"As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again"
[From The Eve of St. Agnes, John Keats]
The New York Timesreports that the prospects for Pete Rose's reinstatement bid has changed dramatically in the past couple of weeks.
"It has slowed down to nothing," the official said. "Rose keeps shooting himself in the foot, no, the heart. There's so much stuff coming out. Everything is being thoroughly reviewed."
The shot to the heart that the unnamed official is referring to are his 1998 tax issues and recent appearances at casinos. As I said earlier, neither of these issues have anything to do with baseball nor are they in any way illegal or nefarious though Rose likely will lose his residence in California to pay the taxes.
The source indicated that not only has the process slowed down, but the expected probationary period will likely grow to probably 2 years:
"He [Selig] would want to see what comes out. That's why if a deal is made-and right now it's a big, big if - Rose would be on probation for a lot longer than a year."
According to the Times, another unnamed baseball official "said baseball was trying to verify comments or behavior that would belie Rose's reported change in lifestyle" since reconfiguring his life style was part of Bart Giamatti's laundry list of items needed to reinstate Rose.
Of course, two old familiars have to weigh in on the case: Fay Vincent, whose raison d'etre since being summarily dismissed as commissioner has been to be burr in MLB's saddle, and John Dowd, the man whose reputation to a certain degree hinges on the validity of the case against Rose,
"He [baseball investigator Martin Weinstein] came here and spent a lot of time," Vincent said of Weinstein in a telephone interview. "He spent a fair amount of time with John [Dowd]. He told John, if anything, he came away convinced there was more evidence since he did the investigation and that it was clear that Rose bet on baseball."
Dowd said Weinstein "checked out the Dowd report and came to see us when he was done," adding in a telephone interview, "He had some minor questions but fully agreed with everything we came up with."
Well, what they had originally come up with wasn't sufficiently convincing. Why else would Giamatti have signed an agreement with Rose that stated that no finding could be found that he bet on baseball?
In addition to the Rose's taxes and legal gambling, Weinstein's investigation includes:
Less than two weeks after the Milwaukee meeting became known, The Dayton Daily News received a copy of a tape recording that was said to have been made in 1986 by a man described as a Dayton gambling kingpin with close ties to the Mafia. The conversation on the tape dealt with Rose's gambling debts.
Weinstein was also said to have recently interviewed Tommy Gioiosa, once a Rose roommate, who has previously told about Rose's betting and other illegal activity.
So more mis- and disinformation from various lowlifes. Why didn't they just hire Rockford or Starsky and Hutch?
I think that baseball has two fears:
1) "A major concern of Selig and his aides is that damaging information on Rose could emerge after his reinstatement."
2) "Baseball could see an inability to pay taxes as a potential problem for Rose, a reason for him to gamble to try to make more money."
I think the first point is dealing with two issues: Rose's conduct while a manager and player and Rose's conduct since being banned. They have had 13 years to review his conduct as a player and manager and have not been able to build on a circumstantial case. Rose's behavior since the ban is irrelevant. He cannot break any rules because he does not work in baseball. He can bet on baseball. He can bet on the Reds. He can owe back taxes. I'm sure certain peccadilloes will crop up after Rose's reinstatement, but nothing worse than the off-field behavior of many other players as well as many Hall-of-Famers. This point is just an expression of he nervousness that baseball has the luxury of expressing since they hold all the cards. Look at it this way, Mike Schmidt could kill a man in cold blood tomorrow and they will not kick him out of the Hall because it is unrelated to his on-field performance.
The second point has some validity. MLB should be worried that something or someone has his hooks in Rose, be it a bookie, the mafia, or just the gambling bug. If Rose did bet on the Reds, he could now feel completely absolved and therefore, above the law. If I ran a team, I wouldn't hire him as a manger, but not just because of the possibility of gambling affecting his decisions. I wouldn't hire him because he was a poor manager. This is a manger who, in 1986, inserted a 45-year-old first baseman with a .219 batting average and .270 slugging average into the lineup 237 times. He relied too heavily on aging veterans like Ron Oester. They were worried about gambling blurring his judgment? What about his judgment blurring his judgment? It's no surprise that the Reds won the World Series the year after Rose was removed from his managerial position when they finally let the kids play.
It seems that baseball will eventually reinstate Rose after he sufficiently cleans up his act, pays off his back taxes, and starts placing his legal bets through runners again. There are many who suggest that Rose be barred from holding any baseball-related position. This is patently ridiculous: you can't be a little bit reinstated just like you can't be a little bit pregnant. It's one or the other, unless they change the rules (again) just for Rose. If they bend the rules to put Rose in the Hall, that would be worse than barring him unfairly. As Bill James said, the Hall isn't the first place you look to place a rehabilitating player; it's the last. If he's fit for the Hall, then he's fit for anything.
Besides, not only do I think barring Rose is unfair, I think it's unnecessary. Any team stupid enough to employ Rose as manager deserves what they get. Hire him as a public relations guy (the fans seem to love him). Hire him as batting instructor. Hire him as a warning, a cautionary tale to the players. But do not ever put the day-to-day administration of your club in this man's hands again.