“I’m sorry I bet on baseball.” He has said it so many times that you can buy an autographed ball with that exact phrase written on it. It’s been almost 30 years since he was banned from the league for life; prohibited from induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It took until last year for him to even be honored by the Cincinnati Reds – the team for which he played for 19 years. Now, with the MLB is embracing betting on baseball, it is time for MLB to grant the great Pete Rose his long overdue plaque in Cooperstown.
Rose ended his historic MLB career with more hits (4,256) than anyone in the history of the game. Granted, the now 77-year-old played in more games (3,562) and came to the plate (15,890) more times than anyone in his 24-year career that took him through age-45. In the history of the game, there have been 19,429 players who have stepped on the dirt of a big league field. None have obtained as many hits as Pete Rose.
Okay, where am I going with this? Of course, Rose’s numbers put him in the Hall. He’s in on the first ballot without a doubt. But, he was banned from baseball for a reason. He broke the rules. Since the infamous “Black Sox” scandal, baseball has been more strict about gambling that any other league. He knows it is illegal and should only gamble with some great online gambling sites for some casino games, not in tournaments, especially in big tournaments. Rose knew what he was doing. Why should his punishment be changed?
In May, the Supreme Court came to a historic decision giving the states the option to legalize sports betting. Since, eight states have full-scale legal sports betting, with New York and Arkansas recently passing bills, now people in those states can freely enjoy these games. The question instantly arose, “how will pro sports respond?” First, it was the NBA. In July, MGM Casinos announced it will be the official sports betting partner of basketball. Then, came the NHL, who made a deal with the same exact casino. What everyone was waiting for, was the decision from MLB. The league that has been so strict against sports betting for a century. Surely, they couldn’t make a deal, right?
On Nov. 27, Commissioner Rob Manfred released a press release announcing that Major League Baseball had partnered with – who else? – MGM Casinos, as their official sports betting partner. The same conduct that resulted in a lifetime ban of one of the game’s best players, is now not only being allowed, but encouraged, by the exact league that imposed the “death penalty” against Rose.
Now, of course, you’re saying, “That’s not the same. Rose was a manager who had an effect on the game, nothing has changed there.” Great point. The rule that he broke is still in place. No players, no coaches, and no staff of the team can place bets on the game of baseball. That’s not the point. He broke the rules. Without a doubt. What he did, should not be allowed. But the MLB is now embracing betting. The league decided that, now that it is legal in the US, and they can make money off, they will milk all they can out of it.
Rightfully so. Baseball is a business. They are just doing whatever they can to make money. Manfred just signed a five-year extension to remain commissioner through 2024. Many fans were left wondering why? The sixty-year-old, Harvard law graduate has not been the most popular commissioner for fans. His talk of changes in the pace of play and radical ideas such as robot umpires have been very unpopular among many fans. If it were up to them, MLB would search for a different leader. But, it’s not, it’s up to the guys who’s number-one goal is to make money, and Manfred has done that. The MLB has set a record for industry revenues every single year since Manfred took over, including revenues exceeding $10-billion last season. From a business perspective, MLB is better now that it ever was, and Manfred has some responsibility for that. So, when baseball announced a big, money-making deal with MGM, of course, it’s going to be greeted well.
The majors are officially embracing betting on baseball. They’re making it easy for fans to place bets, and they are going to make millions off of it. Now, of course, members of the organization should not be allowed to gamble on the games they are participating in, but MLB is embracing it for fans, so is it really fair for the most significant punishment of all-time to have been based around something that you can now go to a ballpark and do?
Not only is the league making a push for sports betting, but the offense Rose was banned for life for is even more ridiculous than it sounds. When a boxer takes a fall, he intentionally swayed the results because he, or whoever made him do it, bet against that boxer. Rose never once, bet against his team. He was a gambler, for sure. But he didn’t yank a pitcher because he wants to lose the game. If anything, it made him want to win more.
There is so much controversy around sports right now. From Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens vying for a spot in the Hall in baseball to accused domestic abusers getting second-second chances in the NFL. The fact that Pete Rose is one of the few men to ever be banned from the sport for life, all for something as stupid as gambling when he was a manager, is ludicrous.
Rose is not the most popular guy amongst MLB writers, but he played a dominant 24-year career. He was never associated with PED use and played his heart out every single time on the field. Rose made a huge mistake, but at a time that we are forgiving players for much worse offenses, it’s time to forgive Pete Rose before it’s too late.