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Pete Rose Sees Astros’ Trashcan Banging as Opportunity to Get His Lifetime Ban From Baseball Thrown

By: Danielle Bland



Baseball fan or not, by now you are probably well aware of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. The Astros used a camera to steal and decode signs from opposing pitchers [1]. This information was used in real time to alert batters, via the banging of a trashcan, to the type and location of an incoming pitch [2]. Knowing the type and location of a pitch makes it easier for batters to make contact. A big part of baseball is standing in the batter’s box and trying to figure out what the pitcher is going to throw at you and being prepared for it. On the other side, pitchers try to set batters up to guess wrong or be unprepared for the pitch that is coming. Sign stealing ruins this strategic artistry.


Pitching strategy reminds me of the childhood game of rock-paper-scissors. No object in rock-paper-scissors is superior to all the others, rather it depends on which the opponent plays. The same goes for pitching. There is no pitch a batter is guaranteed to always miss. It depends on the batter’s intuition. In some situations the rock will win, in others it will lose. That is what makes both games so interesting. It is why we play them. If you know which object the other player is going to choose each round, you can adjust accordingly and win, and the opponent has no way to defend themself. It does not matter how smart their strategy is if you know what their move is going to be. No one will want to play a game where the other side has that advantage over them. It contradicts the point of the game. The whole premise is that you do not know for certain what the other side will choose to play. That is what makes it fun. It is why people play rock-paper-scissors. It is why people play baseball.


The Astros’ sign-stealing scandal has cast a shadow on baseball. Unfortunately, assaults on the integrity of baseball are nothing new. The older generation of baseball fans remembers the Pete Rose scandal. Pete Rose was statistically the best hitter in baseball [3]. He had the most hits of all-time, the most at bats, and played in the most games [4]. Rose played for and later managed the Cincinnati Reds [5]. He was a likely lock for the Hall of Fame [6]. Then it was discovered that he had gambled on his own games [7]. Major League Baseball responded to this with a lifetime ban from the sport [8]. Upon signing the agreement to the lifetime ban, he did not admit to placing the bets, however he admitted to it many years later in a book he authored [9]. Two years after his ban, the Baseball Hall of Fame ruled that ineligible players could not be inducted, even after death [10]. Rose’s Hall of Fame prospects were crushed. Pete Rose has sought reinstatement a few times, most recently in response to the Houston Astros’ scandal [11].

After a former Astros player spoke out, the MLB conducted an investigation into the Houston Astros and their sign-stealing scheme. At the conclusion of the investigation the MLB suspended the Astros’ General Manager and Manager for a year each [12]. The Houston Astros promptly fired both of them [13]. Not a single player was punished even though the league said the scheme was “player-driven and player-executed” [14]. The MLB discovered evidence that the sign-stealing scheme was used during the 2017 World Series [15]. There is still debate among players, pundits, and fans as to whether it determined the outcome of the series, however there is no question that it had at least some effect.


Pete Rose saw the lack of punishment for Astros players as an opportunity to argue for his reinstatement. He filed a petition arguing that his actions were less severe than the Astros, yet he was serving the harshest of punishments as they received little to none [16]. In his petition, Rose states that he only ever bet on his team to win and therefore his bets did not have any effect on the outcome of games [17]. He asks the MLB to reevaluate the justice of him serving a lifetime ban for that while Astros players get off without punishment for rule violations that directly impacted the outcome of games [18]. The MLB has denied Rose’s past petitions and will likely deny this one as well [19].


While I agree with the disparity in punishments that Pete Rose points out in his most recent petition for reinstatement, I would come to a different conclusion than reinstating him. I think the MLB got the Astros’ punishment wrong. I think that in order to restore the integrity of baseball, and to boost the perception of the game, the MLB needs to focus on adequately punishing the Astros’ players. Reinstating Pete Rose does nothing for baseball right now. While it may be unfair to bar Pete Rose from the Hall of Fame ex post facto, I think his argument for reinstatement to baseball highlights that the Astros should receive much more punishment than what they have been given. Pete Rose can keep swinging for his reinstatement, but this is one hit he is not going to get.



References:

[1] Alex Speier, Breaking Down How the Astros’ Sign-stealing Scheme Worked, and the Investigation Into the Red Sox, Boston Globe (January 14, 2020), https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/redsox/2020/01/14/breaking-down-astros-sign-stealing-scheme-and-investigation-surrounding-red-sox/WNEZPO0RCdr9tse6TG7KKO/story.html

[2] Id.

[3] Derek Stykalo, Long Standing Records: Pete Rose, 4256 Career Hits, Fansided (2012),https://bosoxinjection.com/2011/05/17/long-standing-records-pete-rose-4256-career-hits/

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Bob Nightengale, Opinion: Pete Rose is Never Going to be Reinstated by MLB or Get on Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, USA Today (February 5, 2020), https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2020/02/05/pete-rose-mlb-hall-of-fame-banned/4666806002/

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Matt Bonesteel and Jacob Bogage, Trump Backs Pete Rose Reinstatement in Wake of Astros Sign-Stealing Scandal, Washington Post (February 8, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/02/05/pete-rose-asks-reinstatement-says-his-mlb-sins-pale-comparison-astros-scandal/

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Bob Nightengale, Opinion: Pete Rose is Never Going to be Reinstated by MLB or Get on Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, USA Today (February 5, 2020), https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2020/02/05/pete-rose-mlb-hall-of-fame-banned/4666806002/

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

Photo:

https://www.cnn.com/2013/05/07/us/pete-rose-fast-facts/index.html

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