MLB15 Chin Music: Robby Red Flag

13 Feb

They are the cornerstones in the foundation upon which modern baseball was built and its legitimacy rests: the prohibitions on gambling, performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and a valuable stewardship over its historical record book of achievements.


And in just a little over a month at the helm of America’s national pastime, MLB’s brand, spanking new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, has taken chisel & hammer to hands and appears ready and eager to begin breaking said cornerstones, filling the breach with mixture of one part appeasement, one part pandering and one part indifference.

Last week in appearing on ESPN radio’s Mike & Mike (2/6), Rob took to micro-phone to answer queries on the role he envisions in his new job (a promotion in-house) and various topics of curiosity, including Pete Rose case and PED’s effect on Hall of Fame voting.

Bloom Coming Back?

“I have heard from [Rose’s] lawyer, and I do anticipate having a conversation about that (Rose’s reinstatement to baseball)…it’s a conversation I’m willing to have (“Pete” / WCPO / Noble / 2-7-15).”

While a Rose reinstatement doesn’t assure his induction into Cooperstown by Veterans (“Expansion Era”) Committee vote, just by ending the ban, forgiving his misdeeds, would send a squishy message on gambling at the worst possible time, when sports betting is getting the big push (See; NJ & NBA’s Silver).


Rose’s lifetime ban was never punitive at its crux. It’s over-riding purpose has always been a standard of deterrent to those who’d contemplate the dangerous co-mingle of sport and gambling. On this point there can be no half-measures.

Is it possible the Commissioner is just working PR to give impression his office has a heart, though, not sure what’s hearty about it, and always “willing” to listen, not seriously contemplating a reinstatement? If yes, even flirting with possibility of Rose’s return to MLB-sanctioned events is a bad play, and no good for Pete.

An 8th-grader can recognize importance of finality in a rendered verdict. Legally, some rulings are made without prejudice, remaining open to review when certain criteria are met, while other rulings are with prejudice, forever final.

And that would be the clear message intended and widely supported when Cmsr. Bart Giamatti (d. ’89) negotiated a lifetime ban of Pete Rose in 1989.

Preserving the game’s integrity in keeping it free from illicit drugs and connections that lead to disastrous results like game-fixing (Black Sox), setting a standard for kids and players both, is far cry from the mawkish moralizing Rose campers would claim.

No one person, not Ruth, Jackie, Roberto, Sandy, not Ripken nor Rose is above the game, no matter their popularity or symbolism.


Celebrity sells, but it is the good name of the game itself, not the individuals, that give life to their fame. And I fear that Mr. Manfred, with the game in his hands, skates on thin ice in expressing “willing(ness)” to engage Rose for possible return to baseball.

What’s kept baseball free of the fix since 1919, so it appears, is the bright-line ban (life) which anyone connected to the pastime caught dirty on gambling, will receive.

If that line gets blurred with a Rose return, heaven help us, for if the corrupt co-mingle begins again (fix), we won’t hear about it this time around. Too costly.

And if you think Rose the manager never bet on his Reds team to lose (’84-89), you’re either not a baseball fan or pining for your Pete collectibles to regain that “rosy glow.”

That this betting “maroon,” who put his legacy, family, club, fan trust, MLB, all in peril by his self-obsessed, reckless behavior, would deviate from his gambling gorge to set a standard at which he’d not go below, is fairy-tale Brothers Grimm would’ve scoffed.

PED Clear

When holding court with ESPN reporters that same Thursday, the Hall of Fame topic again tested Manfred, this time concerning candidates denied election because they’re believed to’ve used PEDs, whether on “credible evidence,“ reasonably discerning use by observable facts & logic or “literally nothing (“Commish” / Stark / ESPN / 2-6).”

Rob believes it wrong to exclude an otherwise stat-savvy, typically Percheron-necked, Hall of Fame aspirant, on what the voter may “surmise” is a drug-enhanced record of performance.

Problem #1 with Manfred Mode: What to do with men like McGwire and Canseco who had wherewithal, for whatever reason(s), to admit they used PEDs?

That’s the “proof” of enhancement (confession) Rob requires, yet now they’ve failed his test, even though they’ve shown, if not good character, something closer to it than the plethora of former players still too selfish or shy or scared to come clean. But the Mum-Men keep ‘taking the 5th,’ so to speak, and come out heroes in Robby’s world.


