Vindication comes, mostly

DMZ · September 14, 2004 at 3:21 am · Filed Under Mariners 

“Pete Rose and Major League Baseball have reached an agreement that would allow him to return to baseball in 2004, and includes no admission of wrongdoing by Rose, Baseball Prospectus has learned.”
Return of the Hit King, Baseball Prospectus, August 12, 2003

At the time, MLB and Rose both denied that the story had any merit. Rose slid off that story in the next year, especially after his book was released and he was widely criticized for taking attention away from the Hall of Fame inductees that week, and Commissioner Selig made it clear he wasn’t even considering Rose any more. He, and Mike Schmidt, and others all made statements that implied first that there had been side agreements (keep your nose clean for a year first, try to stay out of casinos and certainly don’t gamble) and later hinted at a larger deal between Rose and Selig.

During this time, my response to questions has been “we had several sources, they were excellent, we believe we met any reasonable standard for printing the story, and in time we’ll be proven right.”

On July 19th, 2004, WKNR 850 Cleveland had an interview with Pete Rose in which he states that he and Selig had come to terms and that they drew up an “unsigned agreement”. Unfortunately for Rose, after the book problems, Selig ended their ongoing negotiations.

Unfortunately for me, their archives only show the last couple shows, and because I can’t seem to get to their server, I can’t guess out the URL. Hopefully I’ll be able to update this post with a link to the interview itself later today. You can, however, find references on the Net that mention the contents of the interview, so don’t just take my word for it.

Slowly, Rose has parceled out the truth about what happened. We’re up to almost entirely confirming the story-as-reported, requiring only the conditions. And for total clearance, we need a copy or we need someone in the know to tell who signed off on the agreement from each camp on behalf of Rose and MLB, providing both Rose and Selig with the ability to deny that they’d personally agreed to anything, or in Selig’s case, that he’d come to a decision about what he’d be doing.

I don’t think we’ll get it at this point — while Rose may offer at some point a version of the story that includes the conditions, it seems unlikely he’d ever get around to naming names, unless he ever decides to take this to court.

I wrote a series of articles at Baseball Prospectus examining Rose and the Dowd Report before he admitted that he bet on baseball (while still denying damning evidence that he bet from the clubhouse, another example of his truth-in-its-own-time thing), which meant that I was the logical person to author the article with Will.

At the time, I got chewed out by Rich Levin, MLB’s executive vice president for public relations. Bob DuPuy and Bud Selig both implied that we made the whole thing up out of spun sugar and air. DuPuy in particular had some choice words about how this was a great example of “irresponsible journalism.” Many more people believed that we’d invented it as some kind of publicity stunt for the site. I spent much of the time since then regretting the mistakes we made working on the story that cost us the chance at the magic evidence bullet.

No more. I waited on someone mainstream to pick up this story for too long, and it hasn’t happened. Now that I’ve written this up, I feel relieved, and hope that I’ll never have to write about Pete Rose again. It may take another year for everything we wrote and said to be proven entirely true, and it may never come. I’m all right with that.

I hope too that even the people who believed baseball entirely will come around to acknowledge that we didn’t make this up, that if nothing else, the foundation of our story, that Rose had reached an agreement with baseball — was true.



16 Responses to “Vindication comes, mostly”

  1. JP Wood on September 14th, 2004 4:22 am

    You and Will have continued to play this above board, not revealing your sources despite intense pressure from MLB and taking your arguments to mass media audiences and critics and taking your lumps live. Selig and Rose will someday deliver a “better whole truth” about this affair and you and Will will get your Shawshank Redemption (thank you James for reminding me of that film:
    What I will remember most about this episode, however, is that BP was the first Blog I know of that broke a story of national interest in the heat of the battle, with Selig admitting to have spoken with Rose and Rose in the midst of writing his autobiography.

  2. Troy Sowden on September 14th, 2004 7:12 am

    Too bad there won’t be a scene about this in “Hustle” huh? Derek, I never doubted you, and anybody who’s followed baseball objectively over the years didn’t either. Personally, I just wish the whole Pete Rose thing would go away, but since that will never happen, I’d love for the whole truth to finally come out. In lieu of that, I’ll settle for Rose’s whiny, dishonest, selfish butt to stay out of the Hall. He’s a joke (overrated too).

