With supporters like Donald Trump, Pete Rose doesn’t need opponents

SAN DIEGO,CA-CIRCA 1986:Pete Rose manager of the Cincinnati makes a trip to the mound against the San Diego Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium circa 1986 in San Diego,California. (Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO,CA-CIRCA 1986:Pete Rose manager of the Cincinnati makes a trip to the mound against the San Diego Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium circa 1986 in San Diego,California. (Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images) /

Donald Trump is trying to force his opinion into another matter; namely, getting Pete Rose into the MLB Hall of Fame.

Whatever you do or don’t think of his tenure in the White House, you have to admit that when it comes to sports Donald Trump’s penchant for tweeting from the lip would be mildly amusing if it wasn’t such an ignorant exercise. Whether harrumphing about a Kentucky Derby disqualification or thinking he can will Pete Rose‘s return from baseball’s phantom zone, President Trump stands athwart wisdom yelling “That’s what you think!”

Last May, when Maximum Security was disqualified as the Kentucky Derby winner because his jockey drifted into the path of two other horses at the 5/16ths pole, against the written Derby rules, the president fumed, “It was a rough & tumble race on a wet and sloppy track, actually, a beautiful thing to watch. Only in these days of political correctness could such an overturn occur. The best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby – not even close!”

And on Saturday, just a couple of days after Rose and his representatives filed a reinstatement request using Astrogate as the hook on which to hang Rose’s case, President Tweety delivered: “Pete Rose played Major League Baseball for 24 seasons, from 1963-1986, and had more hits, 4,256, than any other player (by a wide margin). He gambled, but only on his own team winning, and paid a decades long price. GET PETE ROSE INTO THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME. It’s Time!”

light. Related Story. Pete Rose seeks reinstatement following AstroGate

The idea that “the best” in the field—which is what Maximum Security truly was, and which is what many Rose partisans believe he was—carry immunity from the rules of the turf isn’t a novel idea, just a dumb one. Now and then “the best,” actual or believed, actually do get trumped (pun intended) by the rules, however infrequent the denouement. Even World Series-winning managers get executed for either breaking the directives or the rules or doing little to nothing when broken on their watch.

And now and then, even presidents of the United States who take more than a cursory interest in sports get things wrong. They get them wrong whether deciding the best horse in the field should be given a pass despite a protracted review showing him breaking the rules, or whether deciding the so-called Hit King should be given a pass from breaking baseball rules with a lot more gravity than those which say live horses can’t behave as horses often do in animated cartoons.

Stakes race winners have been disqualified even in eras not defined by political correctness. Nobody spoke of political correctness when Dancer’s Image was stripped of his 1968 Derby triumph after flunking a mandatory post-race drug test. Or, when Silver Charm bumped Captain Bodgit down the stretch of the 1997 Derby, and even ABC television commentators broadcasting the race wondered aloud whether that bump would provoke a post-race review. (It didn’t.) As with Maximum Security, Silver Charm’s infraction can and does happen in crowded races, but they’re still against the rules.

Maximum Security didn’t lose his Derby win by way of a snap judgment. (The post-race stewards gave it a 22-minute review, which is longer than a lot of reviews called for during baseball games.) It even took five years before Dancer’s Image’s disqualification held up. Pete Rose didn’t lose his standing in baseball just became somebody was mad at him and decided on the spot he needed to be purged.

Let’s give the president a fair review, then. Rose played major league baseball for 24 seasons? Irrelevant. He had more hits than anyone else in the American major leagues? (Ichiro Suzuki has 111 more than the Hit King in major league-level competition.) Irrelevant again. How long you played, or how many hits you compiled, has no bearing upon the rule you broke that got you exiled.

“He gambled, but only on his own team winning, and paid a decades long price,” the president continued. Considering that he (like many presidents, alas) often treats the Constitution of the United States as something between a mummified historical parchment and a nuisance, until or unless he thinks (as he does) it says Article II lets a president do whatever he damn well pleases, it shouldn’t shock that he takes that view of the rule about which he’s probably spent little to no substantial time pondering.

Once again, part two of Rule 21(d) under which Rose’s residence in the Phantom Zone is paid: Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible. (Emphasis added.)

There’s no distinction or allowance made for betting on your team to win. “Permanently” doesn’t mean decades-long price, never mind “lifetime.” President Tweety seems blissfully unaware, too,  that Rose also bet against his team even in the breach. The investigator who originally probed Rose in 1989, John Dowd, said in 2002 that Pete Rose wouldn’t bet on his Cincinnati Reds on days three-time All-Star but fading pitcher Mario Soto started. Which sent fellow underground gamblers the signal: don’t bet on the Reds today but, if you must, bet against them.

Dowd eventually served as Trump’s lead attorney during that special counsel investigation into accusations that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign in 2016, resigning in 2018 and citing the president’s ignoring advice repeatedly. Stop me if you’ve heard that before. His now-former boss in the White House lacks further cognizance of the Hall of Fame—a body independent of MLB—having passed a 1991 rule that bars those on baseball’s permanently ineligible list from even appearing on any Hall of Fame ballot, never mind being elected to the Hall.

Rose’s new reinstatement petition depends for success upon two things happening that aren’t likely to happen. It would take the first (Manfred reinstating him) to remove the second (the Hall’s rule) from blocking his path to the Hall of Fame. Not even the president of the United States, not even a man holding the office who thinks (erroneously) that the Constitution lets him do what he damn well pleases, can change it by his command.

Next. Rob Manfred needs to go. dark

Not for all the tweets from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Not even if he received, as he did in 2016, a baseball Pete Rose autographed thus: “Mr. Trump, please make America great again.” Mr. Trump, please keep your nose out of baseball’s business until or unless you can speak with, not beyond, competence.