Problem #2: There’s good chance, when urine testing, you’d “never (have) failed PED tests,” considering HGH blood draws and BPP (biological passport program), WADA’s anti-doping stratagem, random form, anyway, didn’t begin in MLB until 2012, years after most the rejected-suspected candies had exited, i.e., Bagwell, Piazza, Bonds, Clemens.

Luck of the (no) draw, no doubt.

Having “evidence” before rendering a verdict on someone is a good thing, to state the obvious, in whatever venue of inquiry, be it legal, social or abstract. It’s fundamental to fairness: due process, Magna Carta and all that jazz.

Everyone’s been smeared, wrongly accused, one time or another, and it hurts.

But it’s an unbalanced scale of justice Manfred applies that demands customary proof to deny election (failed test), yet disregards two facts: 1) there was no reasonable means to acquire said “evidence” to ascertain player physical states w/ any degree of accuracy, pre 2012, discounting out-moded, random urine tests (‘03); and 2) It was players themselves, by their union (MLBPA), who stymied serious testing for over a decade, maybe longer.

That second point vitiates any argument that requires positive test “proof” to deny election on PED grounds, making reasonably discernable conclusions, not only permissibe, but the responsible manner by which Hall voters aught cast.


If the players wanted clarity they could’ve gotten it by voting approval for blood draws in the 90s. They chose doubt & suspect and the pro-test, clean players were muscled out.

The chickens have come home to roost for all players, dirty and clean. It’s the bed they made and they can sleep in it. Manfred, for some reason ($$?), wants to make-up that bed, give ‘em new Spider-Man sheets with hospital corners, to boot. Bully for him.

That gets to problem #3 with Manfred’s “Bart Simpson” take.

Hall of Fame votes or record book lines, for that matter, are not Constitutionally protected rights, Congressionally mandated entitlements or issues of fact & law judged in common law jurisprudence where “innocent until someone proves you guilty” is courtroom motif.

A plaque in Cooperstown is like an MVP, it’s an honor, a gift, whose award or denial can be based upon a standard permitting reasonable deduction and not bridled by shifting mores, profit motive, genuflect to the number-god nor over-narrow definition of “proof.”

Baseball will always turn a tidy profit. That’s in stone.

No matter the inroads NFL makes into consumer hearts, rounders is so engrained in our culture, so presenced worldwide and, like its gridiron kin, a legally-sanctioned monopoly, it will never be wanting. The money spigot always gushes. At winter meetings it’s just a question of how much growth is acceptable. That’s where the greed comes into play.


What that means for the Commissioner is that he (maybe a she someday, especially if there’s a baseball version of Condoleezza Rice with dogged supporters, keen on the post) need only be concerned with one, simple task: securing the game’s integrity.

Maintain and amplify with crystal clarity the dead-serious prohibition on gambling and PEDs and the dire consequences that await any who arrogantly skirt the bolded rules.

Rather than change course, Manfred could take page out of Little League’s book.

On Monday (2/9), Stephen Keener, CEO of Little League International, a body overseeing sporting and business interests of over “7000” affiliates world-wide, announced that 2014 US champ Jackie Robinson West (Chicago), would vacate their title, giving runner-up Mt. Ridge (Las Vegas) the crown (S. Korea 2014 world champs), because of rule violations involving an active rostering of players outside acceptable boundary lines.

It was a hard decision, said Keener (ESPN 2.10), due largely to the kids, although, one must suspect some of the youngsters, on the cusp of manhood, had an idea of what was afoot and should not be entirely insulated from blame-attachment. We have seen similar before (age deflation, soap-box rigging, etc.).

Keener explained in simple terms why it had to be done: “To protect the integrity and uphold the standard.” Simple, strong, clear and brave.

But lonely are the brave and R. Manfred is today, in some circles, a popular man.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: P.Rose, K.Junstorm, wc.cca, 1.11.08, Las Vegas; Rose, K.Junstorm, wc.cca, 1.11.08, Las Vegas, thmb; Manfred, A.Pardavila, wc.cca, fanfest, 7.14.15; KM.Landis, wc.cca, Underwood, 11.15.20, Chicago, Milw-Journal; Ba.Bonds, wc.cca, 11.15.07, USMS; R.Clemens, wc.cca, mx5tx, 2005; P.Rose, wc.cca, cleverswine, 2005.
Posted: 2.13.15 @ 2:22pm; edit 5:49, 2.14 @ 12:24am EST


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