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Selig as Guilty of Gambling as Rose: An Open Letter to Baseball's Commissioner

Dear Mr. Selig,

rotoballer-fantasy-baseball-advice-bud-seligI love the fact that you are finally cleaning up your sport. Kudos to you for that. And I realize you have a lot on your plate at the moment with the Rodriguez situation, other cheaters and all. But do you have time to answer a few questions?

Ever since Ryan Braun struck his deal with you, I've been considering something that many others are also curious about: Do Pete Rose's sins seem like such a big deal now? Isn't it time to let go of the allegiance to Bart Giamatti and allow Charlie Hustle to be officially recognized by Major League Baseball?

Braun has cemented his status as one of the most detestable liars/cheaters in history (who isn't an owner, league administrator, or A-Rod), and he took down innocent people along the way. Yet, he was able to strike a deal with your office and is still eligible to play again after serving his suspension. Correct me if I'm wrong, but is Braun's cheating and lying somehow less detrimental than Pete Rose's cheating and lying?

Why is a player allowed a few strikes when it comes to altering games with drugs, but a player who gambled on games is instantly given the death sentence with no chance of a pardon?

Can you tell me with a straight face that Alex Rodriguez, in your opinion, hurts the integrity of the game less than a repentant Pete Rose? A-Roid has already begrudgingly admitted to using PEDs once. Yet he continues to play baseball. Pete isn't allowed to set foot on any major league field without your permission.

Ironically, Pete Rose's accomplishments, though not the man who earned them, have been deemed worthy of a slice of real estate in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. My son and I recently toured the Hall and noticed with great pleasure a small section of the facility dedicated to the Hit King. Funny thing: a LOT of people, particularly older folks, were gathered around Pete's memorabilia, snapping photos and watching the continuous loop of hit #4,192. Isn't it odd that so many baseball fans would be interested in the accomplishments of a man who IS NOT enshrined in the Hall of Fame?

Are the contributions to baseball of Rube Waddell, nicknamed "The Sousepaw" by the Sporting News in reference to his drinking habits, greater for the game than those of Rose? Waddell has a plaque in Cooperstown. How about Phil Rizzuto, Nellie Fox, or even Lou Brock or George Sisler? Did any of these guys impact baseball like Pete Rose? How do their career stats line up with his? And how about Joe Tinker, who appears to have gotten in on the strength of a poem? Doesn't it seem tragic to keep a game-changer out of the Hall while so many who were inferior to him are honored? The only thing Pete's outstanding career needs for HOF consideration is your approval of his reinstatement to the game.

Every baseball fan knows Rose has more hits than any man who ever wore a uniform. Every fan also knows he wasn't a Barry Bonds, whose body morphed from Gilligan to Hulk Hogan under your watch without questions from your office. And anyone who ever watched Pete play still to this day talks about his love of the game-- his desire and all-out effort every single moment he was on the diamond. Pete changed the way players approached the game. He raised the bar by employing the now long-lost American work ethic: give 100% at everything you do. How many players can make this claim? How many players are remembered as much for their effort as for their statistics?

When you were a child, how many kids in your neighborhood emulated and idolized Travis Jackson, Stan Coveleski, Heine Manush, or Sam Rice years after they retired? Did any of these now immortal HOF inductees have a nickname summarizing his career... like, say, Charlie Hustle?

Quickly: when you see the #14, what name immediately springs to mind? When asked which player, past or present, loved the game of baseball most, whose name do you think the majority of fans would recite?

Rose's contributions to baseball aren't just ignored; it's as if you pretend he never happened. Networks with MLB contracts are discouraged by your office from broadcasting highlights of his career. Isn't this move a bit unrealistic? His entire existence is treated like Area 51. But we fans know he exists, despite your denials. We have issues with your Magic Bullet theories and accompanying smoke and mirrors… particularly that betting on games, the archaic "cardinal sin" for which Pete is guilty, is somehow worse than altering games by using PEDs.

Remember Brady Anderson in 1996? I'm certain you do. He hit nearly 25% of his career home runs that year, a season in which his physique was suddenly magazine model material. In the three previous seasons, sans the bulging biceps, he hit a combined 41 home runs, nine shy of his '96 total. Anderson was an All Star in '96 due to his outbreak. Can you tell me his obvious juicing didn't raise questions in your mind? Can you tell me his new body didn't alter the outcomes of multiple games? Didn't this happen two years before Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire spit on Roger Maris's sacred single-season home run record, which had stood for 37 years? And then Barry Bonds hit 71 homers in 2001, a full three seasons after Sosa and McGwire's pill-propelled march. And then, another six years passed before Bonds, who by then resembled a pro wrestler, broke Hank Aaron's revered all-time record for career home runs.

Can you honestly say you had no clue players in the '90s (and well into the 2000s) were 'roiding? And, perhaps my most important question: can you say with sincerity you weren't gambling on cheaters to ring the cash registers at MLB ballparks? Remember, the shadow of this seemingly unforgivable sin-- i.e., gambling-- still hangs over Pete Rose's head. The decision to ban Pete for life began with Giamatti and continues to live in your office, where it appears an unquestionably more destructive form of gambling has taken place. Given the fact that you are a very intelligent man, and considering your lifelong history of association with the game of baseball, I find it impossible to believe you did not know players were beefing up, altering the course of thousands of games and the proud history of baseball, all on your watch. Since baseball is a lucrative business, and since the sport had suffered in attendance prior to '98, particularly due to the player's strike in '94, I also find it impossible to believe you didn't see the economic value of players using drugs and boosting the popularity of the game.

For these transgressions, I find you MUCH MORE guilty than Pete Rose of harming the integrity of Major League Baseball. A lifetime ban for Bud Selig seems fair considering the damage you permitted to occur to our great pastime. To me, the hypocrisy of hypocrisies is that you will not allow one of the most widely recognized figures in the history of the game to be recognized as a member of a sport you govern. Between you and Pete, who has done the greatest damage?

I'm aware Pete comes across as pompous and proud. He should have owned up to his indiscretions many years before he finally did. And he shouldn't have come clean in a book so he could make money from the deal. Pete appears to be all about Pete. He was my childhood and early-adulthood idol until I realized he was superficial as a person, always trying to make a buck from his autograph and never seeming concerned with telling the truth.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize it doesn't matter what kind of person Pete Rose the baseball player was or is, although I believe he's mellowed and become more apologetic with age. All that really matters is his contribution to the greatest game in the history of the world… without using the PEDs your regime has allowed to tarnish the sport. As an ambassador for baseball, Pete's knowledge and near-total recall of every single event of his career could be a blessing in this moment of turmoil. He is one of the most revered members of the sport, a monumental accomplishment considering the great players who have graced this pastime, yet he continues to be shunned while today's multi-millionaire cheaters and liars are given slaps on the wrist… mostly because you, Mr. Selig, committed the sin of omission, further smearing the integrity of this great game. You continue to commit this sin via an obvious allegiance to a friend and former commissioner.

I ask you to consider turning the other cheek and lifting this 24-year ban. Enough is enough. Pete's transgressions were nothing compared to the sins that have occurred since he was expelled (which has effectively been your entire reign). Keeping him on the other side of the wall after all this time only verifies the public perceptions of a stubborn regime that needs to either change or go.

Or, you can do what you do best. You can pretend Pete Rose doesn't exist and continue to honor a ban that looks ridiculous today compared to the light sentences meted out to the newest brand of rule breakers. We're used to that. But, keeping past sins of omission in mind, a little compassion on your part may be the only positive thing history remembers about your legacy.

Respectfully yours,

Billy Bruce


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