Nothing comes close to gambling as the scourge of competitive sports, no ifs, ands, buts or maybes
In a new biography titled: Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, author Kostya Kennedy and Rose make the case that gambling on baseball is less of a crime than the use of PEDs. They’re wrong.
Gambling is the number one crime in baseball. It has been since the Black Sox scandal in 1919 when eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. All eight were banned from baseball for life, despite being acquitted in a court of law. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis knew that gambling by anyone associated with baseball could erode faith in the integrity of the game, something that the sport – any sport – could not abide. Absent the element of competition – where fans know every player is trying his or her best to win – sport is reduced to mere entertainment, nothing more than a movie, professional wrestling or Chris Berman yukking it up on SportsCenter.
Rose, understandably, doesn’t see it that way. He justifies his position by claiming that a) PED users negatively impact baseball statistics, something that is sacrosanct to the sport, and b) he always bet on his team to win. With regard to his first argument, baseball’s statistics are no more constant than ballpark dimensions. Other than the distance between the bases, no two ballparks are the same, which means we can’t compare statistics from one ballpark to the next, let alone across eras. The dead ball era and the steroid era have as much in common as baseball and cricket. Each should be evaluated – and appreciated – separately.
As for his second argument, even if true – and anyone who believes Rose on this issue still thinks the earth is flat – it doesn’t eliminate the risks associated with betting. What about the games Rose didn’t bet on? If you knew which ones they were, would you be more inclined to bet on his team to lose? In addition, there exists the potential that Rose would overuse a player – a pitcher in particular – to win a game (a bet) at the risk of sacrificing that individual, and his team’s fortunes, in the long run. Furthermore, if Rose got in over his head with gambling debts, who’s to say he wouldn’t have succumbed to threats from bookies or other criminals and thrown a game to settle the score?
A key bit of history that Rose has always chosen to ignore is that he wasn’t banned from baseball. He agreed to a lifetime ban in exchange for a promise from MLB to cease its investigation into his gambling habits. What was he afraid of – that MLB would find out he bet on football?
Rose has been lobbying to get back in baseball since the day he agreed to his banishment. That day should never come. Major League Rule 21 was adopted in 1927 and since then has been posted in every professional baseball clubhouse and acknowledged annually in writing by every MLB and MiLB player. The rule states that the punishment for betting on a baseball game in which you have a duty to perform, is a lifetime ban from the sport. Rose got what he earned and what he deserved.
While Rose has forfeited the right to ever wear a Major League uniform, Kennedy claims that Rose’s eligibility for the Hall of Fame should be reconsidered. On that count he’s right. Banishment from the game and eligibility for election to the Hall should be separate and distinct issues. The former relates to the harm visited on the game, the latter to one’s performance on the field of play. There’s only one problem with Kennedy’s position.
The Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame established the rules under which members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) vote on election to the Hall. Rule 3E states that “Any player on Baseball’s ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate.” Only the Board can alter or amend the voting rules and until they do, Rose’s name will never appear on the election ballot.
Nothing comes close to gambling as the scourge of competitive sports, no ifs, ands, buts or maybes. If Rose has a beef with his predicament, he should take it up with the person he sees in the mirror: Himself.
Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is a Professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.© Copyright 2014 Tanna Bk, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed