The People's Voice, Charlie Hustler edition

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

Pete Rose dominated the feedback this week. Despite reports that fan support of Rose has dropped, I estimate that 80 percent of the more than 1,000 emails I received on the subject supported him. Obviously it is not scientific, but I'm not sure any opinion polls are.

We have a new feedback page that asks for your hometown, which is good. But unless you live in a major city, please add a state. Chicago or Los Angeles we can figure out. Jonesville, Springfield or Hopedale, we don't know.

My comments, as always, appear in italics. Now on to The People's Voice. ...

PETE ROSE (Jan. 8: "Why Rose sounds like a Hall of Famer")

At last, a tell-it-like-it-is commentary on the Pete Rose farce. The holier-than-thou so-called purists find it convenient to overlook the sins of many while upholding the "integrity of baseball." Pete has paid the price for his stupid, greedy acts and now he should be recognized for his accomplishments on the field.

Nick Rayes
Phoenix, Ariz.

Sorry Dan, can't agree with your point on gambling and Rose. Gambling has been, and is, the equivalent of a capital offense in baseball. The players union has not fought it. ... Rose, as manager, gambled on his team. It can get no worse than that.

Steroids, drunks, bad guys [all] give the game a bad name but at present are not, regretfully, acknowledged by players, unions and owners as unforgivable. Gambling is ... the kiss of death. Steroids may (and should) reach that level someday but there is no equivocation for gambling.

Paul Haller
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Just because baseball won't take steroid abuse seriously doesn't mean it isn't a serious problem. Baseball's lack of concern here is what, to me, ends the argument that it is fit to establish rules and define integrity. We have players dying while on ephedra and baseball (unlike other sports) won't ban it. We have players who look like Schwarzenegger in "Pumping Iron," who you have to intentionally walk or they hit it into the Pacific Ocean. Yet baseball won't test for steroids. Because of what baseball doesn't consider wrong, I have no concern about what it does.

Great column! But you could have added one little fact. All of the other men who have been banned from baseball have been banned because they either threw games or conspired to throw games, not for gambling. Check the record.

When Judge Landis banned the Black Sox, it was because they conspired with gamblers to throw ball games, not because they gambled. Why does everybody miss that? Bart Giamatti missed that. I know it says in the standard major league player's contract "thou shalt not gamble on baseball," or words to that effect, but it doesn't say if you do gamble on baseball that you will be banned for life.

I am a sports historian and have had 35 books published, one of them about Pete Rose ("Dear Pete: The Life of Pete Rose") that I am credited with editing although I actually wrote it for the lady who was his fan mail secretary.

Larry Names
Neshkoro, Wisc.

I love the game of baseball, but major league baseball has become a joke. I agree with what you wrote, but you should have added that the very commissioner who controls Pete's fate "sinned" when he borrowed $3 million from Carl Pohlad. To me, that is a [violation of an] extremely important rule intended to keep one owner from having undue influence over another (and he was the acting commissioner too!). How's that for integrity? ...

I believe Pete's popularity is based on the fact that people do not like hypocrites. What Pete has done has not touched the "integrity" of the game like the abundant use of performance enhancing drugs.

Darren Magness
Menifee, Calif.

Has womanizing, cussing, drinking, corking bats, wiping snot on the baseball or juicing destroyed the game? No. ... But gambling has. I don't care if Charlie Hustle (and how should we interpret that nickname now, eh?) had 10,000 hits; it does not erase the specter of a player or manager under the direction of a bookie possibly tampering with games a la 1919. Pete Rose belongs in the record books. But he has no place in the Hall of Fame.

Ross Knudsen
Star, Idaho

Interesting story, Dan. The difference between all those transgressions – spitters, steroids, etc. – and gambling is that gambling threatens the very outcome of the games we watch. Throwing spitters or using performance enhancers is not kosher, but at least they're doing it on behalf of their team.

The danger with gambling is that the gambler/player may lose money and be tempted to settle bets by throwing the game. Thus, the INTEGRITY of the game is at stake. We watch games because the contests are genuine and the outcome is unknowable by anyone – unlike pro wrestling. If players gamble, all that changes.

Philip Huang
Irvine, Calif.

A gambling debt is not the only way to blackmail an athlete into throwing a game. If you were the person who supplied steroids to a player and threatened to go public with that information, you could get the player to do just about anything to stop it. Like: throw a game. The same goes for exposure of drug use, marital infidelity or other potentially embarrassing information. It all threatens the integrity of the game.

Excellent article. The theme of your thoughts [is] the ticket for Rose to get into the Hall. Keep writing!

Tim Streit
Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia

Let's not forget the art of stealing signs and the teams that have stationed someone in the center field area to relay the catcher's signs to the hitter. Let's also not forget men like Cap Anson who kept black players out of the major leagues until 1947. A Hall of Famer no one is concerned with.

Bill Levy
Albany, N.Y.

I am inclined to think that Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame for what he did on the field. However, isn't gambling an "unpardonable sin" in baseball because baseball was almost destroyed by the Black Sox scandal of 1919? We lose historical perspective when we start talking about whether Rose's sins were worse than anybody else's.

BTW I laughed out loud at your "Risk" comment.

Brian Small
Saylorsburg, Pa.

