Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pants on fire

 Now we know there are things Pete Rose cannot hit, even if a baseball isn't one of them.

The man hit a baseball safely 4,192 times in his career. He can't hit the truth even once, apparently.

This upon the news that not even when he supposedly came clean in 2004, hoping that would pry open the doors to Cooperstown, he didn't come clean. After 15 years of denying he ever bet on baseball, he admitted he bet on baseball. But he continued to deny he ever bet on the game while he was a player.

Now documents have come to light, via ESPN's Outside The Lines, that verify he bet extensively on the Reds in 1986, when he was penciling himself into the lineup every day as player/manager. In other words, he bet on baseball while he was playing. In other words, he's still lying, an affliction he seems no more able to control than his gambling.

And with that, his shot at ever getting back into baseball is gone, as is his shot at getting into Cooperstown while he's still drawing breath. If he gets in (and I still think he will, at some distant point in time), it won't be while he can enjoy it. That will be his punishment for lying and continuing to lie.

I wish I could say I feel sorry for him. I wish I could say, as his champions frequently do, that there is some moral equivalency between PEDs and betting on the game, that if the former doesn't incur a lifetime ban then the latter shouldn't.

What I'll say about that is gambling never flourished with the unspoken consent of baseball's hierarchy the way PEDs did. I'll say that, left unchecked, it corrupts the legitimacy of the game itself and not just the legitimacy of its numbers. And I'll say that, unlike PEDs, it has been the third rail of the game for nearly a century.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis,  sour racist coot that he was, established that precedent on the heels of the Black Sox scandal, and that's why a stern sign admonishes players against it in every clubhouse in Major League Baseball. If Landis perhaps overreached by banning eight White Sox from the game forever, it remains the precedent. And baseball is nothing if not servant to its precedents.

And so, Rose was cast out, just as Shoeless Joe Jackson was -- and probably with more cause. And he'll remain cast out now, because even with the Hall of Fame on the line, he couldn't bring himself to tell the truth. Lying is his natural state, and so he returns to it again and again, helplessly.

And if his champions will now say "Well, but he never bet against the Reds," how do we know that? A man who'd duck the truth as many times as Rose as has will continue to duck it. Why at this point would we believe anything the man says, up to and including what color the sky is on a cloudless day?

The bottom line is, he knowingly engaged in the one activity that is most expressly forbidden by baseball, and he did it again and again. He did it even though nothing -- not PEDs, not anything -- can more quickly turn a sport into hollow farce, can more quickly reduce it from honest enterprise to something along the lines of professional wrestling.

Where Pete Rose, it turns out, is venerated as a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

I can't think of anything more fitting.


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