By Bob Nightengale |
Pete Rose, banned from baseball 30 years ago, doesn’t believe the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal will dramatically change his fate.
Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t going to suddenly pick up the phone, tell him the Astros’ antics were far worse than gambling on his own Cincinnati Reds team, reinstate him and make him eligible for the Hall of Fame.
Still, his supporters can’t help but wondering how Rose can be suspended for life when not a single player from the Astros will be disciplined in this scandal that rocked the baseball world.
“I understand the gambling in baseball, and I was wrong, absolutely wrong,’’ Rose told USA TODAY Sports Tuesday in a 45-minute telephone interview. “There are no similarities in these two cases. The only thing is that we both got in trouble. We both made mistakes.
“I came along too early and paid a bigger price.
“Still, don’t you have to do something to those players?’’
Cheating in baseball, Rose concedes, has been going on since the day he put on a baseball uniform. Teammates flashed signs from second base to home plate, stole signs from third-base coaches, and picked up pitchers’ pitches.
Hitters used corked bats. Pitchers scuffed baseballs. And players used performance-enhancing drugs.
Now, we’ve gone to the electronic age of cheating.
“People today are still finding ways to break rules,’’ said Rose, baseball’s hit king.
Rose praised Manfred for his penalties against the Astros, particularly the one-year suspensions of Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, with Astros owner Jim Crane doubling down and firing them.
“When you screw around the integrity of baseball,’’ Rose said, “baseball is going to come down hard on you. They came down hard on me. They came down hard on them.
“I’m always willing to give people a second chance, but integrity-wise, who’s going to hire these guys? The manager probably won’t find another job. The same with [Boston Red Sox manager] Alex Cora, too.’’
“They can say all you want that they weren’t part of it, but that’s a reflection of the manager. I would think if the manager tells these guys to stop doing it, they would stop. I don’t understand why he didn’t.’’
Rose still can’t fathom how sophisticated the cheating was with the Astros. It boggles his mind teams had enough time to steal the sign electronically, let someone in the dugout know, relay the pitch to the hitter, all in a matter of seconds.
“With the Astros doing this, do we really believe they are that much smarter than everyone else? You don’t know if this is going on in a number of cities.’’
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the Astros’ scandal, Rose says, is that Manfred and the MLB investigative team did something about it. It was a huge help that Oakland A’s pitcher Mike Fiers told about the Astros’ scheme to The Athletic, but when Rose played, he said cheating was largely ignored.
“We played a game against the Astros once with Mike Scott pitching, and we took 19 balls out of the game,’’ Rose said. “Well guess what, 17 of them had scratches in the same spot because he was scuffing the baseball.
“We sent all of the balls to [MLB] and they didn’t do anything about it.’’
Now, there is more at stake.
Baseball is an $11 billion industry. Baseball is an official gaming partner with MGM.
Managers must send in their starting lineups to the commissioner’s office, which is distributed to MGM sporting books. Official scorers are advised to make quick scoring calls. Everyone can gamble on baseball with the exception of its employees.
That, of course, has never changed.
“Take my word, you don’t want baseball investigating you,’’ Rose said. “I hope everything comes out well for baseball, I really do.’’
Who knows, with so many players implicated in performance-enhancing drug investigations and now the Astros’ scandal, maybe there’ll come a day Rose will be forgiven.
“I don’t look for that to happen,’’ Rose, 78, said. “I’ve got no animosity towards the commissioner. But if it happens, it better happen in a hurry. I’m running out of time.
“You can only live so long in this world.
“Really, I’m on borrowed time right now.’’