Thursday, August 26, 1999

Rose should take advantage of his chance

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Pete Rose has not made a breakthrough. He has been thrown a bone.

        Bud Selig's decision to allow the banished hit king to participate in World Series ceremonies honoring baseball's All-Century team is a reversal in policy, but it does not represent a real softening of the commissioner's stance. It is not mercy but expedience, a political concession made to mollify sponsors and make baseball appear less petty.

        It means nothing unless Rose recognizes his opportunity, makes use of his forum and changes his story. The road to reinstatement still starts with confession, and that road grows longer every time Rose denies he a.) bet on baseball, b.) remains a compulsive gambler and c.) needs help.

        For all the public sympathy stirred by the 10-year anniversary of his exile, Rose's case still must be made to men who view him as a delusional, mendacious, unrepentant pariah. His contorted logic and practiced evasions don't impress Selig & Associates, and he has yet to offer any plausible alibi for the damning evidence in the Dowd Report.

        To believe Rose was framed requires an unfathomable faith in his innocence and a profound paranoia about criminal conspiracies. Rose might sell the idea to his sycophants — to the pathetic hangers-on whose self-image is predicated on his approval — but it won't work with more sophisticated audiences. It certainly won't work with Bud Selig.

First, an apology
        Rose might wait for Selig to step aside, figuring his chances for clemency automatically would improve with a new commissioner. Selig is 65 years old, after all, and unlikely to remain in office forever. But Rose is 58, and his planets never again may be aligned so propitiously.

        If Rose is elected to the All-Century team — and he held the last of nine outfield spots in the most recent vote tabulations — he will be invited to participate in ceremonies held in conjunction with the World Series.

        There, with the whole baseball world watching, he could change his posture from combative to contrite and begin the journey toward redemption and reprieve. Nine words would make all the difference: “I bet on baseball. I'm sorry. I need help.”

        “It's never too late to admit your mistakes,” Reds General Manager Jim Bowden said Wednesday. “And if there's ever perfect timing, that (the All-Century ceremonies) is it. I think Pete should go to a podium and admit he bet on baseball. We need him to do it. Baseball needs him to do it.”

        Those who have counseled Rose to come clean seek not to humiliate him but to help him. He was diagnosed with a “clinically significant gambling disorder” 10 years ago but has never addressed the affliction in earnest. Rose initially embraced the diagnosis for the sake of his tax evasion sentencing but subsequently rejected it as exaggerated and returned to active wagering.

        For a while, he staged his radio show from the back of the Sports Book at the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas, demonstrating the same disregard for propriety that emboldens him to sell autographs in Cooperstown on induction weekend.

Then, a request for help
        Rose claims to have cut out his illegal gambling and seems to equate that concession with proof that he's not compulsive. This is pure poppycock. It makes about as much sense as an alcoholic claiming sobriety on the basis that he doesn't drink bootleg whisky.

        “If you're an alcoholic and you're drinking legally, you're still in the midst of your addiction,” said compulsive gambling consultant Arnie Wexler (1-888-LAST-BET). “Pete Rose needs to say, "I've got a problem. I need to get some help.'

        “I'd love to work with the guy. I'd like to help him. But it can't happen until he changes his attitude. He's got to look in the mirror and be honest with himself. Until he's able to do that, he won't stop gambling.”

        Until Rose can admit to the gambling he's done, his chances at reinstatement are remote. Since the odds are against him being around for baseball's bicentennial, he should seize the opportunity at hand. If he should make baseball's All-Century team, he should make it count.

        Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your e-mail at


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