Dan Shaughnessy

Rose still doesn't get it

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / January 7, 2004

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Here's the deal: When the ground ball trickles between the legs of the first baseman -- allowing the winning run to cross the plate in a World Series game -- absolutely no one wonders whether the game is on the level. There's no wild speculation that the fix is in. It's just an error, a physical mistake made by a human being.

And that's why Pete Rose has a long way to go before he'll be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame. And that's why he won't get my vote. And that's why he should never be allowed near a big league ballpark without buying a ticket.

Gambling almost killed baseball in 1919 when members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the World Series. That's why the rules are so strong about betting. That's why, in the eyes of Cooperstown and in dugouts everywhere, betting on baseball is a capital offense. It's a crime against the game.

Rose still doesn't understand this. Great as he was on the field, as much passion as he has for the sport, it's always about Pete, never about baseball. He has finally 'fessed up after lying to us for 14 years (making stooges out of the millions who believed him), but there's no evidence of contrition. There's no demonstration that he loves baseball more than he loves gambling, more than he loves money.

The motivation for his admission is obvious: He wants to make money. He has 500,000 books waiting to be bought. Rose needed a good hook to command that kind of press run. Admitting he bet was certain to capture our attention. Distasteful as this is, the timing is even worse. Making a splash this week guaranteed Rose ultimate exposure because yesterday was the day the newest Hall of Fame inductees were announced. Nice of Pete to upstage brothers Eckersley and Molitor.

This is where the whole thing might blow up in Rose's face. A lot of people, including his diamond brethren, are offended by the manner in which this has been handled. Forgiving the original sin is one thing, but the ballplayers are savvy enough to see that Rose is trying to profit from his crimes while bowling over Messrs. Eckersley and Molitor as if they were Ray Fosse blocking the plate in the All-Star Game.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has some tough decisions (poor Bud; it can't be easy being commish while still running the Brewers and practically running the Red Sox, all at the same time). He has to decide whether to reinstate Rose from the ineligible list. This would qualify him for the Hall ballot and leave it up to sportswriters to pass judgment on his Cooperstown worthiness. My guess is that Selig will put Rose on probation before putting him on the ballot. Truly, Rose must show us that he knows it's wrong to bet on baseball. He must go on tour, telling kids not to be like him. Not likely.

We are a people of forgiveness and my guess is that Rose eventually will get his plaque in the Hall of Fame. If Selig reinstates him, Rose has two years on the ballot before his candidacy is turned over to the Veterans Committee. He probably has a better chance with the writers. Just not this writer. The Veterans Committee, which includes all living Hall of Famers, probably will be tougher to crack especially given the manner in which Rose decided to confess.

Selig is going to have to decide whether Rose can ever again work in baseball. In addition to selling books, Rose's confession is designed to get him back into the dugout where he hopes to command a half-million a year or more. A desperate franchise (the Reds and their gullible public are always candidates) no doubt would hire Rose to sell tickets. It can't happen. A guy who bets on baseball while he's managing a major league team forever forfeits his right to work again in professional baseball. It all goes back to the grounder between the wickets. Easy, Bud. Just say no.

Oh, and could we please not have any ignorant remarks about it being OK to bet as long as you bet on your own team? If you are manager of the Reds and you bet on your own team Friday and Sunday, what are you saying about Saturday? You are saying that Saturday's game doesn't matter. Don't bother using your best closer Saturday, right? Friday and Sunday are the ones that matter. Imagine being the parent of a Reds pitcher when Rose was betting on games. You could check the betting slips to see if your son was used in the games Rose needed to win, or whether he was a mop-up guy in the ones that didn't matter. And what if Rose left him on the mound for a couple of extra innings -- putting his interests ahead of the pitcher's? This is why baseball needs zero tolerance when it comes to betting on the game.

In his book -- Rose's latest version of the truth -- he still contends that the punishment didn't fit the crime . . . in my mind, I wasn't corrupt. This means Rose still has no clue about his sins against baseball. He still doesn't think it's that bad. And it's obvious he's addicted. What would stop him from betting on baseball again?

There are some stories that never have good days, never have happy endings. This appears to be one of them. Rose's admission that he has been lying doesn't make anyone feel better. And there's no happy ending in sight.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is