Rose and wrongness
I realized something today, as I sorted through a stack of email from people mad about my answer to a Pete Rose related question I answered in a chat.
I can see why people think I was wrong and should fess up. I’ve been so caught up in the long slide towards having parts of it proven correct that I missed it. It’s more complicated but at its heart, there’s a crucial assertion in the original story that I now think was wrong.
Story as we reported it:
1) Rose has reached an agreement with MLB
2) There was a written agreement
3) Rose signed that agreement
4) The agreement contains terms blah blah blah
Baseball denied that any of that was true, but in the long slide towards truth, 1) has been confirmed by Rose after hinting around it for months. That Rose himself signed any agreement — I don’t think that’s what happened.
Now if we wrote the story today, I think it would go
1) Rose has reached an agreement with MLB
2) There’s a written agreement
3) Representatives for Rose and MLB have signed that agreement
4) Conditions are blah blah blah
I think the specific conditions of four are borne out by things that happened, but really, it’s unlikely we’re going to find out at this point. Given what’s happened after the deal fell apart, I don’t think we’ll ever get a copy of the deal, so we may never be able to prove who signed it (if it’s signed at all). And what with me being all empirical and dedicated to the weight of evidence, it really pains me to know that.
My current theory of events makes a lot of sense to me in two ways: first, in what the sources told us and when, and who was in a position to confirm what, but second, in the specific denials MLB issued about who hadn’t signed an agreement.
One of the things people ask me when we talk about this is whether I’d write it again if I had the chance. And I wouldn’t, not as it ran. I would know where to go for the next pieces of information that didn’t emerge until we ran it. And also, I would hope we would be able to get a copy of the thing if we started over and didn’t make a couple of stupid mistakes in the investigation.
I think part of the problem is that BP decided not to write follow-ups or update the original story as we learned more, to essentially wait for total vindication or to be proven wrong. I think it was a bad decision, because once we’d decided to run a new story once, you’re almost obligated to at least continue to cover that story.
What really haunts me, weirdly, is that when I went on MSNBC to talk about the report, and Abrams asked me if I had any doubts or second thoughts about it since it ran, and I said (I can’t find the transcript, so I’m paraphrasing):
“Given the specific denials of Major League Baseball I’ve wondered if it was a draft agreement or possibly an unsigned agreement… but our sources said it was signed, and we stand by that.”
Every time I answer someone’s email I think about this. That the possibilities I’d been spinning around in my head, the alternate explanations, all the thought I’d put into it… I was worried about the right things and didn’t see it.
I think about how to convey to someone who thinks that I’d make up a story like that of anything, and I wonder how long I have to write solid columns before that person comes around. Do I have to meet people, one-on-one, and tell them what went into the story over beers, and hope I’m more successful in person than I’ve been in email?
Should I care this much about whether I have credibility as an internet baseball columnist of minor note?
Back to my original report — I don’t think Rose signed anything. I believe the original story was wrong in that respect, that we got burned by our own mistakes investigating and in failing to get that right. I don’t think I’ve ever come out before this and said I’d come around to believe that aspect was wrong, either, and that’s been a mistake.
Having written this, I don’t feel any better, that I’ve made any progress, or advanced the discussion. I feel like I do every time I touch on this whole thing — like I wish I hadn’t written anything. And yet… I don’t know, I feel like I realized something today, even if I don’t know how to best make use of it yet, or talk about it.
Back to the M’s.