Don't compare A-Rod to Pete Rose

According to reports, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez will be suspended through the 2014 season by...

According to reports, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez will be suspended through the 2014 season by Bud Selig on Monday. (REUTERS)

PATRICK MALONEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

As the baseball world waits for commissioner Bud Selig to drop the A-bomb on A-Rod, an awkward comparison arises, perhaps inevitably.

If, as reported, Selig suspends Alex Rodriguez for the rest of this season and all of next year, it could essentially become a permanent ban — the already-hobbling slugger, 38, may never play again.

Hence the comparison to a baseball trauma from a quarter-century ago, when Pete Rose — the all-time leader in hits; the engaging idol to millions — was banned for life amid evidence (which he strongly denied for years) that he had bet on baseball.

He committed a cardinal sin and long lied about it. And now, as A-Rod flirts with disaster over his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, Rose has advice for the fellow falling star.

“Don’t be like me,” he told The Associated Press recently. “Come clean. I eventually came clean, but it was too late.”

Indeed it was, in so many ways.

But while the A-Rod/Rose similarities appear obvious, they’re also inaccurate in that they suggest their punishers — the guardians of the game against those who’d sully it — are also comparable and they are not.

So, please, spare any comparison of Selig to A. Bart Giamatti.

Selig deserves credit, surely, for tackling the scandal involving a Florida clinic, Biogenesis, suspected of doling out performance-enhancing drugs — Ryan Braun’s already banned; A-Rod and several more could be hit soon, perhaps on Monday — but his actions are not Giamatti-esque.

In 1989, the newly minted baseball commissioner moved swiftly and decisively. He did not hesitate to probe, with deputy Fay Vincent, the jarring rumours Rose bet on baseball, including games involving the team he was managing, Cincinatti.

It has been five years, by contrast, since A-Rod was accused of PED use in a widely read book, and only now is he being punished. (In fairness, though, Selig has been active since the 2007 Mitchell Report confirmed doping had overtaken the game — more than 50 players have been suspended for PEDs since.)

Though Selig has earned respect for attacking the Biogenesis-linked players with unexpected vigor and is surely motivated by a desire to protect the game, it’s also to protect his own legacy, those involved in MLB’s doping probes believe.

Performance-enhancing drugs are out of control in baseball and all fans know it. How Selig responds to the crisis may define his tenure at the helm.

(The world’s foremost anti-doping advocate, Dick Pound, for one, remains unimpressed, recently telling QMI Agency it’s all a PR effort that lacks real bite. Harsh? Surely. Unfair? Perhaps.)

Recent whispers of a lifetime ban for A-Rod echo the Rose banishment. But the similarities largely end there.

The challenge today isn’t to find a baseball fan who likes Rodriguez — it’s finding one who doesn’t despise him. There will be no public sympathy for the man dubbed A-Fraud.

Rose, on the other hand, had broken Ty Cobb’s all-time hits record in 1985 (just as his gambling was growing out of control) and was wildly popular with fans. In Cincinnati, many fans publicly villified Giamatti.

Lying and denying, Rose mounted a legal challenge against Giamatti’s 1989 probe.

An ivory-tower academic who had run Yale University and whose son Paul would grow up to become a celebrated actor, Giamatti was ill-suited for the kind of streetfight Rose and his lawyers were waging.

According to James Reston Jr.’s book Collision At Home Plate, Giamatti ached over being painted as an unfair villain, prejudging Rose without definitive evidence. He was hammered and humiliated in a courtroom interrogation by a Rose lawyer.

But Giamatti — the Renaissance fan, as Reston dubbed him — didn’t fold. He loved baseball and believed Rose held a special place in it, making his transgressions all the more terrible.

“This whole episode,” he said at the time, “is about whether you live by the rules or not.”

By Aug. 23, 1989, when the Rose punishment was announced, the commissioner was overweight and overwrought, by Reston’s account, exhausted by the battle though pleased to have won it.

Eight days later, with Rose still denying everything and his fans still outraged, the 51-year-old Giamatti would die of a heart attack.

He had spent less than a year as MLB commissioner but his tough stance left an indelible mark. It’s surely no coincidence there hasn’t been a single gambling controversy since.

As Reston put it: “Giamatti elevated himself to heroic stature in America. By banishing a sports hero, he became a moral hero to the nation.

“A scourge had been cleansed from the hallowed national game. Baseball was safe in Giamatti’s hands, and that was good.”

It’s hard to imagine Selig getting any such praise as the dust settles around Biogenesis, Braun, Rodriguez and any others he punishes.

Applause he has surely earned. But a full comparison is unfair: A-Rod ain’t Rose, and Bud surely ain’t Bart.


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