Friday, May 18, 2018

Sorry, the Supreme Court Doesn’t Help Rose

By Jeff Kallman

Well, now. It didn't take all that long for Monday's Supreme Court ruling to conjure up thousands (if not more) mentions of Pete Rose, did it? Only the blind or the fool would have said the court could rule one way or the other without Rose's name coming up in the follow-up discussions. That said, it's wise to consider what the ruling doesn't do for Rose.

It doesn't change his status one. bit. Consider:

1) A 7-2 Supreme Court majority, with Justice Samuel Alito writing for it in Murphy vs. National Collegiate Athletics Association, struck down a portion of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the portion that prohibited "a governmental entity," meaning state governments, "to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact" gambling in their states. That provision, Alito wrote, "unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do. It is as if federal officers were installed in state legislative chambers and were armed with the authority to stop legislators from voting on any offending proposals. A more direct affront to state sovereignty is not easy to imagine."

Translation: the PASPA violated the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. Uh, oh.

2) The PASPA got to the Supreme Court in the first place because New Jersey's state legislature — following up on voters who elected to amend New Jersey's state constitution, allowing betting at racetracks and casinos — passed a partial repeal of that state's ban. That's when America's professional and amateur sports leagues and bodies including major league baseball went to the mattresses to try blocking New Jersey from legalizing gambling. When the U.S. Department of Justice sided with the sports bodies on behalf of the block, it filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to rule against New Jersey.

Not so fast, fellas.

3) While the sports bodies started scrambling to determine how Murphy can be turned to their profit (did you really think they wouldn't scramble for it?), the opinion was barely released when there came a fair explosion of social media commentary regarding Rose. "It's a great day to be Pete Rose," went one tweet, and there were numerous more along the same line, though some such commentators acknowledged being sarcastic, never mind the sarcasm not always being readily apparent.

But then ... but then ...

4) ESPN's Jerry Crasnick may not have been the first to open a shaft of reality, but he may have been the most effectively pointed. "To all those folks asking if today's Supreme Court decision should affect Pete Rose's Hall of Fame status ... umm, no," he tweeted. "Just because states are free to offer legal sports betting doesn't mean MLB is about to issue an edict saying it's fine for managers and players to take part." Crasnick omitted umpires and other club officials as specified in that pesky Rule 21(d), but let's not get technical. Because he is right.

5) There are and have always been all manner of activities the law declines to prosecute but employers decline to sanction among their employees on company time, and sometimes off company time, and for assorted reasons employers generally deem relevant to the performance of their various enterprises. An employee accepting a job agrees voluntarily to abide by his or her employer's rules.

Setting the gambling issue to one side for the moment, baseball players often sign contracts that include clauses barring their participation in certain non-baseball activities because those activities involve the kind of risk that can prevent ballplayers from, well, playing ball.

Just ask Aaron Boone.

Today the Yankees' manager, Boone 15 years ago hit the bottom of the 11th leadoff home run that meant game, set, and 2003 American League pennant for the Yankees, to end a surrealistic Game 7 duel with the Red Sox in that American League Championship Series. In the offseason (the Yankees lost the World Series to the Marlins), Boone tore the ACL in his left knee playing basketball. His contract included a clause barring him from playing basketball, and the Yankees invoked it in releasing him a month later.

Gambling could have been legal in every state in the Union at the time of the Black Sox scandal — it wasn't — but baseball was still well within its rights to impose and to decline repealing Rule 21(d) in the decades and almost century since. Yes, children, it's a little over a year from the centenary of the 1919 World Series, and baseball had a gambling problem prior to that which did threaten the sport's very being.

Marijuana is now legal in several states, including my own Nevada, but it doesn't mean employers in those states are prohibited from banning its employees from being high on or even off the job, depending. Those now imprisoned for possessing even a single joint might sooner be released from prison, if their possession was in states that have now legalized pot, but whether they could be re-employed by former employers depends on whether those employers have or haven't rid themselves of their rules against using pot on or off the job.

6) Pete Rose's Hall of Fame status isn't affected by any Supreme Court case relevant to gambling. It's nonsense to think that a Court ruling allowing states to legalize gambling would pave his way to Cooperstown because a) he violated baseball's Rule 21(d); and, b) the Hall of Fame still has a rule in which those on baseball's permanently ineligible list are ineligible, concurrently, to be on a Hall of Fame ballot.

7) No, Rose is not being persecuted. For what seems to be the bajillionth time, Rose isn't banished from baseball and barred from election to the Hall of Fame because anyone was out to "get" him or because he's less than a perfect human being. And, also for what seems to be the bajillionth time, Rule 21(d) doesn't say, "...except when the player holds the all-time hits record."

(d) BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible. (Emphasis mine.)

"My guess," says Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber of the Murphy ruling, "is it will be good for people outside of the game of baseball. Obviously, we're not going to do that, we're not going to be betting on baseball. We also know what happened to good old Pete Rose, there. That's a good example of just not to do it, for us." Schwarber, unlike a good many of Rose's remaining partisans, gets it.

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