Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday Whatnot: The Great Debate

About four months ago, the House of Georges celebrated two years of existence. It was no big deal. We didn't send out invites, hire a clown, or bake any cakes. The date was more so a note upon which the three of us -- aptly named the Iron Triangle -- could sit back and think, Have we really been cranking out these posts for 24 months? The ones we stress and argue over? The ones hardly anyone reads? Yes, indeed, we had. A funny thing happened a few months in, however, and I'd like to share it with you now. Right here. Today. It can be summed up in one succinct word: obsession.

What I mean is, I really, really liked what we were doing. I loved posting. I pored with hunger pangs of verbiage over every word my colleagues wrote. I digressed, frantically trying to devour every word published on the blogosphere. I petitioned other established bloggers for link exchanges. I fumbled hopelessly with teaching myself codes and HTML. I procrastinated on every graduate-school assignment I had. I barely saw my fiancee, and I neglected my then senior citizen dog. I wanted to expand, build a network of blogs, and my first idea...

...had something to do with Andy Dufresne from "The Shawshank Redemption." It had quite a bit to do with dedication, and a lot to do with Pete Rose. I called it Letters to Bud. Dufresne wanted a library for the prison in the movie. He wrote to politicians once a week for some two to five years until they just quit ignoring him, and they unloaded money for building and books for shelving upon him, and the Shawshank Library was a dream no more.

I wanted the lifetime ban from baseball cast upon Rose -- to which he agreed -- by Major League Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti lifted. Let's just say I got my signals a little crossed. For starters, I dove into this vanity side project thinking of it as a team effort. I made phone calls. I sent e-mails. I texted. I thought we were in like the proverbial, only when I pronounced that we were "going streaking" straight to the 31st floor of Park Avenue in New York, I looked behind me and I was the only naked dude inquiring about KFC's hours of operation. The other miswiring was that I incorrectly remembered that Dufresne wrote a letter a day to see his goal through. Mind you, I not only posted these letters on the aforelinked GoreNets, I actually printed a hard copy, signed it with my real name, stamped an envelope, and sent those little scrolls to my pen pal Bud.

And mind you, I got married, moved into a new house, and honeymooned a mere two months prior. Weird thing is, the wife was on board with the thing. My in-laws were like, "Go, son. You write your letters." Or something. People started asking me when I'd get to work what today's letter was about. And the thing took off. I had a head of steam about me with the gig. Cecil said I was nuts but to go for it. Old No. 7 envisioned Selig interns and a famous press conference, all resulting in a House of Georges hookers-and-cocaine party. So I ran with it. For 44 days.

I truly was in over my head thinking that I could keep it and the House of Georges contributions rolling, and work, and sleep, and be a husband. And drink heavily. I was drinking fairly heavily then, so the ol' early-bird-knocks-out-the-posts mantra, uh, didn't exist. It was fun, though. I don't regret it one bit. If I can say two things about it, they are that I tried, and I was sincere. But then I started getting into the Dowd report. I was researching old USA Today articles. I was purchasing literature on the guy. My wife was still on board, but she didn't care for the fact that I was basically filling the trash can with toner cartridges like boogers into a morning Kleenex, and them things ain't cheap. I hit a point where I was studying too much to have time to post, and the wheels came off.

Since then, Rose's name has come up inside the House of Georges a time or two. I stumble across something, I'll link to it, or write about it. My feelings about the ban haven't changed, and to be honest, it kind of took me by surprise the other day when I discovered that the 20-year anniversary of the ban was approaching. I couldn't believe it. I thought, What if I'd kept the Letters to Bud going out? Would it have made a difference? And then some chatter arose about the whole deal. Hank Aaron came out and endorsed Rose. Folks scooted to the edge of their seats. Bloggers came out of their moms' basements (in their underwear) to see if there was anything in the papers. The SportsTalk Radios buzzed. Finally, Selig came out of his wormhole like the cops at a high school party:

"Go on home, you damn kids," nobody quoted him saying. "Take your damn Hamm's and your hip-hop with you, and stay the hell offa my lawn."

