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But let's be clear: it's no crime or injustice that Pete Rose is still banned from baseball. A ban he agreed to, by the way, voluntarily and with full knowledge that it was intended to be for life. A ban at which he constantly thumbed his nose while lying to both those who had his potential reinstatement in their hands and the fans who were played for idiots after Rose finally, and calculatedly, decided to come clean in 2004.
The headline to Schmidt's piece asks if 20 years is enough. My answer: no, not really.
But I think 20 years is enough, particularly if Major League Baseball's case against Pete Rose -- all of which, we still have not seen -- does not include any strong evidence that he bet against his own team. As I suppose I've written a few times already, if an NFL player (or coach, presumably) is caught betting on his team to win, he's subject to a one-year suspension; if a baseball player (or coach or manager) is caught betting on his team to win, he's suspended for infinity.
I'll grant that one year probably isn't enough ... but isn't forever maybe a bit much?
It's completely obvious why any sport must throw the book at anyone who bets against his team. That throws open the question of the integrity of the competition on the field, and no sport can survive for long if the fans don't believe that each side is trying to win.
It's not quite as obvious what's wrong with someone betting on his team ... but there is plenty wrong. A manager who's bet on his team to win today might do something that would make a loss tomorrow more likely. A manager (or player) who's bet on his team to win today might lose, and lose again tomorrow and the next day, and find himself beholden to gangsters who might then make all sorts of demands.
Pete Rose is the only major leaguer since 1920 who's been banned for betting on baseball. The policy seems to have worked pretty well. My point is that a 10-year suspension for anyone caught betting on his own team would almost certainly have worked just as well. Or even a 20-year ban. Let's change the rule just slightly -- leaving it not one iota less effective -- and apply the change retroactively. Joe Jackson's still out, but Pete Rose, after 20 years, has a chance to get in. At the very least, I'd love for him and his fans to have someone other than the commissioner to blame.