Your article about Rose made me laugh so hard that milk came out of my nose – and I wasn't even drinking milk.

Jay Bartelt
Chicago, Ill.

Your article on grandstanding on Pete Rose was great. I myself was one of the righteous finger-pointers until I read and laughed through your article. Now I don't know what to think. It IS a game, not communion.

Rich Yacuk
Dover, N.J.

Pete Rose got what he wanted; he should take responsibility for his actions. If baseball wants the fans to continue to support baseball then DON"T reinstate Pete the Cheater Rose. I attend 25 to 30 games a year. I will never attend another game nor will I ever listen to a broadcast or telecast if the commissioner reverses this [position].

Henry P. O'Hagan
Concord, Calif.

Right on concerning your comments concerning baseball's lack of integrity. The Guatemalan contingent of your audience agrees wholeheartedly with your assessment.

I used to play Risk and I never thought to palm armies onto a territory. I hope you apologized to Sarah.

Andrew Smith
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

"Any player, umpire, or 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."

– Major League Rule 21

What is it about the above rule that you and your baseball-writing brethren don't understand? There isn't any room for reinstatement. The Pete Rose issue is over. Let's move on.

John Sinclair
New York, N.Y.

It's the hypocrisy of what doesn't carry such a strong punishment also that bothers me.

Your comments about Pete Rose hit a home run with me. Most of our sports teams and the games themselves take themselves way too seriously. Sinning against a baseball game is a contradiction in terms. Baseball is a good game and "Field of Dreams" is a good movie but unfortunately neither have any relationship to real life.

John DeBrular
Washington, W.V.

Am I the only person who sees the irony of Pete Rose getting banished from baseball for gambling, yet you can't hear a Mets or Yankees [game] without hearing numerous ads for local casinos in New Jersey and Connecticut?

How can you pretend to have integrity against gambling if you're endorsing checks from their industry? It's just like Congress people chiding Enron executives in public, and then cashing their checks to go towards their re-election campaigns.

Chuck Burton
Langhorne, Pa.

I have long thought that what Rose did was no big deal (that is, the non-illegal parts of it), and that the whole "integrity of the game" issue was silly. However, you've put it the best I've seen. In fact, your analysis is, in my view, the last word on the subject.

Especially your comment on Selig. What a joke that was! The legislator who switched his vote in order to get the stadium built paid for it with his job, as he should have. Integrity of the game indeed.

Pete in the Hall now. Otherwise, cull the Hall of any participant with any black mark on his record as to his character. It would be a mighty lonely Hall.

Ed Falkner
Appleton, Wisc.

Best article ever written about this whole Pete Rose debacle. And yes, I'd bet my house. But I'm betting that Bonds doesn't pass the drug test.

Mark Shetley
Sacramento, Calif.

CONFIDENT COACHES (Jan. 11: "Belichick is the Patriots' confidence man")

The two coaches pulled more dumb plays at the end of the [St. Louis] game than any game I have ever watched. They both should have lost the game and if I were the general manager of either team ... I would fire them both.

Ken Boward
Port Richey, Fla.

Good point about Mike Martz, however I can't overlook the poor play of Lovie Smith's defense. We have four first round draft picks on the D-line and we still can't stop the run. Jimmy Kennedy was inactive for the game and didn't contribute all year. Jason Sehorn has been a major bust. The Rams will be lucky to go 10-6 next year.

Gene Poisson
St. Louis, Mo.

Classic Monday morning quarterbacking. Should the Rams have won and the Patriots lost, folks would be praising Martz for his sound, conservative call ... and criticizing Belichick for a risky call that backfired. It's easy to analyze and critique an outcome of a close game, with many keys plays throughout, when one puts forth amateurish comments predicated upon the final score of the game.

Gary Altfillisch
Albert Lea, Minn.

In general I'm not a second guesser of coach's decisions because sometimes I think they know something about the mental state of their players that we don't. However, Martz's decision was a no-brainer. For one thing he had 'mo' on his side. He completely deflated his team. Furthermore, he could have lost the coin toss and never touched the ball. If this were the college rules then maybe he had an argument. Dumb move.

Ross Montelbano
Shreveport, La.

I'm not normally a second-guess guy either because one play does not decide a 60 minute football game and it is obvious these men know more about coaching football than I do. But I do think that the contrast between Martz and Belichick was noteworthy. In the St. Louis game with the timeout available I would have at least tried a safe screen or draw to Marshall Faulk and let him try to make something happen.

Ray Sherman's decision to punt the ball away late in the fourth quarter when facing a fourth and one at the Eagle 40 illustrates further the points you make in your article.

It may have been even less than a yard. I the Packers (who were running effectively with Ahman Green) pick that up, it's game over right there.

As it was, their punt netted them 20 yards and the Eagles were able to drive for the tying field goal anyway. I really thought the risk outweighed the downside in that spot and was shocked that Sherman didn't go for the kill. (This is the same guy who talks about raising your level of aggressiveness during the playoffs.)

John Fitzpatrick
Delray Beach, Fla.

I give Sherman a pass because he had a tenuous three-point lead, was on the road, field position was a concern and the Pack already had been stuffed on a fourth and goal earlier in the game. Kicking was the safe, but I think smart play. Martz's move was far too cautious.

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