Monday, December 14, 2015

Baseball Ethics

I'm going back to my roots now with an essay on Baseball. I don't want to get overly sentimental or nostalgic but I have a long history with the game.
And Pete Rose is a figure from the past that periodically pops up. He was part of the studio commentator for FOX Sports this past post season and others correctly said he reminded them of 'my drunk uncle' with his slurred ramblings on hitting and pitching. Most players are careful with their words but Rose obviously is never wrong when it comes to baseball. So back in 1989 it was exposed that he was gambling on baseball, which is prohibited by baseball rules, and he was gambling on games he was coaching, and probably gambled on games he had played in. There are some obvious ethics issues because even if you 'always bet your team to win' then it will affect how your relieve pitchers...or if you took the over or under (total score) or specifics. It's classic rabbit hole of bad ethics because you suddenly control the game that you have bet on and if you have insider information on your pitching staff then you can bet with that information on your side. It's a testament to how confident Vegas Bookies are that they would take bets from the person involved in managing the team they are betting on. Vegas is confident because they aren't trying to beat a single person, they are trying to 'middle' the line so it can go either way...and that way 50% of people lose and 50% win...and the VIG is the profit. Vegas doesn't want to 'win'. No, they already know they will win the VIG, which is enough. They simply want to speculate on the lines in such a fashion that one incomplete pass, one missed field goal, one interception or fumble, one injury is the difference in the game and no one can predict those intangibles before the game. Well, Vegas can predict them in a way that will leave you heartbroken if you want to get into sports gambling. It's evil and addictive and all wrong for the sport, but it's not going anywhere. So, I pity Rose for having a personality that suited itself to the delusion of thinking oneself superior to Vegas bookmakers. I guarantee Rose lost more than he won and probably lost millions.

MLB recently rejected Rose's appeal to lift the ban. And even though he was banned for life, the current commissioner seemed to suggest that there were conditions that Rose could meet and the ban would be lifted. But Rose has not met those conditions, such as amending his ways, penitence, sorrow, etc. And this can't really be denied because even though most of the world only knows Rose through his commentary stints, it is clear he's no different than he was in 1989. But seated a few feet from Rose was the villainous Alex Rodriguez, who demonstrated equally abominable conduct on and off the field, but 'played the game' when it came time to serve his suspension and acted regretful, etc. It's all bullshit. Rose and ARod are no different at heart. Most players are looking out for themselves. ARod is not banned from baseball.

This is all kind of pointless since Rose doesn't want to coach or play. The only issue is if he's eligible for the Hall of Fame, which is actually a separate entity involving journalists, but since 1991 they have agreed that those people who have been banned from baseball will also not be eligible for Hall of Fame induction. Rose holds the all-time hit record and if you watch a highlights reel of him you see him running to first base on a walk, which is something no other player does. Today, a walk means the player will take off all the armor they wore to the plate and then jug/walk toward the base. Most walk the entire way.

Should the ban be lifted? Yes, and it's simply because as a player Rose was the best example of a true love of the game. No, he didn't really care about other players, he wasn't nice, he was interested in winning for his own purposes. But he has to be on everyone's all-time team list simply because when he played he was playing to win and he played his hardest on every play. That's all you can ask and it qualifies him for Baseball. A lifetime ban is something completely different...I don't even know what would deserve a lifetime ban. There's a list of people banned and they are mostly drug users and gamblers. But the silliness of banning someone with vague conditions, like, have you learned your lesson? I don't get that because it sounds very grade school to me, something in 4th grade. As adults we have to accept that suspensions and punishments should be pro-active. Some good should come out of it. Sure, Rose bet on baseball and he probably lost a ton of money, so we're going to punish him for losing money? You think he wanted to lose money? He loved winning games more than he loved winning money. Any gambler will tell you there is no joy in winning money because it immediately comes with the realization of how much you've lost and how deep in the hole you still are and...hey is the line moving on NY? I'll take the Over. It's instantly forgotten and only the high of betting is where the thrill lies. The winning or losing is totally meaningless. It's the action. So, Rose deserved to be suspended, certainly. But lift the ban and let the teams decide if they want to hire him. That's a decision they will make on their own. Let the Journalists decide if he belongs in the Hall of Fame. It's too much power in the Commissioner's hands to execute a person's career like this. He can suspend them and investigate, but that's all he can do. Consider that Rose was losing $10,000 a day gambling...and maybe $25,000 a week. If he were getting rich of gambling then we could lynch him, but he was losing consistently. So, either he was betting against his own team...and accidentally coaching to win...or he was betting in favor of his team and then losing despite his best efforts. Either way, he sucked at gambling and ultimately played and coached as a competitor, not a gambler.

The last comment I want to make is on ticket scalping. Stub Hub is a ticket brokering network where people can buy tickets at premium rates. Season ticket holders sell their own tickets...and a $17 seat ends up costing $250. This practice is ignored by the Commissioner, who pretends to be interested in integrity. Fine, let's talk about integrity. Let's talk about $1000 for a family to go see a baseball game. How is that good for baseball? I ask you. It's no good and it's within the power of the Commissioner to change it for the integrity of baseball. Will they? No, because they don't care about the fan, they only care about money, which makes them 10x worse than Pete Rose, who was addicted to winning.

I ask you this, The Red Sox remained segregated, despite horrible win-loss record, for 14 years after baseball was desegregated. The 1st Commissioner of baseball, Kenesaw Landis did not oppose desegregation of baseball but he could not force a team to hire a black player. Isn't it possible to look at Pete Rose the same way? To investigate and publicize your findings, but then let the teams and journalists decide what to do. Rose was making bets from the dugout, so I assume the Reds management knew he was gambling, but they decided it was better for baseball to let him remain a coach.

Baseball is no more devoted to integrity than before, so don't be fooled. Baseball cares about money. Pete Rose cares about Pete Rose. Stub Hub cares about Stub Hub. They can talk about integrity, but there is very little in practice and Pete Rose is simply a scapegoat poster child of what happens when you don't play nice and get put in the corner. It's my belief that the game can be cleaned up in many ways to provide fans a better opportunity for honest entertainment.

Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.