  3. isaac_spaceman on September 14th, 2004 7:31 am

    Who believes in baseball entirely? If I didn’t trust you to source your stuff properly — and I do — I would have looked at MLB’s denial as adequate confirmation.

  4. isaac not spaceman on September 14th, 2004 8:41 am

    “I’ll settle for Rose’s whiny, dishonest, selfish butt to stay out of the Hall. He’s a joke (overrated too)”

    AMEN! ive been making the “pete rose is overrated” argument forever, much to the objection of everyone i know, and its nice to get a little vindication of my own.

  5. Troy Sowden on September 14th, 2004 8:55 am

    Glad I could help out. I know how you feel, my roommate is a Rose apologist, and most of my friends are the ignorant “I repeat what I heard somebody say as fact” sports fans, so they think Rose is getting screwed. It gets pretty heated sometimes.

  6. chris w on September 14th, 2004 9:12 am

    DMZ, anyone that is even remotely acquainted with BP believed you then and believes you now. Faced with two versions of a story, one from from MLB and Pete Rose, and one from BP, which one are you going to believe?

  7. Evan on September 14th, 2004 9:33 am

    Derek – you and Will won my trust long before the Pete Rose story, and it takes a lot more than Bud Selig (the least trustworthy man in America) calling you a liar to convince me otherwise.

    If Bud Selig ever ran for President I’d emigrate and become a US citizen just to vote against him.

    As an aside, the two things I most look forward to reading every day are USSM and UTK. You and Will rock. I’m sure I’ve told Will this before (because, believe it or not, I send him even more useless e-mail than I send you), so now I’m telling you.

  8. tede on September 14th, 2004 11:39 am

    Besides his lousy timing and questionable financial motives, what did you think of Rose’s book? I didn’t think of it was that bad.

  9. Troy Sowden on September 14th, 2004 12:56 pm

    tede, what was it about the book that impressed you? I didn’t read the book for a couple reasons:

    1) I just hate Rose and don’t want to give him any of my money (yeah, I’d rather give money to M’s management, that’s how much I hate Rose)
    and 2) I don’t trust a word he says and never believed that this book would amount to anything close to “full disclosure.”

    All that said, I’m interested to hear if there was something important I missed out on or that others found interesting.

  10. Paul Weaver on September 14th, 2004 2:09 pm

    Ahh, Pete Rose…
    I know very little about the scandal, because I’ve ignored it. I only know about him as a player, and what my parents said of when they would go see him play in Cincinatti. He was a favorite of theirs, because he was always going all out. I only think he is overrated in that longevity got him the hit record, not pure greatness. But he was a major component of the big red machine, still gets praise from his peers, and was actually great for many of the years he played – in a relatively poor hitting era as well. I think he deserves most of the attention he got as a player.

    The fact that he is a pathological liar (so it seems) and had a gambling problem is a separate issue. Baseball history has plenty of gamblers, liars, mental cases, and all-around bad people. In the end, we just look at how they helped their teams win. Integrity of the game – blah, blah, blah. I am in agreeance with many players on the Rose issue. He should be out of baseball, but in the Hall.
    -my two cents.

  11. Troy Sowden on September 14th, 2004 2:38 pm

    Paul W, sure baseball history has plenty of liars, mental cases and all-around bad people. That’s in line with the rest of society, and while not, optimal, isn’t really that big of a deal as far as the sport as a whole.

    I would strongly disagree that baseball history has plenty of gamblers though. Sure, there are a few early in the century, but there’s a reason why baseball has gone to such lengths to post the rules about betting on baseball in every clubhouse at every level. I’m sorry, this is no blah, blah, blah issue. The INTEGRITY OF THE GAME MATTERS.

    Ever check the paper to see how many takedowns Sting had, or who won last night’s WWF title match? Of course not, it’s fixed and everybody knows it. It’s purely entertainment, not sport.

    Baseball is different. Our love for the achievments of teams and individuals is directly related to our ability to trust that the game is real – both sides are really trying to win, or at least to position themselves to win.

    I’m sorry, but this can’t be dismissed as “he had a gambling problem.” When a player or manager, no matter how great their accomplishments, willfully decides to “spice things up” by gambling on the game, thus subjecting themselves to the control of powerful bookies and gamblers who would like nothing better than to fix the results for their own game, the integrity of the game is jeapordized. The offending person must be punished.

