Pete Rose – 1989 Topps
February 1, 2011
The Hit King Before The Fall
My opinion of Rose is this. Hell of a player. Bettor on baseball. The latter outweighs the former. Baseball almost died as a sport many more times because of gambling than because of steroids or labor strife. Even before there were ‘professional’ baseball players, there were players suspected of being on the ‘take’. The National League almost died in 1877 after four key members of the Louisville squad – the premier team that year – threw games and because of that 2/3 of the league dropped out due to the repercussions and other issues. They were lucky to have an 1878 season.
Yet I can understand why some were upset about Rose’s punishment. Baseball certainly has swept some gambling under the rug. There is a reason Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker ended their careers as Philadelphia Athletics in 1928, and not as a Tiger and an Indian, respectively.
At any rate, this is Rose’s last Topps card. I really don’t think he looks happy about just being a manager. His Reds teams always finished second, and it could be reasoned that Rose’s love for his veteran friends, and his lack of skill in handling a pitching staff caused his Reds teams to fall short. The 1988 Reds, when this picture was taken, was 5th in runs scored and 5th in ERA.
Dave Concepcion, Dave Collins, Ken Griffey, Sr., Buddy Bell and Ron Oester received a total of 780 plate appearances for that team. The starting rotation was Jackson, Browning and a lot of frowning – even though Jose Rijo was about ready to break out. Something was..off…
The regulars were fine except for Bo Diaz. The bullpen was good. It was the bench and trusting the kid pitchers that put Rose in a bind, and led to another second place finish.
And Rose hated second place. Richard Petty said that second place was the first loser, and I think insanely driven people also think that way. But he had no idea how to turn the team from second to first, and indeed in 1989 it started to fall apart before he was suspended.
But the Reds weren’t going to fire Rose unless he matched the 1899 Spiders record AND killed Schottzie with his bare hands on national TV. Much like the Pacers aren’t going to fire Larry Bird from his post, even though it’s clear that the Pacers are mired in quicksand with a now-apathetic fan base now content to wear their Colts jerseys to watch Purdue or IU hoops.
This is why it’s never good to hire your icons as managers or executives. You may have to fire them. The Cubs did themselves a big favor by asking Mike Quade to stay instead of hiring Ryne Sandberg. If, in 2013, the Cubs are 70-92, it’s much easier to punt Quade than Sandberg. George Steinbrenner learned the hard way, many times, about firing Billy Martin.
Only certain fan bases can deal with firing a beloved icon. I do not remember wailing or gnashing of teeth when Bart Starr was fired as Packers coach in the mid-80’s. (Though, I think being Bart Starr got him an extra couple of years.)
Anyway, I feel sorry for the man, Pete Rose. I remember him fondly as a player, Pete Rose. But I despise what he did to the game, Pete Rose. Because gambling, more than anything else, can ruin the game.