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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Pete Rose's reinstatement goes from long shot to no shot

In this Sept. 11, 1985, file photo, the

In this Sept. 11, 1985, file photo, the Cincinnati Reds' Pete Rose rounds first base after hitting a single to break Ty Cobbs' hitting record during a game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Credit: AP

Pete Rose already has been banned by Major League Baseball for life and is ineligible for the Hall of Fame, so the revelation that newly discovered documents show he allegedly bet on games as the Reds' player-manager really doesn't carry any additional punitive weight.

What can commissioner Rob Manfred do? Sentence Rose to a multiple lifetime ban? Prevent him from visiting Cooperstown?

We're kidding, but this past week's evidence -- uncovered by ESPN's "Outside the Lines" -- is no joking matter.

Not for Rose, who increasingly has played his suspension for laughs and financial gain, as in a recent TV commercial that makes fun of him not being allowed in the Hall.

And certainly not for MLB, which probably regrets having given the OK for Rose to participate in some events at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati.

The commissioner's office has declined to comment on the new evidence, which goes further in incriminating Rose than the damning Dowd report that led to his landing on the permanently ineligible list in 1989. And Rose, who also did not speak on the subject, always has denied gambling on games as a player.

But the ESPN program detailed entries in a notebook that was said to belong to Michael Bertolini, who tracked bets that Rose allegedly made on Reds games in 1986, the final season of his playing career.

Some may argue that Rose gambled on the Reds to win, so he can be absolved from doing anything to sabotage those games. But that's missing the point.

There's a reason the lifetime ban exists for betting on baseball in such cases. Once the game is undermined like that, raising the possibility that the outcome is "rigged," baseball would be blown up. Just like any other professional sport, in any league.

With Rose, at least MLB was able to contain the fallout, and now he's providing further reason to alienate him.

We give Manfred credit for keeping an open mind in his first year as commissioner. He's done a great job moving on from the contentious Biogenesis hearings to establish a cordial working relationship with Alex Rodriguez, who appeared at an MLB promotional event earlier this month.

But A-Rod's discipline was finite. It had a beginning and end. Once the 162-game suspension was up, Rodriguez had paid his debt to MLB, and that allowed Manfred to publicly support his return to the game. To date, A-Rod has done nothing to make the commissioner regret that stance. It's a win-win for both sides for as long as that lasts.

The stain on Rose, however, is indelible. And there's nothing to gain in thawing that relationship for Manfred or MLB. The discovery of the notebook, which ESPN said is under court-ordered seal in the National Archives' New York office, only reaffirmed that. John Dowd, whose report led to Bart Giamatti's lifetime ban, told Newsday's Steven Marcus that this revelation should end Rose's bid for reinstatement.

"I don't think because he's open-minded and thorough that he's going to readmit him," Dowd told Marcus. "There's no basis to admit; he hasn't done anything. He's not a credit to the game. Why would Rob Manfred want to own this? It just makes no sense . . . They didn't fall off a hay wagon yesterday."

As of now, MLB and the Reds are going ahead with their plans to allow Rose to be involved at the All-Star Game, but that has the potential to become a very combustible situation at one of baseball's most high-profile events.

Bud Selig, Manfred's predecessor, allowed Rose to participate in the All-Century Team celebration during the 1999 World Series at Turner Field. But the All-Star festivities are only a week away and just two weeks removed from this latest incriminating bombshell.

It definitely helps that Rose remains a conquering hero in Cincinnati as a very popular cog in the Big Red Machine. That should limit the backlash to some degree. But Rose still will be exposed to hordes of media, as will MLB officials, including Manfred, who should anticipate a more aggressive barrage of reinstatement questions.

Manfred has yet to meet with Rose on the subject, and we still expect that interview to take place, even if it's probably just a formality at this point. In all likelihood, Rose wasn't going to be reinstated anyway, and now Manfred has a stronger position in that argument.

No reinstatement means no shot at Cooperstown, either. Anyone on the permanently ineligible list cannot be considered for the Hall of Fame. Because Rose is beyond the 10-year window for BBWAA voters, any candidacy in the future would be under the jurisdiction of the Veterans Committee, but it's a moot point for now.

Ultimately, any discussion of Rose ends up focusing on Cooperstown, and it's unfortunate for the Hall that baseball's all-time Hit King (4,256) doesn't have a plaque there. Statistically speaking, Rose does belong, but the numbers in that notebook add up to a pile of evidence that should continue to keep him out.

Rose's crimes are different from the stigma attached to PED offenders, admitted or perceived. MLB was complicit by its negligence in the steroid boom of the '90s and early 2000s before Selig took action to police PEDs. Rose knew the penalty for gambling on baseball and still committed baseball's cardinal sin repeatedly and without remorse.

Factor in this past week's findings, and Manfred can have only one lasting response to Rose: Sorry, but this call stands.

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