And things fizzled.

I was informed this morning, however, about this blog, which I've never read before today, and about this post, which Craig Calcaterra wrote on Monday. It's sort of about Mike Schmidt coming out and saying, in not so many words, that "20 years is enough punishment. Let's lift the ban." But mostly about the author of the post disagreeing with that sentiment by saying, "The headline to Schmidt's piece asks if 20 years is enough. My answer: no, not really."

Now mind you, I'd never read this Calcaterra cat prior to today, and mind you, I never will again. For my money, he's a gosh-darned buffoon. The post, however, was heavily commented upon, and so today, he offered this post, which revisits his post from two days ago, and offers new(ish) insight, provided by none other than our own Old No. 7. In a nutshell, Seven, in his assessment of our recent Hitters feature, took, as he is prone to do, every opportunity to belittle Rose, and make him look like a child molester. Kinda. Calcaterra, buffoon that he is, loved it, and linked to our feature. Picture, if you will, buck-toothed Mike Shanhan, on the sidelines, proclaiming to a horse-faced John Elway, "I'm so proud of you." Oh glorious day.

So if my colleage and his new best pal are the Dark Side in the battle of the Rose Force, I've got myself and my homey Joe Posnanski bringing up Team Good. Some excerpts from the piece:

"Here it is, 20 years after he agreed to a lifetime suspension for gambling on baseball (and, he would finally admit, his own team), and the debate about him is as raw as it ever was. Screaming. Insults. Good journalists such as ESPN's Buster Olney will call Rose 'nothing less than a lowlife,' and excellent writers such as Fox's Mark Kriegel will call him a 'skell' -- which seems awfully harsh. It isn't like Rose mugged people. As far as I know, he hasn't killed anybody or kidnapped anybody or betrayed his nation or bilked senior citizens out of their social security. He bet on his team. He lied about it."

"While writing my book The Machine about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds, excerpted in this week's Sports Illustrated, I was astonished that virtually every player on that team shared a story about the time that Rose said a few kind words when they were in a slump, or the time Rose picked up their check when they weren't making any money, or the time Rose invited them to his house for dinner. Will McEnaney remembers Rose giving him shoes. Gary Nolan remembers Rose believing in him when he was hurting. Joe Morgan remembers Rose pushing him and inspiring him into becoming the Hall of Fame player he became. Ken Griffey remembers Rose being a guy who treated him with respect from the start."

"So how do we get beyond all that and discuss one of the most talked about baseball questions of the last two decades: Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame? I think the question needs the word 'should,' not 'will,' in it, because honestly I don't think he will get in. For Rose to get inducted into the Hall of Fame, two basic things would have to happen:...One, he would need to be reinstated somehow...Two -- even if he WAS reinstated, he would need 75 percent approval from either the Baseball Writers Association of America or the Veteran's Committee (made up of living Hall of Famers)."

From here Posnanski cites but a few of the hundreds of things that have been said against Rose, reasons for keeping the ban in place, reasons for making sure that you, the American public, the lover of baseball, the model of good-versus-evil for any and all children to learn from, understand that Rose committed baseball's cardinal sin.

"And so it goes ... this has been repeated so many times that people have simply come to accept it as undeniable fact. Betting on baseball is the cardinal sin.

Only ... it isn't. Or anyway, nobody REALLY BELIEVES what Pete Rose did is baseball's cardinal sin. If we are using 'cardinal sin' to mean the worst possible thing a baseball player can do or, to be more precise, 'the sin that condemns a person's soul to eternal Hell,' well, I can think of about 200 things you can do on a baseball field worse than gamble on a game."

