Baseball won’t ever pardon Pete Rose, not formally from its office above Park Avenue, and certainly not in time for him to glory in the absolution. He is 74 years old, which means, among other things, he won’t see many more commissioners, hardline or otherwise. The current commissioner, Rob Manfred, said Monday he had rejected Pete’s application for reinstatement. There’ll be no more talk of clemency for a long time, if ever again. Pete’s on one hell of a losing streak.
If the end game is a bust in the Hall of Fame, and it likely is, then Pete can hold to that hope and know he stands with the majority. So far that has gotten him a card table on Main Street in Cooperstown and a few uncounted write-in votes.
Over 10 legal-sounding paragraphs, Manfred basically said he did not believe Pete. He did not believe Pete’s account of what happened 30 years ago, nor did he believe Pete had since cleaned up the little life areas that required a good bleaching, nor did he believe Pete was a reasonable risk going forward. The cycle of nuh-uh. If anything, the evidence against Pete and against his case for reinstatement have grown, a bad trend for Pete.
It was the proper decision. The only decision. The game must be better than that, even if it isn’t always. Most of all, Pete had to be better than that and, man, did we root for him to get there. I assume he wanted to be better than that, too, except not enough for him to change, or perhaps to even try to change, and maybe not enough to understand why he must. This, for me, is where it becomes so terribly sad. Because I’m not sure Pete ever got it. I’m not sure he was capable of getting it.
I’ll stop short of calling him a victim here, though part of what Manfred considered was a report from a man who is co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program and director of the school’s Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship. Since the report was offered on Pete’s behalf, I assume it attempted an explanation of Pete’s behavior if not a rationalization. That was dismissed by the commissioner, because, he said in his findings, “The factual background recited in it is inconsistent with what Mr. Rose told me during our meeting.”
A mess. Just a mess. Going on three decades later, Pete still can’t get his story straight, probably because it depends on the day and who’s asking and what he stands to gain from the answer. The notions of responsibility and accountability – even honesty, it would seem – continue to elude Pete, which is where this all started back in the mid-’80s, when it was to him a fine idea to hook up with his bookie every day.
These are the consequences, then. For 30 years, nothing but consequences. MLB asked him to alter the parts of his life that left him on the outside of the game. He didn’t. Or couldn’t. MLB required him to come clean. Same result. Does this sound like a man who really wanted to return to baseball? Does this sound like a man who comprehended what’s been going on for the past three decades?
“Mr. Rose’s public and private comments, including his initial admission in 2004, provide me,” Manfred wrote, “with little confidence that he has a mature understanding of his wrongful conduct, that he has accepted full responsibility for it, or that he understands the damage he has caused.”
So that’s that. What’s left is to wish the best for Pete. This news, self-inflicted though it may be, undoubtedly is hard on him. The commissioner was kind enough to separate his decision from whatever may come of Pete’s Hall of Fame candidacy, or at least clarify again that Pete’s eligible as far as he’s concerned. We’ll see. That’s what’s left for Pete, whose uphill battle would be a tragedy if he weren’t the one throwing spades of dirt in his own path.
In the end, it’s probably a little late for Pete to grasp how this happened, how he ended up here, how his life’s work can land in 10 paragraphs headed, “Office of the Commissioner, Major League Baseball,” followed by, “In The Matter of: Peter Edward Rose.”
He’s an old man who deserved better. It’s too bad it might not have occurred to him before now.