Baseball and Major League Baseball are two different things. Fans who love the game had better come to terms with that simple fact. Baseball is a game and Major League Baseball is a corporation. When you shackle your romantic notions of the game to MLB you handcuff any vestige of idealism. It is like enjoying a banana that has been extorted from a Central American republic, or filling your car full of gasoline that has been hijacked from the Middle East. If you think about it too much it is really hard to feel good about the process. Major League Baseball is mass-produced in boardrooms by executives in suits and wing tips. They take your Field of Dreams and turn your corn into their cash.
On Monday ESPN confirmed what was already known about Pete Rose. Outside the Lines released a notebook detailing Rose’s daily gambling on baseball – including the Reds – from 1986. John Dowd, the former prosecutor who was commissioned by MLB to investigate Rose, has been thoroughly vindicated. He has tried for over 25 years to tell anybody who would listen what he already knew.
“This is the final piece of the puzzle on a New York betting operation with organized crime. And, of course, [Rose] betting while he was a player,” said Dowd.
Pete Rose is a degenerate gambler. He gambled on Major League Baseball as a player and a coach – and surely he was not alone. Nothing compromises a sporting event more than a player or coach who gambles on its outcome. Keep your memories of Pete’s 4,000th hit and his amazing catch in the 1980 World Series. Replay in your mind This Week in Baseball’s soundtrack to Charlie Hustle diving into third and slamming himself to the turf. Pete Rose was an incredible baseball player with a debilitating illness.
Pete Rose should never enter a Major League dugout or a Major League stadium ever again; but we can leave that decision to the consciences MLB’s businessmen. We can leave his Hall of Fame status to the same troupe of gutless sportswriters who watched the Steroid Era pass before everyone’s eyes. These sanctimonious caretakers of the game knew – more than anybody – what was happening. They chose, just like Bud Selig and the owners, to pump up the bloated dreams. They all made Roidball possible and believable.
Who really cares about the Hall of Fame anyway? The numbers have long since been blotted and massaged like the ledger of a drunken bookkeeper. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America has always honored their favorites and punished their imagined villains. Let them have an annual celebration of their contrived and pretentious wisdom. Go ahead and visit Cooperstown and love it. Just do not think for a moment that the Hall of Fame represents anything but a self-important MLB celebration of itself. The busts and memorabilia have been smashed and strewn together with all the care and forethought of a roid rage.
Pete Rose gambled on baseball. The Steroids Era of the early 90s to early 2000s happened. They cheated in different ways for different reasons. The debates will go on forever. If you love baseball leave MLB to itself. Let the Commissioner, the owners, and the Players’ Association make the rules and set the standards for their game. Let the paid sportswriters divvy up Hall of Fame honors. They all deserve each other. MLB and its corporate enablers doubled down on baseball fans’ starry-eyed passion. They won. Fans lost. Now Major League Baseball has all the romance of a needle being thrust forcefully into your buttocks.
If you love baseball take care of the game. It is dying in your backyard. The rotten leaves at the top of the tree are symptoms of a disease that is ravaging the trunk. The real game is not televised, and is not recreated on your XBox. The real game is played in backyards, streets, and parks across the country. Baseball is a uniquely American game and it has bridged generations for a century and a half. Keep YOUR baseball memories. Learn the game, and teach the game to your kids.
You can love Major League Baseball too. The skill on display in major league games is dreamlike. Just remember that the MLB field of dreams has been serially separated from the first time you felt that ball on the bat, caught a fly ball on the run, or crashed into third base. Celebrate the talent that it takes to make it to the Show, but respect yourself and the game enough to make that perspective real. It is their Show and your game. Rose and the roiders are just men guilty of the same temptations and weaknesses as anyone. Give them MLB and the Hall of Fame. Your own baseball memories are better than a corporate vision.