Sunday, February 23, 2014

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Junior year has been a bear to say the least. A lot has changed since my last few posts, granted they are growing even fewer in number and further in between. I've been named the Sports Editor of my school newspaper, gotten a 220 on the PSAT, decided to go into cardiology, won awards for outstanding mock trial work as an attorney, and begun to question my formerly staunch libertarianism. That being said, I am still a passionate sports fan, and though my time here grows less and less, I appreciate whoever still reads these posts. Here is a persuasive essay--forced to be in the Rogerian format--I have written for my English III class, with a few extra paragraphs split up for ease of reading, which will be followed by an opposing view by the end of the week.

The man I marvel at is the one that’s in there day after day, and night after night, and still puts figures on the board.  I’m talking about Pete Rose.” 
--Sparky Anderson

    On August 24, 1989, then-MLB commissioner Bart Giamatti delivered an edict that would forever change the face of professional baseball: Pete Rose, manager of the Cincinnati Reds, was forever banned from the game he loved. Baseball’s hit king had been swiftly and unceremoniously dethroned. Gone were the cheers, the certain Hall of Fame induction, and his career, all, of course, for betting on his team to win the games in which it played. Though this was a clear violation of the written rules all players and managers must abide by—as supporters of the punishment often cite---a lifetime ban, especially in light of recent developments, is quite clearly too severe a penalty. The man that played the most games in league history, collected the most hits, a 1900s All-Century selection, two Gold Glove awards, three batting titles, and an MVP award, deserves better. It is time for the ban to be lifted and to release Pete Rose from his prison without bars.  

     Though Rose admittedly did break rules, it is important to note that his gambling never actually affected the outcomes of games, which was the intent behind the rule itself. The stated goal of a manager is, quite obviously, to win games. And considering the fact that Rose almost exclusively bet on the Reds, always to win, he was only providing himself another incentive to do so. There were not instances of point-shaving, spread covering, or game-throwing—such were insults to the man’s competitiveness. His goal was to win every game, every season. Further, the punishments for actually affecting games by means of PEDs, scuffing baseballs, or impeding runners—the largest of which being a 162 game ban held by Alex Rodriguez—pale in comparison to Rose’s which obviously did not affect his managing as it only further incentivized him to perform at  a high level.  "I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team," Rose said in an interview with ESPN. "I did everything in my power every night to win that game.” Is that not the true meaning of competitive baseball?

     The man has been punished for supporting his team, while others have comparatively walked away unscathed for deliberately affecting games, and many have walked right into the place Rose will never be: The Hall of Fame. The most obvious symbol of Rose’s punishment, the Hall of Fame markets itself as a testament to the history of Major League Baseball. Outside of a performance-based election by either the Veteran’s Committee or the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, there are no real standards for entry. Yet, interestingly, a large majority of the proponents of Rose’s suspension act as though it is a cathedral and that he is stuck at the gates. He is, many claim, morally unfit for the honor. By violating the rules of the game, he knowingly sacrificed his chance at immortality. However, many other players of dubious character have been allowed on the ballot and have actually been enshrined in Cooperstown. 

     To name a few: Ty Cobb was a racist, Don Sutton doctored baseballs, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron used amphetamines, and John McGraw even tripped baserunners while the umpires were distracted. Goose Gossage even wrote a book about his illegal escapades. Further, the Hall already profits from his contributions to the game. There are over twenty pieces of Rose memorabilia in the Hall of Fame. Why they cannot enshrine the man who gave those pieces meaning is beyond comprehension. If the Hall truly serves to memorialize the history of the game, “Charlie Hustle,” a man who has admitted his wrongdoing and repented, deserves to be a part of it. 

     The most obvious contribution Pete Rose made to baseball was his superlative work ethic. Though some believe that by gambling he violated the central tenet of the game, that he sold baseball’s soul for personal gain, it is quite clear that he actually supported it. Rose embodied the ideal competitor. He ran to first base on walks, slid headfirst into bases, and took the competitive spirit and fire the game cherishes to an entirely new level. He never took a play off. He even took an exhibition game—the All-Star game—and turned it into a lesson on hustle, separating catcher Ray Fosse’s left shoulder in a successful effort to win the game for the National League. Winning was all that mattered. And though Rose was not the most gifted hitter, nor the best fielder, nor even the best athlete, he was the best hustler—the central dogma of the sport. Enshrining Rose, or at least lifting his ban, would represent a symbolic return to the fundamental values—grit, competiveness, hustle, and a “win at all costs” attitude—of the sport that supporters of the ban say he somehow violated. It is quite obvious that a league without Rose is a league without its soul. 

     Pete Rose is the victim of an unfortunate double standard. “…to be honest with you, I picked the wrong vice. I should have picked alcohol. I should have picked drugs or I should have picked up beating up my wife or girlfriend because if you do those three, you get a second chance,” he said in an interview. Though tactless, he might be right. Though some believe Rose deserves a ban for violating the rules of the game, such a view is misguided. By supposedly degrading the integrity of the game, Rose brought forth one of its greatest attributes—will to win honestly. He never threw a game. He never artificially boosted his performance with PEDs like Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, or Barry Bonds, all of whom are still in good standing with Major League Baseball. He never deliberately or directly affected the outcomes of games. All he did was be the 28th greatest hitter in league history. Should he have done any of these despicable actions in place of betting on his own team, ironically, he would have a place in Cooperstown by now.  And that has to change. Let the king return to his throne. 
 Pete Rose runs over Ray Fosse

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