    For baseball to re-admit Pete Rose is to say that gambling is just like substance abuse, assault, or any other vise or criminal act that tarnishes the players image and reflects poorly on the game. Those things, while heinous, are forgiveable as they don’t impact what goes on inside the lines. Gambling is much bigger than that. It calls into question every victory, every defeat, every home run and every strikeout.

    I agree that the fact he’s a pathological liar isn’t grounds to keep him out of the Hall, although it hasn’t endeared him anymore to me or many others. Even if, when he was first confronted, he had readily confessed to gambling on the game, I would still say he should never be reinstated.

    This is an issue of precedent – everyone (fans, media and especially future ballplayers) must know that baseball takes gambling seriously, and will go to the extreme to keep it from infecting the game. If that means a deserving (if overrated) player gets kept out of the Hall of Fame I have no problem with it.

    Bottom line, baseball is not keeping Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose’s arrogant and selfish decision to bring his entertainment above the integrity of the game is what’s keeping him out. It’s sad, but well deserved.

  12. tede on September 14th, 2004 2:42 pm


    Remember library books are free. It was not any less self serving than a ghost written political memoir, but Pete sure made a lot less money off of his book.

    As for the book itself, it was okay and pretty revealing for an ex-ballplayer’s autobiography. Gave some background to his growing up in a white trash gambling culture in Cincy. No Ball Four or Me And The Spitter by any stretch and I’m sure there are some whoppers in the text. It has some good analysis of some of his managers for instance and the Cincy FO pre-Marge. Some books by ex-ballplayers are better once they’ve hit bottom (Maury Wills, John Roseboro) than when they were on top.

  13. Troy Sowden on September 14th, 2004 2:54 pm

    Good point about the library tede. My library usage has been regrettably limited since I discovered the seemlingly endless supply of information on the internet. Thanks for the analysis.

  14. Paul Weaver on September 14th, 2004 4:17 pm

    Hmmm, by integrity of the game blahblahblah, I mean that we shouldn’t expect perfect role models out of people who excel in athletic performance and not in good citizenry.
    Gambling was prevalent in 1919 and before – not much on record afterward. Maybe it has stopped.
    I’m not sure Rose actually bet against his team and managed them accordingly, but I agree that it is wrong, which is why I said I don’t think he should be let back into baseball. You don’t have such people managing, playing, or otherwise determining the fate of a team.
    But I think he could be a sadistic coc-head child rapist who owns his own small country that tortures animals while dumping nuclear waste into the water ways (oh, and a gambler) – and still belong in the hall of fame.
    -it actually would be contradictory to the hall’s on language to let him in, but my view of the hall is that it is a nod to the top performers.
    Just think of the former record holder before Rose.
    Ty Cobb actually beat up fans, was a vocal racist, and constant trash talker. Does he represent integrity? NO. Does he belong in the HOF? I think so.

  15. Enumclaw on September 14th, 2004 8:43 pm

    But Paul W, Cobb’s problems didn’t make the fan wonder if the game was rigged or fixed. Cobb might have been a flaming racist bigot jerkhead a**hole, but he was out there and playing to win.

    Was Rose? Who knows?

    He was betting one games his team while he was managing it. He was losing thousands-no, tens of thousands- doing so. Can you honestly say that you KNOW, stone cold, that there wasn’t any hesitation on his part, any thinking about possibly betting against his team and then doing something about it?

    The reason the rules against gambling exist aren’t to be sure that those guys playing ball are fine, upstanding citizens; they’re rules intended on ensuring that the *game itself* be beyond reproach. Darryl Strawberry might have been snorting coke in the clubhouse between innings for all we know, but at least he was playing to win.

    Rose’s faults are WAY too directly linked to the worst scandal in American sports history, the fixing of the World Series.

    And that’s why baseball’s rule against gambling (which, by the way, specifies the lifetime ban from baseball as part of the rule) is the ONLY rule that’s posted in every single clubhouse in MLB.

    Rose knew what he was getting himself into and did it anyway. He deserves to be banned and he deserves to never get into the HoF for it.

  16. Paul Weaver on September 15th, 2004 11:46 am

    I’m just saying: separate the player from the man.
    He played hard, he contributed to a lot of winning teams.
    Any damage he possibly could have done by gambling does not erase his achievements and contributions.
    A ban from baseball and a ban from the HOF are different…or so I’ve been lead to believe. He’s been banned from baseball as he should be. Banned from the HOF as I contend he shouldn’t be.