ESPN's Keith Olbermann released a thoughtful and entertaining seven-minute commentary Monday about Pete Rose and his ban from MLB. The 25-year anniversary of Rose's banishment was Sunday, and that has brought a wave of Pete Rose talk back into the sports media mainstream recently.
Olbermann in particular put together a one-hour special called "Pete Rose: 25 Years in Exile." Since he's both an astute baseball fan and a man who knows a thing or two about second chances, Olbermann's perspective was interesting to hear.
Even though he once took a hardline stance against reinstating Rose, Olbermann said he's come around in recent years. Now he's in favor of allowing Rose back in MLB.
The recent PED controversies surrounding the game, Olbermann said, make Rose's misdoings look like "nickel and dime stuff." He said Rose's crime is "no longer a capital offense" and other players would have been forgiven by now:
"If anybody else of Pete Rose's stature had done what he did, there would have been severe punishment and eventual forgiveness. This is still not the America of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Black Sox. Say you're sorry and odds are awfully good that the rest of us will say 'Ahh, ok.' "
Olbermann went beyond just stating his case, though. In that way he's known for, Olbermann tried to expose Major League Baseball's hypocrisy too. And it all comes down to money.
The MLB All-Star Game is in Cincinnati next season and Bud Selig has already said Rose could participate in All-Star festivities. Olbermann suggests that a corporate sponsor could want to involve Rose. Then what would MLB do? Take the money? It's already happened once.
"What happened last time?" Olbermann said. "The 1999 All-Century Team event, sponsored by a credit card company with ballots at a chain of discount stores, and Pete Rose — officially banned from baseball, who once got the Reds organization in trouble just by going on the field of one of their minor league farm clubs — persona non grata, banned for life, Pete Rose was trotted out as if nothing had ever happened. Because the credit card company wanted the whole All-Century Team there. Even him."
Earlier that same season Rose wasn't allowed to participate in another All-Century Team event that didn't have a corporate sponsor. Which leads to Olbermann's conclusion:
"The hypocrisy about Pete Rose, baseball's hypocrisy, Bud Selig's hypocrisy is subtle but still shameful," Olbermann says. "Pete Rose's lifetime ban can be and has been turned on and off like a light switch. Just remember to bring enough cash."
Larry King, another famous baseball fan, agreed with Olbermann, for what that's worth.
Many fans won't, however. What to do about Pete Rose is as divisive as the designated hitter. People have their beliefs, they've had them for years and they're probably not going to change them. In that sense, Olbermann's about-face is something of a rarity.
The anti-Rose crowd will listen to Olbermann's commentary and argue that it's Rose's job to prove himself worthy of reinstatement regardless of what MLB is doing.
No matter what side you're on, it sure will be interesting to see how Rose figures into the 2015 All-Star plans. And, perhaps more importantly, where the money falls.
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