Pete Rose has asked Rob Manfred for reinstatement to Major League Baseball, which seems to be an annual ritual. This year he may have a valid argument for reinstatement.
Rule 21 (d), patrial
In 1919, the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series in exchange for payment, in part due to the fact that they felt underpaid by owner Charles Comiskey. Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis was brought in to be the new commissioner — a new position created specifically for this, because at the time each league was run by its own president — and he ruled players ineligible for life.
Rule 21 was created to prevent anything like that from happening again. Here’s the part of the rule broken by Pete Rose.
Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.
While the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Rose did violate the rule. Then, he was banned for life after admitting to it in writing.
The Astros cheating scandal
The Astros were caught stealing signs using electronics, which violated a new rule instituted by MLB. No players were punished.
According to Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal, there was a deal made between the league and the players union to basically ensure Astros players wouldn’t be punished.
The league and the MLB Players Association struck an agreement early in the process that granted immunity in exchange for honest testimony, according to several people familiar with the matter.
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The league was quick to make such an offer, these people said, in part because it did not believe it would win subsequent grievances with any players it attempted to discipline. That’s partly because of a bureaucratic shortcoming: The Astros’ front office never discussed with players the league’s admonitions against using electronic devices to steal signs, according to Manfred’s statement.
The Pete Rose argument
According to Don Van Natta, Jr. of ESPN, the representation for Pete Rose wrote this:
The lawyers say that Rose’s lifetime ban is “vastly disproportionate” when compared with MLB’s punishments of players who took performance-enhancing drugs and the players involved in the sign-stealing schemes by the 2017 Houston Astros.
In a way, he is wrong. Rule 21 (d) is clear. Noone associated with MLB is permitted to bet on a game that he/she is directly involved in. Doing so will incur lifetime banishment.
However, he is also right, in one sense. The league quickly made a deal with the union based on an assumption they’d lose a grievance case against them.
Now, Rob Manfred is actually caught in a PR nightmare. By operating under that assumption, he opened up Pandora’s box. They have created a situation in which an assumption created an unequal punishment stream for Rose and the Astros players.
Should the players be permanently banned? No. However, they also shouldn’t have gotten zero punishment. That means Rose actually has a case here because MLB didn’t have to make that deal with the MLBPA.
If they didn’t, and the lost a grievance, Rose would have no case, because they would have tried to, but failed. Since they operated under an assumption, now he does have a case.
Manfred needs to handle this situation very delicately. He likely will have to do something. Reinstatement may be the last resort. However, he could work with the Baseball Hall of Fame to remove their “Pete Rose rule.” If that doesn’t work, he may have no other option than to reinstate Rose.