Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pete Rose Should Be in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown

The fact that Pete Rose is not in Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame is an absolute absurdity. I’ve been watching the Derek Jeter tour and his movement up the all-time hits leaderboard with amazement just like everybody else. Derek Jeter is a phenomenal baseball player and a hitting machine.

But let's just put Jeter's accomplishments in perspective. Jeter just passed Honus Wagner for sixth place on the all-time hits list. The players above him on the list are Tris Speaker (5th all time); Stan Musial (4th all time); Hank Aaron (3rd all time); Ty Cobb (2nd all time); and - yes, you guessed it, Pete Rose (1st all time).

Fireworks went off when Jeter passed Honus Wagner and there was not a media outlet in the United States that was not leading with the story (except for a few that were talking about Johnny Manziel). Jeter is everyone's sweetheart and there has been a lot of talk recently that he may be a unanimous selection to the baseball hall of fame when he is eligible. That, despite the fact that he has no chance of moving into fifth place on the all time hit lists. But, Pete Rose, who is in first place all time is still not it and that's a damn shame.

Considering the things that modern day athletes get in trouble for, it seems like a minor infraction for a baseball player or manager to bet on games. Would it be unfair for a race horse owner to bet on his horse to win or on another horse race? Maybe it's just that I don't see gambling as such a bad thing. Apparently, neither do the City of Toledo, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; or Cleveland, Ohio. Or Detroit, Michigan for that matter. All of these cities have thriving casinos. The only reason that they don't allow sports gambling is because of the federal government. For an in depth look at the interplay between state and federal gambling laws look here.

So what really happened with Pete Rose and the commissioner and why does the commissioner of Major League Baseball have such broad power to limit Rose's ability to make a living in the game of baseball? What gives the commissioner this power and why does he choose to use it on Rose for gambling and not to limit all of these modern day players who cheat to win by using steroids and sniffing cocaine in the dug out (remember the 1985 Mets?).

It's been so long that many people do not remember that in Pete Rose's case the court ruled against the commissioner's best interest power. In 1989, after receiving information about Rose's alleged gambling—including on Major League Baseball games, the commissioner at that time (Bart Giamatti) heavy handedly instructed his employee (his chief investigator) to investigate and report on the allegations regarding Rose (Craig F. Arcella, Major League Baseball's Disempowered Commissioner: Judicial Ramifications of the 1994 Restructuring, 97 CoLum. L. REV. 2420, 2430 (1997); Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, 259 U.S. 200 (1922). Ted Curtis, In the Best Interests of the Game: The Authority of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, 5 SETON HALL J. SPORT L. 5, 6 (1995)).

Based on this investigation, which Rose was unrepresented during, the investigator produced a report. The report indicated that Rose had bet on Major League Baseball games and the commissioner told Rose that he would conduct an investigation himself into the allegations based on his best interest authority.

The commissioner then scheduled a hearing to discuss the investigation, but Rose then did the unthinkable. Rose demanded that he receive due process and that the commissioner not act as the judge in his case because the commissioner had already prejudged his guilt. Why should someone have to have his case heard by a biased decision-maker? Now you see the politics involved in this deal. The commissioner refused to recuse himself and Rose filed suit seeking an injunction against the commissioner from having the hearing as scheduled. The court granted Rose a temporary injunction on the basis that the commissioner had prejudged Rose. The dispute was settled between the commissioner and Rose. As part of that agreed upon resolution, the commissioner suspended Rose for life but allowed him to be eligible to apply for reinstatement after one year, and in turn, Rose dropped his lawsuits against the commissioner. The end result for the commissioner was that the lawsuit ended against the commissioner for the authoritarian manner in which he went about investigating Rose. However, the rub that Rose did not foresee was that his part of the settlement would involve the retaliatory acts of continued banishment almost thirty (30) years later.

What is to stop Rose from petitioning the commissioner for reinstatement again and then filing a court action based off of the commissioner's refusal to reinstate him. What causes of action would Rose have based on the denial of reinstatement this many years later? Regardless, it is a travesty of justice that Rose, the all time hits leader, is not treated in the same manner that Jeter is treated - with the respect that is due him. To hell with the commissioner and his best interest power! Pete Rose should be in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

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