Saturday, September 13, 1997
Rose impasse unlikely
to end any time soon

The Cincinnati Enquirer

We are bound to repeat ourselves about Pete Rose, for there is really nothing new to say.

He is no closer to reinstatement today than he was last week or last year, which is to say he is not close at all. Nothing significant has changed in his case for clemency, yet we continue to treat his every twitch as if it were a tremor.

News that Rose's attorney has begun exploring the reinstatement process with Major League Baseball has filled many of Rose's fans with groundless glee. After eight years of stalemate, this small step is seen in some quarters as a sign of progress, and a portent of a possible comeback.

It is nothing of the sort. So long as Bud Selig draws breath, Pete Rose has about as much chance of being reinstated as Cecil Fielder does of negotiating the eye of a needle. For reasons both philosophical and personal, baseball's acting commissioner believes the most dramatic decision of A. Bartlett Giamatti should stand permanently.

Charlie Hustle is running head-first into a brick wall.

Will Rose recant?

Baseball is obligated to hear Rose out. It must afford him the opportunity to apply for reinstatement because that is what the rules require. But any appeal Rose might make at this point would be mainly for show. Selig and his cronies on the Executive Council are under no obligation to be merciful and, more to the point, perhaps, are faced with no threat of litigation.

Pete Rose signed away his right to sue when he agreed to his permanent suspension in 1989. He retained the right to seek reinstatement, but on baseball's unspecified terms.

Conversations between Rose's attorney, Gary Spicer, and baseball attorney Robert DuPuy are aimed at clarifying the ground rules of the reinstatement process. Spicer says Rose will formally apply for reinstatement by the end of the year, but Pete has postponed his plans before.

Baseball will likely insist that Rose confess to betting on ballgames as a condition of his appeal being considered, and a source close to Selig said even this admission may not be enough anymore. Given all of this, it would probably be pointless to proceed.

Rose has consistently denied the most damning allegation of the Dowd report - that he bet on baseball, including Reds games he managed - and he would surely resist a humiliating recant if he were not convinced it would bring him reinstatement.

Which brings us back to where we've been all along: At an impasse.

Reckless off the field

When the door to reinstatement was wide open in 1989, Rose walked past it defiantly. He tried to finesse baseball in the courts instead of facing up to his betting problems. He gambled boldly and lost big.

''If only Pete had been able to ask for help from baseball,'' Joe Morgan wrote in his memoir, A Life In Baseball. ''My suggestion to him was to say, 'I think I may have a problem. I don't really know how to deal with it. I want help.' Baseball - and America - would have opened their hearts to him.

''But Pete could no more have done that than he could have apologized for the way he played the game. Full speed ahead, helmet off, hair flying. What was a virtue in one place was his ruin in another.''

Pete Rose the ballplayer understood his limits as well as any man who ever played the game. For all his hits, and his hellbent baserunning, he was rarely thrown out because of a reckless advance. Off the field, however, Pete Rose is all pluck and no prudence.

He has never learned to cut his losses, or to cover his tracks. Until baseball and the Internal Revenue Service brought him down, he generally behaved as if he were bulletproof. Kevin Hallinan, baseball's director of security, called the Rose case the easiest he had ever worked on. Now, when Rose should be approaching baseball contritely, he is increasingly combative.

This approach might succeed with simplistic sycophants and pandering politicians, but it isn't likely to sway baseball's decision makers. If Pete Rose seeks reinstatement - and not just public sympathy - he must either mend his ways to Selig's specifications or prove a conspiracy beyond Oliver Stone's imagination.

Otherwise, he's just wasting our time.