The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum.
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A Dagger in a Legacy
One of the most polarizing topics in the baseball world for years has been whether or not to reverse Pete Roses’ banishment from the sport – effectively legitimizing his place in the Hall of Fame – given the caliber of history that the all-time hits leader’s name holds, set against the weight of committing major league baseball’s cardinal sin: betting on your team.
Heck, the debate itself is probably worth entry into Cooperstown.
But the tides have finally shifted in the favor of the faction that opposes his entry into the Hall, in light of new reports that Rose bet on games as a player, and not just as a manager, something which he has denied vehemently for years.
The Rose Dilemma, which has been woven into the very fabric of major league baseball culture in regards to safeguarding the integrity of the game, is one of sports’ greatest dichotomies. On one hand, you have Pete the Player, the 17-time All-Star who led the Cincinnati Reds to two world championships en route to becoming the only player in major league history to amass 4,000 hits in his major league career, ultimately ending with 4,256.
Then there’s Pete the Gambler, the figure who conjures up images of devil horns and secret intentions banned from the sport for life after being accused of betting on Reds games while he was manager of the club in the mid-‘80s. Up until now, many thought that was the extent of it – an icon of the sport whose priorities unjustifiably changed when he stepped off the field and into the dugout.
And that was the basis of many arguments endorsing Rose’s place in the Hall of Fame – he is still an enormous part of baseball history, and if we can’t recognize his time as a gambling manager, we could at least hold his accomplishments as a player in high regard.
But with the news that at some point in his career, he was as illegitimate a player as he was a manager, those arguments have been silenced. The quiet is even louder considering how strongly he argued assumptions and accusations for years about what he may or may not have done while playing for the Reds.
Earlier this year Commissioner Rob Manfred gave Rose his
blessing permission to participate in some – emphasis on some – All-Star Game activities in July, seeing as this year’s festivities will be held at Great American Ballpark. No arguments there; it would be incomplete without him in a sense. At least for one weekend, Rose, still revered by many in Ohio, and his presence will be something to celebrate in the city he helped to put back on the baseball map. Now, unfortunately, that weekend will be blighted in a overbearingly awkward way.
Some may despise Rose for corrupting the integrity of the game and his role in it, but those same people may also argue that the Hall of Fame is just as much about the history of the game as much as those who have played or managed their way into it. They have much in common to arguments supporting the entries of players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and others from the steroid era; the Hall is about the history of the game, and it would be wrong to look over that time as though it never happened. When it comes to Rose, his name is nothing if not historic, despite his tarnished reputation that is all but shattered now.
But then again, if those enshrined in the Hall are honored for their upholding the integrity of the game…well, then it’s obvious why Rose continues to stay out of it, and that’s not even taking his banishment into consideration. So it shouldn’t even be considered…right?
That debate is certainly all but over now. No matter what Rose says from here on out about whatever illicit activities he may have participated in, we’ll have trouble believing him. He may not have taken steroids, but by betting on games during his tenure in Cinci as a manager and a player, his loyalty to not only the organization that is the MLB, but the very spirit of the sport, will forever be questioned, more and more until we can only reach one conclusion: he may have been special on the field, but he isn’t special to the game.
He was, at one point. He was the pride of our national pastime. But not anymore.
Innovation of the Greatest Kind
Amidst all the changes introduced to the sport over the last couple years – pace of play rules, instant replay, the abolition of home plate collisions – meant to usher in a new era for the game, the greatest one of them all might still be on the way.
In fact, from the way she plays, it might already be upon us.
It was recently reported that 16-year-old French shortstop Melissa Mayeux has at least a shot to become the first female to play for a big league club. There are several ways that such an event could be described, including, but not limited to: huge, game-changer, H-I-S-T-O-R-I-C.
She’s well on her way to at least being looked at by MLB teams, something that may have been deemed unprecedented fifteen years ago. Arguably the toughest step in the process has been checked off for Mayeux: getting on MLB’s international registration lis, becoming the first female to do so. As of July 2nd, any major league club will be able to sign her.
16-year-old Mayeux currently plays on France’s under-18 national team, and is also a member of the senior national team.
Your move, Mo’ne Davis.
Over the course of its existence, major league baseball has overcome institutionalized obstacles – barriers that, more often than not, reflect societal norms. The idea that talent knows no skin color was established with Jackie Robinson, and over the coming decades as the sport spread oversees, the notion that talent knows no ethnicity was also born.
The very fact that Mayeux can even be considered by clubs is an enormous step forward not just for the game on a global scale, but for society. Her eligibility alone proves that talent knows no gender.
What makes Mayeux so special? As MLB Director of International Game Development Mike McClellan puts it, “she makes all the plays and is very smooth and fluid in the field. She swings the bat really well and is fearless.”
In other words…she sounds like has potential to play in the big leagues, at the very least. And why not? Her gender shouldn’t hold her back, especially not in 2015. That’s not even on the list of things to be considered, as it shouldn’t be. Instead, the ideal player has:
- Passion for the game
At first glance Mayuex fits the whole package. “I’d like to stay in the game for as long as possible,” Mayeux reportedly said. She’s also pretty damn good, as she has a shot at making the French national team for the World Baseball Classic in 2017, an event usually dominated by men.
It isn’t a given that Mayeux will get picked up by a team. But she’s already made an impact by starting to break down a barrier that has no place standing in American sports or culture. Talent knows no gender. We know that now.
Mayeux has proved it.
David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.