Pete Rose: Caught Red-Handed

In the wake of an ESPN report that proves he bet on baseball as a player, it's time to say goodbye to MLB's all-time hits king

Cincinnati Reds player/manager Pete Rose in 1986. Credit: Bettman/Corbis

Pete Rose, again? Well, that's just great. Just what I wanted to spend my e-column inches on this week.

In case you missed it – and by "you" I mean the Rose apologist with a "Yeah, well, he never bet as a player" always at the ready – it turns out he did, in 1986. Baseball's hit king bet on baseball as a manager and as a player, gambling with Tony Soprano-like figures in New York, we now know, at least during that one baseball season.

And he's been lying about it the whole damn time. New evidence exists; it's right there for all to see, in black and white and Reds all over.

In an absolutely fascinating ESPN.com story, William Weinbaum and T.J. Quinn explain the latest dope on Rose, detailing evidence reported by Outside the Lines, about a postal service investigation which began innocently enough with a "'failure to render [services]' complaint."

Some criminal neglected to return some items to customers who'd paid him for autographed memorabilia. It didn't matter that the autographs were forged; the least he could do was stick them in the mail. Oh, and the criminal, turns out he'd kept a notebook in his basement, with a bunch of notations marked, "PETE," and he was connected to organized crime.

So game, set and match. Pete Rose bet on baseball. He gambled as a player and as a manager. "'This does it. This closes the door," John Dowd, the former federal prosecutor who led MLB's investigation, says in the ESPN piece.

And this is just one "PETE" notation in one notebook in one basement of one criminal regarding one season we're talking about here. Rose debuted in 1963. Do you really think he first got the bet-on-Cincinnati itch twenty years later?

Look, I've railed against Rose's reinstatement before, most recently tackling both the 25-years-is-long-enough argument and the "Yeah, but the Hall of Fame is filled with liars, villains and sinners" defense. But since the Charlie Hustle saga is in our faces yet again, here's what occurs to me today:

1. "The implications for baseball are terrible," Dowd tells ESPN. "[The mob] had a mortgage on Pete while he was a player and manager."

Still think Rose should be in enshrined in Cooperstown? I admire your loyalty. Take it up with the Hall of Fame, which has a board of directors. It's their building. Or boycott the place. Next time you're in the neighborhood, save yourself the 23 bucks and walk on by. Put your money on the Reds to win that day. Or better yet, to lose.

2. "Yeah, but he never bet against his team," you say? That's an assumption. Up until yesterday, you had no idea about his gambling as a player.

Consider that, when a manager bets on his team to win, it sends a signal to the gamblers that he may do more to affect that game's result than he otherwise would if he didn't have money on the contest. He might do it intentionally; he might not. It doesn't matter.

Say, for example, that Rose bets on his Reds to win some hot August day at Riverfront in 1986. Since he's gambling on that game, but not on the one before or after (and only he knows his plan for the next day), maybe he allows reliever John Franco to take the ball for one more of his career-high 101 innings to get the particular outs that Rose must have to win that particular bet. Or maybe ace Tom Browning stretches out longer than he would have otherwise. Maybe Eric Davis appears in 133 games that season, instead of 132.

When Rose doesn't bet on the Reds to win the next day – or doesn't bet on any particular Reds' game – that tells the bookies the skipper doesn't think his club is good for the win. And on and on it goes, even if the Reds finish 162-0 with Rose winning every last bet.

3. Allowing Rose to participate in the All-Star Game in Cincinnati on July 14 is a bad idea. You can blame Bud Selig for that one. Rose shouldn't have been on the field during the 1999 All-Century celebration either. That's on Selig too. Banned means banned, and it's not a complicated concept.

4. There should be no reinstatement of any kind for Pete Rose. Not an appearance at an All-Star Game in his home town, not a ceremony of any kind in any big league town. The official language is "permanently ineligible" for a reason. No special consideration for Rose. No quarter. He's simply not worth it, not now.