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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Caminker & Chemerinsky on Pete Rose, MLB, and the Hall of Fame

Evan Caminker and Erwin Chemerinsky argue in The Times that Major League Baseball should reinstate Pete Rose, making him eligible for election and induction into the Hall of Fame.

Steve Lubet (Faculty Lounge) hits the glaring defect in their argument--they minimize the severity of Rose's misdeeds and their effects on the game by emphasizing that Rose never bet against the Reds, without acknowledging the downstream effects of his gambling choices. I do not have much to add to his argument.

Caminker and Chemerinsky also minimize Rose's misdeeds by comparing them with revelations about sign-stealing and PED use, maximizing the evils of those practice. But reasonable minds differ about sign-stealing and PED use. Many (including many who played the game) believe sign-stealing to be a well-worn part of the game and the ongoing search for a competitive advance and PED use to be the same as other scientific advances that improve performance. No one (I do not think) argues that gambling on baseball is OK.

The timing is interesting because President Trump last week called for TrumpRose* to be in the Hall, for many of the reasons Caminker & Chemerinsky present. Although they do not mention Trump, they agree on something.

[*] Freudian slip. Trump probably does believe he should be in the Hall of Fame.

It might be tempting to view this question through the controversy over Trump's many actual and threatened pardons, which C&C (especially Chemerinsky) have criticized. But that is not the right way to look at this. Rose was punished with a lifetime ban that included the opportunity to petition for reinstatement, with a presumption that any petition would be considered in good faith, if not with a presumption in favor reinstatement (and likely the opposite). Rose accepted the same punishment imposed on Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, and the rest of the Black Sox, several of whom petitioned (unsuccessfully) over the years. Caminker and Chemerinksy thus do not call for a pardon, but for the exercise of the discretion built into the sanction. They make arguments similar to those of  several Hall of Famers (including, I believe, Ted Williams) in the late-'80s/early '90s in favor of Jackson's reinstatement, following release of Field of Dreams.

Unsurprisingly, C&C do get the procedure right. They do not argue for Rose to be placed in the Hall. They urge MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to reinstate Rose on the grounds that Rose has served the time for his crime against the game. Reinstatement would allow Hall voters to elect him, without requiring it; voters could decline to elect him as they have with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire, believing that the shadow of misconduct precludes election. Ironically, the rule that formally prevents Rose's (but not the others') election was codified in 1990, in response to the tide of pro-Jackson sentiment.  On the other hand, as a commenter on Steve's post points out, the Hall could repeal its rule and elect Rose even if he remains banned by MLB. 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 12, 2020 at 05:13 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink


The argument included within it the right to petition for reinstatement. So even if he somehow "waived" a challenge to the full punishment, he reserved the right to seek, and thus to be, reinstated. As for the statutory rape allegation, voters would handle that the way they handle other "character" considerations.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Feb 13, 2020 12:06:31 PM

I'm a Cincinnati resident, so writing this won't make me particularly popular where I live, but:

My recollection is that Pete Rose accepted a lifetime ban in exchange for MLB ending its investigation. If Rose really wants to (essentially) withdraw from his settlement agreement, doesn't that open the door for MLB to reopen its investigation? It may just be a matter of MLB releasing information it already has but has never made public.

And if Rose were reinstated (or the HOF were to repeal its rule), voters would face some tricky questions. How does one weigh the decades of denials by Rose before he finally acknowledged he gambled on baseball? And should a HOF voter consider the (relatively) recent John Dowd allegation that Rose committed statutory rape in the 1970's? (And how weird does all of that get given the Dowd/Trump connection?)

There's a whole lot more involved in the "reinstate Rose" argument than just "he served his time."

Posted by: Donald | Feb 13, 2020 11:56:47 AM

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