If you’re a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers, you ought to be well aware of the Ryan Braun saga. The Brewers’ outfielder tested positive for PEDs after his MVP winning 2011 season, only to have the suspension overturned on a technicality after Braun dragged the sample collector’s name and reputation through the mud. After a stellar 2012 season, Braun was again at the center of controversy, this time becoming embroiled in the Biogenesis scandal. Braun eventually admitted to using performance enhancers and served a 65 game suspension. His reputation around the game, among fans, fellow players, and media, was in ruins.
After a couple of seasons marred by injuries and uncharacteristically low production from 2013-14, Ryan seems to have found his form again at the plate. Despite Milwaukee’s firm hold on the division cellar, Braun has had a excellent first half, putting together a .275/.340/.495 with 35 extra base hits (including 16 home runs) and 12 stolen bases. After injuries to Matt Holliday and Giancarlo Stanton, Ryan was recognized for his strong performance by being named to the National League All-Star team (one of four players suspended under Biogenesis to be named to the game). Braun was booed by the crowd during introductions, and went 1-1 with a triple and a run scored during the losing effort.
This year’s game stood out a bit more than other’s have in the past. Prior to the contest, each team’s “Franchise Four” were announced on the scoreboard. The host city of Cincinnati, home of the Reds, went last and brought their franchise legends on to the field for the hometown crowd. Among the players honored was the infamous “Hit King,” Pete Rose. Rose, of course, in on baseball’s ineligible list after receiving a lifetime ban in 1989 for betting on games.
Naturally, anytime Pete Rose comes into the headlines, the debate begins about whether or not he should continue to be banned from baseball. Combined with the presence of several convicted PED users in the game, and you have a recipe for some very heated sports talk radio. Here in Milwaukee, the debate was relatively simple: are Ryan Braun’s transgressions worse than Pete Rose?
My answer is unequivocally NO.
Yes, Ryan Braun cheated. He got caught, lied, got caught again, lied some more, then finally came (somewhat) clean. He admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, and agreed to serve a suspension that was even harsher than what was given to a first time PED user at that time. Since then he has done his best to try and rehab his image and move on. Many, including myself, thought Braun would never make another All-Star team after his suspension. I was pleasantly surprised by his inclusion, which is further evidence of the distance he has put between himself and his past malfeasance.
Pete Rose, however, broke baseball’s cardinal rule. In every clubhouse it is posted that players cannot bet on games. A precedent was set after the Black Sox scandal that any player caught gambling on baseball would be banned for life. The Dowd Report in 1989 outlined Pete’s transgressions, and Rose lied about and denied the allegations for years after they were revealed. Commissioner Bart Giamatti died just eight days after he brought the hammer down on Charlie Hustle; some have surmised that the heart attack that killed the 51 year old Giamatti was brought on by stress from the whole Rose ordeal.
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It took 15 years for Pete to finally admit that he bet on baseball while serving as the manager of the Reds, and even then he wasn’t completely forthright. A recent investigation by ESPN has proven that Pete bet on games while he was a player, as well. While Pete has said he has only ever bet on the Reds to win, I find that hard to believe. Even if it is true, there is little doubt that it would still affect his performance in-game. How many times might Pete have burnt out his bullpen in a game he had money on? Did he make his lineup differently if he had placed a wager on a certain game? We will probably never know those answers. At least we know that a player caught using PEDs, like Braun, was doing so in order to try and enhance his play on the field. We have no way to know Pete’s motives for betting on his team other than a strong addiction to gambling.
Rose hasn’t done much for the betterment of the game since his banishment, either; he spends most of his free time doing autograph signings and appearances, including one near the Baseball Hall of Fame each year during as inductions are occurring. Rose seems to care less about the betterment of the game and trying to show remorse than he does pushing his own personal brand and agenda. He has been implicated in a tax evasion scandal and had familial issues, as well. Pete Rose is basically your all-around degenerate.
What sort of message would Rose’s reinstatement send? Would the “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and the rest of the Black Sox be reinstated after nearly a century long ban? It’s doubtful the Hall of Fame would even consider Rose for admission after everything that has happened, even if he was eligible. If players can gamble on the game without fear of a lifetime ban, would we see an increase in criminal activity around the game? What would stop a player from slipping the intern who “knows a thing or two about computers” some cash to hack into another team’s systems to try and gain an informational edge on a bookie? Would we find out about more instances of “thrown” games or series? Conspiracy theories aside, there are far too many messy possibilities to reduce the punishment for betting on baseball.
Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
There is one surefire thing that will get you immediately banned from baseball: gambling on the game. Players have open season on placing wagers on boxing, horse racing, basketball, etc, but YOU CANNOT BET ON BASEBALL. Pete Rose owes his banishment to no one but himself. He couldn’t help his compulsion to gamble and couldn’t stop himself from gambling on the ONE THING he knew was off limits. He lied about his sins for the nearly two and a half decades before the whole truth came out. It would be an absolute travesty if this man is ever enshrined in Cooperstown.