Sunday, April 10, 2011

That is my simplest answer to the question that Mike and others answered for a Cincinnati Enquirer piece on whether Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame.

Mike argues (at least in the excerpt presented in the article) that the problem is that MLB, not a court order, imposed the lifetime ban. and Rose did not receive due process. First, I just do not place the same emphasis on Due Process that Mike does. MLB is a private entity, not a state actor, and it can give as much or as little process as it wants to give. Second, MLB was in the process of providing process--an investigation by a third party presented to a decisionmaker (Giamatti); whether that would have satisfied the Fourteenth Amendment is beside the point (although I believe it would have).  (Ed: I misunderstood Mike's quotation; as he explained in an e-mail, he was not speaking of whether Rose received process, but of the process that would be necessary to reinstate Rose so as to ensure fairness to and equitable treatment of other players who have received similar bans. Not sure I agree with this point, but I withdraw the above comments).

I still disagree that the decision coming from MLB rather than following a judicial decision holds any weight. Most notably, of course, the Black Sox were acquitted, an acquittal that Commissioner Landis ignored. Again, private actor working with a lesser standard of persuasion--I have no problem with that. Finally, and most importantly, MLB did not impose the ban based on a finding that Rose had bet on baseball. Rose willingly accepted the ban as part of an agreement that halted the investigation (a consent decree or plea agreement, if you will), no doubt to avoid a formal finding that he had bet on baseball. This left Rose with plausible deniability, which he rode for fifteen years until the publication of his book.

I do agree with Mike on one point--that Rose killed his chances with his admission in the book. The problem with this truth is that people (particularly media types--I never took this view) had been pleading with Rose for fifteen years to come clean (remember the Jim Gray interview during the 1999 World Series), with the argument of "if he just comes clean, all will be forgiven." Well, he came clean and, as Mike notes, things just got worse. Maybe he waited too long.

Lastly, a quick response to George Will's point in this same article, that MLB has a problem that three all-time greats--Rose, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens--will not be in the Hall of Fame. Will makes the category error of lumping them together--a position I argued against previously. Bonds and Clemens (and we can throw Mark McGwire in here) will not get into the Hall because of morality-tinged votes by the Hall voters, otherwise left to their own consciences and preferences. Neither Bonds nor Clemens has been banned or otherwise sanctioned by MLB. Nor is it clear that either has done anything to warrant such a sanction; whether either broke any rule of MLB is, at best, murky. Any MLB punishment would have to come under the Best Interests power, rather than on a finding of a violation of a specific rule. And a judicial decision against either one (in their perjury prosecutions or in the various defamation cases involving Clemens) is not likely to change that. We can question whether voters should make such moral choices in their Hall votes.

But that has nothing to do with Rose. Voters are not judging his morality or ethics. Rose appears to have violated a specific rule and accepted punishment for that; that punishment carried the collateral consequence of Hall ineligibility.

If all three being out of the Hall is a problem for MLB and the Hall, the sources of the problem are very different.