Vindication comes, mostly
“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.