Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The wages of sin

OK, one last time: Pete Rose is exactly where he belongs.

Which is, on the outside looking in. Which is, in baseball purgatory. Which is, serving time as the game's most visible pariah, a sad character who travels around the country hawking his signature and his image because hustlers gotta hustle, and he is more than anything else a hustler.

And, no, not for the way he used to charge down to first base.

What Charlie Hustle hustles now is a false image of victimhood, a phony narrative that after all these years his banishment from baseball is somehow the fault of shriveled souls who don't know when to stop kicking him while he's down. But that's not even remotely the truth.

The truth, the bare-wood truth, is that he is the architect of his own woes. Major League Baseball refuses to grant him eligibility to the Hall of Fame -- or access to employment within the game -- not because they're a bunch of big meanies, but because of Rose's own actions.

The man simply can't stop lying, to himself and the people he entreats. He said for years he never bet on baseball, then finally admitted he bet on baseball. But even then -- even then -- he didn't come clean, saying he bet on baseball but only while he was managing, not while he was playing.

Except he did bet on baseball while he was playing. Except he continues to bet on baseball, even while petitioning baseball to lift the ban on his employment.

That's why MLB commissioner Rob Manfred became the third commish to tell Rose no the other day. That's why the ban on his employment won't be lifted, because he's proved he can't be trusted. And that's why he shouldn't be in the Hall.

And, yes, I've heard all the counter-arguments. How racists and wife-beaters and drunks are the Hall. How all those guys who took PEDs are way worse than Rose (even though none of them are likely to gain admission, either, at least for a long time). How MLB partners with gambling entities like Draft Kings and Fan Duel, but continues to punish Rose for gambling.

Well, yes, they do.  They do it because insider gambling remains the third rail of the game. They do it because it's the one rule that has been historically inviolate since the Black Sox scandal, and that everyone knows because it's printed in 72-point type on every locker room door in organized baseball.

They do it because Rose chose to ignore the rule anyway, and then to lie about it, and then to keep lying about it.


Baseball never had a rule about them until after the fact, because Mac and Sammy hitting all those bombs saved the game in 1998, and baseball, which likely suspected they weren't doing it natural, chose to look the other way as a result. Baseball has never done that with insider gambling, at least since 1919. There's absolutely no wiggle room there. None.

So Rose has no out. That his accomplishments as a player are Hall of Fame worthy is beyond dispute. That he shouldn't be declared eligible until he stops lying, however, is equally beyond dispute, because to do so would be to reward his stubborn and ongoing deceit.

Got it?

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