Shock! Fay Vincent Does Not Want Pete Rose to Be Reinstated


For more than 25 years, Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose has waited for a chance at redemption, an ear in the Major League Baseball Commissioner’s office that might hear his reinstatement case. With the changing of the guard from Bud Selig to Rob Manfred last month, Rose may be on the verge of his last best chance.  With as much support as Rose has received among the general baseball public in recent years, though, a faction of staunch traditionalists still vehemently oppose his reinstatement.  It should come as no surprise that former commissioner Fay Vincent falls into that category.  

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As Newsday’s Steven Marcus reported on Saturday, we can expect Vincent to be very vocal in his objection to any kind of amnesty for Rose.  The issue, Vincent says, is not even about Rose, but about continuing to keep the game clean:

"The Pete Rose case is not about Pete Rose, so the issue of ‘has he served his time, does he deserve mercy?’ is in my book irrelevant. This issue has always been the deterrent in baseball against gambling [and] is almost perfectly successful. It never happens, and the reason it doesn’t happen is if you touch that third rail, you’re out of baseball for life whether you’re a Hall of Famer or not, and nobody’s ever been reinstated."

It’s interesting to note that Vincent mentions Cooperstown in his diatribe — “whether you’re a Hall of Famer or not” — as the real end game for most Rose supporters is to see him inducted into the Hall, not necessarily for him to gain full reinstatement to Major League Baseball.

It may seem a distinction without boundaries, but from the time that the Hall of Fame elected its first class in 1936 until a couple of years after the Rose scandal broke, there was no rule specifically restricting players banned by MLB from being elected to Cooperstown.  It wasn’t until 1991 that the Hall took it upon itself to enact such a statute, ensuring that Rose would be without a bust as long as he was locked out of baseball.

Any guesses as to the name of MLB’s Commissioner at the time of that vote?  It was, of course, none other than Fay Vincent, who also sat on the Hall of Fame board of directors.  Vincent, ostensibly due to some sense of propriety, abstained from that ballot, but you can be sure he drove the pre-vote discussions.

So now, the Commissioner who was eventually tossed out on his ear is chewing on the ear of the newest commish, admonishing him to not break down the deterrents constructed over the decades:

"For a commissioner to change that deterrent — without an awful lot of very careful examination — would be a bad mistake. I don’t believe Rob Manfred is up to that kind of mistake. I don’t think he’s going to do it, either."

Rose and his supporters have to hope that Manfred is up to the task of taking a fresh look at the circumstances that led to the downfall of a baseball icon, and think creatively about how the game can benefit from resolution.  In the 2010s, rigidity is not a trait that progressive organizations can sustain, lest they become stagnant organizations.

The answer to the Pete Rose dilemma is not simple, but it’s not so complicated that thinking people should avoid it altogether.  What is certain is that standing still, in concrete boots crafted in the late 1980s, serves no one.

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