Wednesday, December 01, 1999

Rose: Pity poor substitute for solid proof




BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Having failed to gain reinstatement through persuasion, Pete Rose is pursuing a new path: pity.

        Baseball's exiled hit king has launched a high-profile petition drive to see if an emotional appeal can outweigh all the evidence against him. He makes wild accusations without providing any proof and expects the public to buy his story on the basis of sympathy rather than scrutiny.

        Jim Gray succeeded in making Rose into a victim, but even the overbearing reporter from NBC could not change the central facts of this sordid story. Until Rose refutes the charges against him, or confesses to them, his ongoing appeal is little more than a tedious and transparent attempt to change the subject.

        After 10 years of flim-flam — evasions, obfuscations, distortions, delusions and empty threats — it's time for Rose to put up or shut up. If he won't admit to betting on baseball and he can't discredit John Dowd's investigation, Pete should stop pestering us with his glib dissembling, his tortured conspiracy theories and his unctuous guest shots on Veronica's Closet.

        He should come to terms with the hard truth — that his wounds are self-inflicted; that his diagnosed gambling disorder remains untreated; that his legal avenues are laughable; that the passage of time makes him no less a pariah to Commissioner Bud Selig.

Put up or shut up
        Selig has agreed to allow Rose and his attorneys to make their case to baseball lawyer Robert DuPuy. While some might confuse this for overdue progress, all it really means is that baseball has seen the wisdom in providing the appearance of due process.

        It doesn't portend reinstatement. It doesn't indicate compromise. It is merely the maneuver baseball should have made when Rose applied for reinstatement in 1997: to call his bluff.

        If Rose has any evidence that Dowd drew the wrong conclusions, he has failed for a decade to produce it. He claims to have fingerprint and handwriting experts who dispute baseball's case, but he has yet to address reams of sworn testimony and dozens of damning documents that all point to the same conclusion. Rose signed a deal conceding baseball had a factual basis to suspend him for life and forfeiting his right to sue. He copped a plea of “no contest,” and now he wants to plead “no fair.”

        “Even if he bet on baseball,” attorney Gary Spicer reasons, “what the public is saying is, "Ten years out of the game is enough.'”

        The public's view is colored by Rose's charm, Selig's clumsiness, baseball's boundless mercy for drug offenders and the evolution of gambling from underground crime to ubiquitous entertainment. A lot of people no longer care whether Rose bet on baseball, particularly since there's no known evidence he ever bet against his own team. Many simply fail to understand what all the fuss is about.

        Essentially, it comes down to this: Any player or manager in debt to bookmakers is susceptible to blackmail. Any player or manager who bets on baseball — even successfully — is susceptible to blackmail. Any person who can be compromised by outside influences poses a security risk baseball doesn't need.

Beyond a reasonable doubt?
        So long as Rose continues to gamble, refuses to seek help and denies what seems obvious, he is probably beyond help. National polls and petition drives may reveal that Rose retains enormous appeal, but commissioners are not paid to run popularity contests. Their job is to protect the interests of their industry.

        Reinstating Rose may be the most merciful move Selig could make, but it could never be prudent in a business predicated on public confidence. Restoring an addictive gambler to active duty in the major leagues is like inviting a crack dealer to a cub scout meeting. You're just asking for trouble.

        Rose deserves his day in court, of course. It says here that he also deserves a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But he no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. Dowd's report was convincing and remains unrefuted.

        Some years ago, I proposed a pay-per-view polygraph test. Let Rose face his accusers, and let's see who squirms. The offer still stands.

        Tim Sullivan welcomes your email at tsullivan@enquirer.com.

        Rose still on attack
        Sign Rose Hall of Fame petition at sportcut.com.
        Complete text of Dowd Report.
        ENQUIRER SPECIAL REPORT: ROSE IN EXILE.