"But the real point is this: Even under the gambling umbrella, what Pete Rose did is not even CLOSE to baseball's cardinal sin. I would think that taking a large sum of money from gamblers and then purposely playing lousy enough that your team will lose the World Series, yes, THAT might be called baseball's cardinal sin. Nobody suggests Pete Rose did that. Betting on your team to lose and then going 0-for-5 in a playoff game and committing an error with the winning run on third, yes, THAT might be baseball's cardinal sin. Nobody suggests Pete Rose did that either. Purposely performing poorly on the field during a regular season game in order to cash in on bets, yes, even that might be baseball's cardinal sin. Nobody suggest Pete Rose did that either.

Seems to me the cardinal sin would be to AFFECT THE OUTCOME OF GAMES in order to profit on it -- either by gambling yourself or taking money from gamblers.

What Pete Rose DID do -- or at least what we KNOW he did -- is bet on the Cincinnati Reds to win while he was manager of the team. Did he do more? Maybe. But this is what we know and the Dowd Report is clear in saying "No evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Cincinnati Reds." In 20 years of digging and pinching you would think that if Rose indeed bet against the Reds at any point it would have come out. All you can know is what you know. I think it's probably fair to say that Rose bet on his team to win."

He mentions a series of polls that were up on his blog a few months ago, results from which he deduces that "many of us are good at being against the CONCEPT of gambling on baseball, but not so sure of ourselves when it comes to the particulars."

And finally:

"And there's something about forgiveness in here too. One thing you hear people say is that Pete Rose hasn't EARNED our forgiveness. It's hard to argue the point. Over the last 20 years, he has been brash and dishonest and indiscreet and arrogant. But there's something else. Pete Rose made a lot of people happy playing baseball. He inspired a lot of people to try harder. He cracked more hits than anyone who ever played the game. And anyway, I didn't think forgiveness was supposed to be earned. I thought forgiveness was supposed to be given. I thought that was the whole point."

I'm not about to get on a number-14 soap box here. I've done that once before. I was up there for 44 days, and I, too, think about the notion of foregiveness.


old no. 7 said...

Synopsis: Pete Rose was a saint who never did anything wrong in his whole life, nope, not never ever. Anyone who brings up anything involving Pete Rose in anything less than glowing gushing idolatry is a liar, a snake and a buffoon. Do not touch the sacred cow.

bankmeister said...

Actual, legitimate, non-cynical synopsis: America is the land of second chances. See: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Mike Vick, Kobe Bryant, Charles Barkley, Rick Pitino, and waiting in the wing are Donte Stallworth, Marvin Harrison, Michael Beasley, the list goes on.

Pete Rose gambled. He should be pardoned, reinstated.

This has nothing to do with his character.

old no. 7 said...

That's perfectly fine, and for the umpteenth time I AGREE WITH YOU. Maybe not about Rose working in baseball again, but he should certainly be granted access to the Hall of Fame.

The point of this most recent blip, though, is not Pete Rose's character nor his worthiness for Cooperstown. It was about the widely held belief that Pete Rose committed lesser sins against baseball than the the muscleheads outed by the Mitchell Report, the 2003 "anonymous" tests and Jose Canseco. My only point was that that's a silly argument to make, since we have no idea whether Pete Rose ever took steroids himself.

Quoth Calcaterra: "How (steroids)can be employed as the definitive moral differentiator between Rose and, say, Barry Bonds is beyond me."

That's it. Not "Pete Rose is a horrible person," not "Anyone who supports Pete Rose has shit for brains."

bankmeister said...

I understand. My only point, though, was that Calcaterra claimed that 20 years wasn't long enough punishment. To my memory, I've never come out and said that Rose or his actions is/are "better" than those that've used PEDs. I don't have any stock in such an argument.

If I have said it -- and I know that many others have -- than I forget.

My take is solely for Rose's case and Rose's case alone.

Dylan said...

Pete will not get in till he dies or is close to it. He pissed off the "family" of MLB that can't turn over their books and tell you how much money they are fleecing from your community..162 times a year.
We are the land of second-chances, but Rose will not get his. It will be posthomous(sp?). Bank, you would know this if you weren't out masturbating trees all the time.