Pete Rose, Heisman Voting

1) Keith Olbermann had a special last night marking the 25th anniversary of Pete Rose’s banishment from baseball. The protestations of Rose’s defenders notwithstanding, betting on your own team to win is, indeed, a very serious transgression that goes directly to the game’s integrity. Nevertheless, Rose should be given a chance to appear on the ballot for Hall of Fame voting. And Commissioner Selig’s refusal to answer questions about what Rose might or might not do to be considered for reinstatement is disgraceful.

But I am not sure anything about the Rose saga has me more bothered than something Olbermann discussed last night and that I had somehow missed. In 1999, before the second game of the World Series, Major League Baseball introduced its all-century team, determined by a fan vote earlier that year. Pete Rose was among those voted onto the team. His lifetime ban precludes him from having any involvement in baseball activities. In fact, Olbermann said last night, the Reds were once admonished when Rose appeared on the field at a minor league game.

However, in 1999, Major League Baseball allowed Rose onto the field before Game Two of its signature event. Why is that? How did a guy serving a lifetime ban get onto MLB’s biggest stage?

According to Olbermann, it’s because that all-century team balloting was sponsored by MasterCard, which wanted the entire team to appear when it was announced. All of the principle of keeping Rose from the game because of his unforgivable offense gave way before a simple cash consideration. In fact, three months prior, at the all-star game in Fenway Park that year, Rose was not in attendance because, the Commissioner said, his lifetime ban precluded his attendance at those kinds of functions. Olbermann described Selig’s hypocrisy in this context as “subtle, but shameful.” He’s certainly right about the second part. I am not sure I see anything subtle about it, though.  The handling of Rose in ’99 bespeaks a basic truth – the commissioner’s sanctimony about the integrity of the game should not be taken seriously given that he’s been willing, on more than one occasion, to sell it off for the sake of economic expedience.

2) Paul Finebaum was on with Mike and Mike this morning. The conversation turned to Heisman voting. Specifically, the SEC guru was asked, what were the chances of Jameis Winston lifting the trophy for a second consecutive year? Finebaum said the odds were slim. He pointed out that Johnny Manziel was better last year than he was his freshman season, when he took home college football’s biggest prize. Finebaum noted that Manziel had drawn a lot of negative publicity to himself in the off-season following his Heisman win, and that voters probably held it against him. Likewise, Winston had, in Finebaum’s estimation, a bad offseason. Voters were likely going to hold that against him. In fact, the bespectacled one said that “those of us who vote…will go against him.”

This is, quite simply, outrageous. If voters can so brazenly assert, before there has been a single, solitary snap, that they’ve already decided who they are – and aren’t – voting for, then the voting, quite simply, is a joke. And so is the award. Sports commentators insist that they are to be taken seriously as objective analysts, especially when they are voting on major awards. Dan LeBatard was banished from Baseball’s Hall of Fame voting because he dared question that shibboleth last year. Particularly, after Finebaum’s wildly premature declaration of his own voting intentions, I’d like to see some intrepid Heisman voters put their ballots up for crowdsourcing. Because Finebaum has made a mockery of the process.

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