Major League Baseball owners sent out a column of white smoke from their huddle in Baltimore on Thursday evening, signifying the election of Rob Manfred as baseball’s 10th commissioner. It was not an easy decision, though, and one of the dissenting clubs was our own Cincinnati Reds who held out until the final hours. While speculation swirls around the reasons for owner Bob Castellini’s resistance, it’s not hard to imagine that Pete Rose played a factor.
It’s no secret, of course, that Rose has been banned from baseball and barred from the Hall of Fame since he pleaded nolo contendere to charges that he bet on the game as Reds’ manager 25 years ago. Since then, all efforts on his part and through public outcry to have him reinstated have fallen on the deaf ears of commissioner Bud Selig. A changing of the guard has always been one of Rose’s best hopes for some form of absolution.
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Manfred, though, has been Selig’s right-hand man for as long as anyone can remember, and he was also Bud’s hand-picked successor. The new commish has a reputation as a deft labor negotiator who is nevertheless a bit soft in taking a stance with the players’ union. Beyond that, we don’t know what kind of chief executive he will be, but it seems likely he will stay the Selig course in most matters.
That would not bode well for Rose, whose support among fans has burgeoned in the post-steroid era as we look back on the last quarter century and ask ourselves which was worse: Rose’s gambling or the video game stats of the home run generation. It’s an apples-and-oranges argument in many respects, but it has cast Rose in a much more favorable light than he enjoyed even 10 years ago.
Castellini and the Reds have been eager to welcome Rose back to the riverfront at every possible opportunity, and they plan to include him in the the 2015 All-Star festivities at Great American Ball Park. They almost certainly would prefer any move that could get Charlie Hustle back into the game on a permanent basis.
We can’t discount the idea that Castellini and the seven other dissenters simply don’t think that Manfred is the best man for the job, and that they need one of their own — an owner — in charge to take a hard-line stance against escalating player salaries. It makes some sense, even if it’s short-sighted in light of burgeoning revenues throughout the game.
Far more romantic and endearing for Reds fans is the notion that the team is firmly behind Pete Rose, charging head first for reinstatement.