Doc: Shades of hypocrisy in Baseball’s gray world – Cincinnati.com
Pete Rose says he has not met with Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, and leaves it at that. Spring turns to summer turns to fall, and the long-awaited sit-down grows dusty with afterthought. The All-Star Game is gone, and with it whatever momentum Roseâs reinstatement bid might have had.
Thatâs a shame. Baseball operates in a gray world, with black and white standards for one guy.
A few months ago,Â Miami U. asked me to moderate a lecture by Rose, the subject of which involved the words âethicsâ and âintegrity.â
Well, OK. See you next time, when a former Yugo executive will tell us how to make great cars.
âPresenting An Evening of Championship Football, with Dave Shula.â
But then I thought about it. And thought some more. The stories about Peteâs exile are nearly as moldy as the exile itself. But the issue speaks to the center of everything we believe and donât believe about our games. Itâs eternally relevant.
Hereâs part of what I wrote, to introduce the Hit King before a packed house in Oxford Monday night:
Weâre going to talk about ethics and integrity in sports tonight, and I hope by the time weâre through, we can see that neither is an all-or-nothing trait. Some suggest that the words “ethics” and “integrity” offer no room for interpretation. Youâre either ethical, or you arenât. You have integrity or you donât. Life is this, or it is that. Gray has no place.
I donât believe that. I donât think a failing in one area means a failing in another. I think our guest tonight exemplifies that. Life isnât black and white. It is gray. Except, apparently, when it comes to what Pete Rose was guilty of doing almost three decades ago.
Baseball has allowed for shades of gray by not banning PED users, even those who have admitted to violating its rules with impunity. Come on down, Alex Rodriguez. Juicers messed with Baseballâs numbers. Without its numbers, Baseball is an atheist in the temple.
Baseball sees only gray when it comes to gambling. Players canât bet on the real game, but they are not forbidden from betting on the fantasy version. Baseball parks are adorned with signage paid for by casinos. Baseball is “partners” with a fantasy gaming website, DraftKings.com, that last week spent $24 million just on advertising. Baseball looks good in Hypocrisy Gray. It goes well with Money Green.
Pete the gambler deserved what he got. If you donât have honesty, you donât have sports. The fact he chose to deny it for 15 years made it worse. But discipline without mercy is tyranny. Does baseball want to be tyrannical?
We care about ethics and integrity in sports. But only to the extent that the fans and corporate spenders can be assured that the contests are on the up and up. Beyond that, what?
Are the New England Patriots a model of integrity? Sure, unless it interferes with their ability to win. Then they walk the thinnest of honesty threads. Are they different from every other organization, or just more brazen in their methods?
How is Yankee Fan feeling about A-Rod these days?
Colleges buy players. Colleges condone alleged criminal behavior. Colleges pay coaches millions and professors tens of thousands. And so on.
There is no denying Rose honored baseball by the way he played the game. That is a form of integrity. You could suggest the gambling overshadowed that. Iâd disagree, but itâs a good debate.
I suggested to Rose that he damaged Ray Fosseâs career â and could have hurt his own â with that All-Star collision in 1970. I asked him why heâd risk his career on an exhibition. Rose looked at me like I had an eye where my ear was supposed to be.
âI played to win,â he said, paraphrasing, âand I didnât care if it was the first game of spring or the last game of the World Series.â
Examples of Roseâs on-field integrity cover the diamond like dirt and grass, from the minuscule â running out bases on balls, sliding headfirst â to the major. In 1985, Rose played in Chicago, two hits behind Cobb, with the Redsâ next game to be in Cincinnati. He could have taken the game off, but declined. He had two hits in a game that was suspended after nine innings, tied 5-5.
Two nights later, he broke the record at Riverfront.
In Perfect World, the games and the people who play them are clean. We donât live in Perfect World. We live in Peteâs. Baseball included.
Revisit Daugherty’s profile of Rose