Rose one of Reds Franchise Four, but meeting not set with Manfred

By Bob Elliott

CINCINNATI _ If an election was held Tuesday night, Pete Rose would win.

He would win 12-0 if men and women voted to discuss his past crimes of betting on baseball.

He could win a mayoral election in his home town of Cincinnati.

He could win an Ohio gubernatorial race (Democrat or Republican).

And he would be elected to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame if major league baseball re-instated him.

Rose was given the largest ovation as Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Barry Larkin were honored before the 86th all-star game Tuesday night at the Great American Ball Park. With Bench, Morgan and Larkin already on the field the sold-out crowd chanted “Pete, Pete, Pete.”

And out came Pete.

But slow down.

We’re moving too fast.

“There’s no change with respect to the process with Pete Rose,” Manfred said at a Baseball Writers Association of America luncheon Tuesday afternoon. “The review of the original investigatory material is ongoing. I frankly was surprised at how much material there was to be reviewed. We’re taking a fresh look at that.

“I remain committed that Mr. Rose deserves an opportunity to tell me, in whatever format he feels most comfortable, whatever he wants me to know about the issue. I’m sure there will be an in-person meeting. I want to schedule it at a time when I have a good grasp of all the factual material.”  

Rose was banned in 1989 after signing a lifetime ban as asked by commissioner Fay Vincent. Rose has said he was told if he signed it Vincent said he would reduce the penalty. Of course, for years Rose maintained he never bet on baseball.

So Rose remains in purgatory as additional material surfaces: atop the all-time hit list, but you won’t find him either inside the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (he’s eight doors down the street signing autographs) or working in the game.

Manfred took over for outgoing commissioner Bud Selig in January so maybe he should not be expected to be up to date on Rose. However, he was his No. 2 man for years.

There should be an answer one way or another soon. After 26 years Rose should get an answer.

Manfred refused to knock Selig for leaving the building and leaving the Rose matter on his desk saying “every day I understand how this is a hard job. Bud was right way more than he was wrong.”

Tony Clark of the Players Association said he was disheartened explaining to his 13-year-old son why the hit leader was not in Cooperstown, calling it “a travesty.” Yet, Clark dodged the question when asked if Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. 

While, Rose is banned for betting, baseball has entered into business with DraftKings a daily fantasy league advertised on the MLB.com web site and on the MLB Network.

“We see a very clear distinction between people who can impact the game and fans who engage through daily fantasy,” Manfred said ... as he did at the Rogers Centre home opener. 

“We’ve made absolutely clear to our players and front office personnel we do not believe that DraftKings is an appropriate activity for them,”

Clark said he and his executive is “watching very closely,” when asked about DraftKings.

“As you might expect, considering where we’ve been and where we’re at, we’re walking a very delicate line, a sensitive line that could be muddied very quickly depending on what words you use in a sentence,” Clark said. “So it’s something that we’re paying a lot of attention to.”

The commissioner covered a number of subjects in his annual state of the union address:

_ Asked about Montreal, former home of the Expos, Manfred said he believes the city has a rich history and showed impressively during exhibitions this spring and last. He said Montreal mayor Denis Coderre “is an enthusiastic supporter, the kind we need.”

But he said it’s a long way from two exhibitions to 81 home games in a facility that meets major league standards.

_ He said no changes to address fan safety are coming soon. The subject has been a topic since a woman in Boston was hospitalized after being struck by a flying bat. Safety features are continuing to be evaluated. If there are any changes, they will be implemented before next season.

_ Asked if umpires are calling a lower strike zone, Manfred said “people make a mistake when they see the box on TV the difference between the box and the actual zone is night and day.” He pointed out how the strike zone is adjusted for each hitter making it dramatically different from the box on TV. Joe Torre said there’s no change in zone compared to last year. Two years ago umpires began calling lower strikes. 

_ Manfred likes the new post-season format, including the one-game play-in for wild-card teams. He says the selectivity of postseason sets baseball apart from other sports.
“Our marketing guys like the excitement and the baseball side liked the fact we that we were not rewarding the wild-card winners,” he said. 

_ He’s encouraged by pace of play changes and reports that games are moving along better. He said the average game time is down nine minutes and if that holds up it will be the largest decrease since 1965. Manfred says the most important issue involving pace of game is player support. He says he’s talked to every team but the Philadelphia Phillies.

_ He’s was pleased with the all-star voting. There was at time when eight Kansas City Royals led in voting for AL spots. “Fans have a way of fixing things, in Detroit they voted for Miguel Cabrera, in Houston they voted for Jose Altuve, they said ‘our guy is better.’”

_ He said the commissioner’s office is continuing to work on a new domestic violence policy and will have an announcement shortly.