Pete Rose should have been honest from the start about gambling on baseball

By Stephen Kerr

Have you ever caught someone in a lie, presented them with clear evidence they’re not telling the truth, only to have them deny it over and over again? It doesn’t matter how many exhibits of evidence you present, or how convincing your logic, you get nothing but one denial after another. Over time, perhaps years later, the guilty party may partially change their story, but it’s obvious they haven’t mended their ways.

Pete Rose fits that description perfectly, and it’s the main reason he was turned down for a second time to be reinstated into baseball by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, keeping his original 1989 ban in place.

In a letter to the all-time hits leader, Manfred said Rose still hadn’t shown he was being completely honest about his gambling, that it’s clear he is still legally betting on baseball.

“Mr. Rose’s public and private comments, including his initial admission in 2004, provide me with little confidence that he has a mature understanding of his wrongful conduct, that he has accepted full responsibility for it, or that he understands the damage he has caused,” Manfred wrote, via ESPN News Services.

Rose still doesn’t get it. This could have played out differently. All he had to do when Bart Giamatti first handed down the lifetime ban in 1989 was come clean and face the music. Better yet, he could have come forward with a complete confession before the decision. It would have been the smart thing to do, considering the sequence of events that followed: a meeting with then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth to address gambling allegations; the seizure by the IRS of betting slips with Rose’s name, writing and prints on them; the report released by baseball investigator John Dowd, which contained documents, depositions, transcripts and other evidence showing Rose’s gambling activities.

But Rose stuck to his strategy of denial, and it cost him when Giamatti handed down the lifetime ban. He first applied for reinstatement in 1997, but commissioner Bud Selig never ruled on the matter. For 15 years, Rose insisted he never bet on baseball, either as a player or when he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Then, in his 2004 autobiography, Rose admitted he bet on baseball, but only as a manager with the Reds, never as a player.

But evidence continues to show otherwise. Earlier this year, an ESPN Outside the Lines report featured documentation from a former associate of Rose, showing baseball bets from 1986, when Rose was still a player. Neither he nor his attorneys would comment on the report, and Rose has made no additional comments since 2004.

It’s easy to put his position down to stubbornness or pride, and there may be some truth to that. But, as the old saying goes, if you tell the same lie often enough, you become convinced it’s true in your own mind.

By applying for reinstatement for a second time, Rose apparently still wants to be an official part of the game, but has made no attempt to change his story or lifestyle. Until he does, he has virtually no chance of being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame or doing anything beyond making ceremonial appearances, which all have to be approved by Manfred. Even if he held a press conference, complete with tears, apologies and remorse, it would probably be too little, too late.

It’s a shame that baseball may never again officially recognize the man who broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hits record, all because of a refusal, or inability, to just tell the truth and seek help for his gambling problem.