball’s biggest hero and single-most accomplished player was banned for life in an unprecedented move by the MLB in response to an unprecedented crime from Cincinnati hometown hero Pete Rose (pictured above). An in-house investigation, conducted by former federal prosecutor John Dowd, revealed “extensive betting” by Rose on his own team during his days as the Cincinnati Reds’ manager. Gambling on one’s own club has been outlawed since the Black Sox scandal, with permanent banishment from the game of baseball as the only punishment. Last month, Rose went before MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in the hope that he could be reinstated.
Documents from the Dowd Report show that Rose bet on the Reds while managing the team. Rose has complete control of the team and its players, rotations and strategies, rendering it effortless for him to guarantee a Reds loss. In addition, ESPN uncovered in June that Rose also bet on baseball in his late days as a player, meaning that Rose could have been throwing games while simultaneously collecting bigger records and bigger paychecks.
For spectators, athletics provide an opportunity to gawk at those who were gifted with good bodies and untamable work ethic. For participants, sports are more than just a series of games; they’re a release from the natural world, a form of time consumption.
This being said, athletes have an obligation to bring entertainment value to the table whenever they compete, which each level of competition (high school, college, professional) requiring a higher obligation to this ideal – MLB players understand that they don’t need to play 162 games every year to determine the World Series champ; they compete for the look on kids’ faces when they see their favorite All- American slugger in person.
My biggest gripe with Rose is this: he put himself before those the community he was obligated to entertain. Pete Rose’s gambling is a reprehensible show of greed by a man who reached baseball’s summit and single-handedly drug himself down to a sigh-inducing state. I am far more likely to advocate for the forgiveness of steroid-enhanced stat hogs like Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds, because their version of cheating is still tied to a yearning to win and please fans. Their motives are arguably selfless in nature; Rose’s are not. He was driven by money and his own psychological crutch on risk, and as the losses began to mount, he dove deeper into a sea of red ink just to take one more chance at riches.
But is the punishment reasonable? The MLB rules make plain: “Any player, umpire, club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.” It’s simple: Rose placed his monetary interest in front of his occupational obligation to please the fans, and this is completely inexcusable.
It seems as though Pete Rose never understood his own position atop baseball history, for he held himself above the clearly outlined laws of his trade. Had he realized how truly lucky he was to be entertaining the masses for a living, perhaps he wouldn’t have let his dangerous addiction to risk take its toll on his life.