A Slight But Slippery Slope
For several years, Mike Schmidt has been on the record as being in favor of Pete Rose becoming reinstated into baseball. In a piece by Jim Salisbury in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Schmidt continues his support of Rose, advocating for a final decision on the matter to be made by baseball commissioner Bud Selig. While I agree with The Best Third Baseman of All Time that a decision should be made soon, I differ with Schmidt on the final verdict.
Supporters of Rose will argue that what Rose did pales in comparison to what many athletes have done - taking illegal drugs, getting arrested for assault or abuse, even murder. And when one looks at these comparisons in the context of society, they are right, Rose's indiscretions do pale in comparison to those crimes. But Selig isn't making his decision for the good of society - the justice system did that years ago - he is making it for the good of baseball. In the context of baseball, Rose's indiscretions are worse than the crimes of other athletes. Despite the mounting list of misdeeds of other athletes, fans continue to fill stadiums, buy jerseys, and subscribe to satellite TV packages. But if fans begin to question the validity of the outcomes of games, or even seasons, because of suspicions of gambling, the degree at which they patronize and take an interest in baseball will quickly and steadily decrease.
Will reinstating Pete Rose directly lead to an increase in the amount of gambling within baseball? No, but in a very indirect way, it might. Reinstating Rose will set a precedent that gambling on baseball is not grounds for lifetime dismissal, which would represent a weakening of the stance baseball has taken for decades as gambling has always been grounds for lifetime dismissal. This is one stance, for the good of baseball, can not be altered. It's a chance the sport can not afford to take.
As Selig deliberates, he must ask himself, "How will history view this decision?" The question he should not ask himself while deliberating is, "What do the fans want?" In other words, he needs to remember that he needs to do what is best for baseball, not what is most popular.