Pete Rose heard the news Wednesday morning, but instead of being bitter, resentful or even hateful towards Major League Baseball, he instead felt jealousy.
“I just came up at the wrong time," Rose told USA TODAY Sports. “I was 30 years too early."
Colorado Rockies All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon became the first active Major League Baseball player to endorse a bookmaker. It’s a partnership in which Blackmon will be an ambassador in marketing campaigns, promotions, social media content and at events for the Colorado-based online sportsbook.
“Baseball is pretty much in bed with gambling now," Rose said.
Rose, baseball’s all-time hits king, understands the irony with Blackmon’s deal with MaximBet. Rose received a lifetime ban from baseball in 1989 when an investigation revealed that he gambled on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds. He accepted a permanent place on baseball’s ineligible list, and two years later, the Hall of Fame voted to exclude all individuals on the permanently ineligible list.
Rose has applied for reinstatement with three different commissioners, but his status remains unchanged.
The only change has been MLB’s position on gambling. It now openly embraces the gambling industry, advertising on telecasts, with permanent sportsbooks planned on the grounds of three different baseball stadiums.
MLB still prohibits players and team officials to bet on the sport, but with marketing and sponsorship deals with sportsbooks now open to players, certainly Rose can certainly argue that a 33-year suspension is punishment enough.
“Look, I [expletive] up," Rose said. “I messed up when I did what I did, ok? I can’t bring it back.
“However, I would wish baseball would just give me an opportunity to be on the [Hall of Fame] ballot. Not, put me in, let the writers decide. I’ve been suspended since ’89, 33 years ago. That’s a long time. And to be honest with you, it probably cost me $100 million.
“I’m not complaining, I’m just saying I’ve been punished pretty severely."
Rose, who watches two or three baseball games a day, still is involved with gambling podcasts three or four days a week, saying he was accurate on 75% of his prognostications last year. Gambling is big business, and he doesn’t blame baseball for wanting a piece of the lucrative pie.
“Baseball has come to realize there’s a lot of money in the gambling industry," Rose said, “and they can benefit by getting their fair share."
Rose, who says every day of his life is consumed watching sports, believes that some of baseball’s upcoming rule changes may be designed because of gambling influence. The automated strike zone appears to be coming simply for gamblers who want to bet on every pitch, taking the human element out of the game. Who wants to be the home-plate umpire who misses a couple of ball-strike calls late in the game and be subjected to accusations of being on the take, or worse, being threatened by gamblers?
The newest rules that are expected to be implemented in 2023 are a pitch clock, restrictions on shifts and enlarged bases.
“When you talk about baseball, name me a rule change in the last five, eight years that have made baseball better for me and you to watch," Rose says. “You’re not allowed to break up the double play. You’re not allowed to slide into the catcher. You’re not allowed to pitch inside.
“Baseball changes all of the rules but the one thing you don’t try to close in on is the time of the [expletive] game. That’s the divider going across the country, how long baseball games are. You have to many pitching changes today, the more pitching changes you have, the longer the game will be. And don’t forget, there’s six minutes of commercials every inning of a baseball game. That’s 54 minutes a night on commercials. They’re certainly not going to eliminate the commercials, so how you going to speed up the game?"
Rose still loves the game today, believes that today’s generation of players are bigger, stronger and faster, but just wishes the games were shorter.
“Mr. [Rob] Manfred knows what he’s doing," Rose says. “He’s very intelligent. I know he’ll do what’s best for baseball. I just wish he’d try to sit with a committee and figure out how a game can take 2 hours, 15 minutes as opposed to 3 hours, 15 minutes. The only people who make out are the concessionaires. You get an extra hot dog or two beers at game."
Really, what pains Rose the most these days are his beloved Cincinnati Reds. They haven’t finished higher than third in the NL Central in 10 years. They have won only one World Series title since the Big Red Machine era. And today they have the worst record (2-11) in baseball, losers of nine consecutive games.
It’s not going any better off the field, either, with Reds president Phil Castellini chastising fans before their home opener, saying that if his family sold the team, it could be moved to another market, with the threat, “careful what you ask for?"
Castellini apologized after the game for his comments, but the damage was done.
“He’s saying that with 43,000 asses in the seats for opening day," Rose says. “By the way, they haven’t won a game since he said that. How do you expect to win when you get rid of [Nick] Castellanos, you get rid of [Jesse] Winker, and you get rid of [Eugenio] Suarez? Those are their 3-4-5 hitters in the lineup, they’re gone, and they have no one to replace them."
Rose, who calls himself baseball’s biggest fan, says he hopes baseball will thrive with their new gambling venture. He hopes baseball can put a dent into the NFL’s popularity with fans betting in ballparks.
Gone are the days when Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were suspended for merely being greeters at casinos.
Now, you’ve got players as gambling promoters.
Who knows, maybe the player who suffered the most for his baseball gambling, can one day be forgiven too?
“Mr. Manfred has got his job, and he’s got his reasons for what he does," Rose says. “I don’t always agree with him, but I’m in his corner because I want baseball to survive.
“But what am I? I’m just a baseball fan."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pete Rose opens up about baseball’s changed stance on gambling