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Savran: Separate decisions needed for Rose

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Sorry always seems to be the hardest word. So says Elton John. Pete Rose wouldn't know. Now, for the price of what smells like a most disingenuous apology, Rose is about to burrow his way back into Major League Baseball, and eventually, its Hall of Fame.

One gets the impression that the primary reason for the resuscitation of these negotiations is Commissioner Bud Selig is just tired of dealing with the issue and Rose himself. I hope not. If reinstating him is the right thing to do, fine. If not, that's fine, too. Just don't do it because it's the most expedient thing to do.

That Rose bet on baseball while manager of the Cincinnati Reds is a given. Is there anyone in the country -- with the notable exception of Rose -- who doesn't believe that? And the rule clearly states that anyone in a position to influence the outcome of games shall not bet on any baseball games. Whether they involved his team or not. There's no crying or betting on baseball.

Some support Rose's reinstatement on the basis that there's no evidence, at least none that has been made public, that he ever bet against the Reds. But betting on his team doesn't represent a safe harbor, either. Because on those occasions he didn't bet on them, wasn't he in effect betting against them?

You don't have to stretch your imagination too terribly to visualize the potential scenarios. He bets on a game Wednesday night. It's highly plausible that Tuesday night, he holds his closer out, making sure he's rested for "Bet Night at the Ol' Ballyard." The possibilities are endless, so attempting to mitigate his crimes because he bet only on his team is specious reasoning.

Part of the negotiation is forcing Rose to craft an admission and an apology. I don't understand how that changes anything. Forget the apology. I believe this guy would lie about lying if it meant gaining entry into the Hall of Fame. And that's exactly what he would be doing. He has been denying he bet on baseball for 13 years.

If he admits it now, he is making a dual admission: I lied about the betting, and I lied about not admitting I bet. These are grounds for reconciliation? If I rob a bank, then a day later give back the money and offer a my apology, does that erase or lessen the crime? And after I serve my sentence, does that then entitle me to claim the money I once stole?

Selig might get the contrite Rose he appears to be seeking, but it will be gambler Rose betting he can fool all the people all the time.

There are documented stories that Rose, while still a player, was wagering heavily on football, basketball, whatever. The stories suggest that the supremely arrogant Rose was stiffing his bookies, correctly betting he was too much of a high-profile figure to get his legs broken, or whatever.

So, the bookmakers went to the commissioner's office and informed it of what he was doing. And yet he still brazenly bet on baseball. That's why an apology from Rose isn't worth the betting slip it's written on.

I believe the best way to appease all parties is for the commissioner to issue two rulings. Which is to say, separate what he did as a player from his transgressions while a manager.

Allow Rose to be eligible for Hall of Fame balloting, and then moderate his banishment from the game. Allow him to participate in various public functions, World Series, All-Star Games and the like. But not allow him to hold any position in the sport that has any direct effect on the outcome of the games.

No managing, general managing, scouting, nothing of that ilk. Nothing that would take him inside the game, nothing that would give him any more chance of winning a bet than you or me. And you certainly don't believe Rose has stopped betting, do you?

I suppose it just might be the best thing (although not necessarily the right thing) to allow him into the Hall of Fame. After all, most people know he bet, and yet still want him in the Hall.

As a result of public opinion, it would be beneficial to baseball's popularity to let him into the Hall. And they certainly could use a stiff dose of that. But that's the one thing that has always bothered me, and does to this day.

Given the acknowledged boost it would give baseball from a public relations standpoint, why didn't they do this a long time ago? Unless unreleased evidence against Peter Edward Rose is so overwhelming, they just couldn't. If so, then why now?

Stan Savran is the host of a radio sports talk show, 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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