CINCINNATI - Now that Pete Rose has met with Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and formally applied for reinstatement, the second question is: Will it matter?
That might depend on the first question: How did Rose argue his case, and was he truthful?
Nobody thinks the new commissioner, only nine months on the job, will reinstate Rose no matter what happened during their two-hour meeting in New York Thursday. But do you wonder why Manfred is going through the trouble of even hearing Rose's appeal and digging into the 285-page Dowd Report?
Does Manfred have a consolation prize for Rose in mind, like the opportunity to get his name on the Hall of Fame ballot before he dies? Maybe Manfred thinks there is something for him or baseball to gain in embracing the prodigal son, like laying the groundwork for accepting the stars of the Steroid Era.
Or maybe Manfred thinks he can rule against Rose and the whole soap opera that threatened to overshadow the All-Star Game here two months ago will go away once and for all.
But knowing that Rose lied to four previous commissioners about betting on baseball, Manfred set out ground rules for Rose's meeting. He revealed them this week in an interview with sports talk host Dan Patrick.
“I think truthfulness is sort of the bedrock of every relationship,” Manfred said. "I think it would be a mistake for Pete to come in and do anything other than tell me everything and the complete truth with respect to everything."
That suggested that Manfred planned to grill Rose about the betting slips that ESPN revealed last summer that appear to show he bet on Reds games while he was still playing – when Rose was player-manager between 1984 and 1986. Rose has insisted to this day that he didn't start betting on the Reds until he quit playing. He continued to manage the Reds until his ban.
What Rose told Manfred about those slips might have helped or killed his case.
Twenty-six years after being kicked out of baseball, Rose met secretly with Manfred at Major League Baseball's offices in Manhattan. Rose's attorney, Ray Genco, was there, too.
"Rob Manfred confirmed he wants a decision by the end of the calendar year. We appreciate that, but other than that we have no comment," Genco said in a statement.
Commissioner Bart Giamatti banned the Reds great in 1989 after baseball investigator John Dowd's report concluded that he gambled on the Reds and other baseball games. Rose denied it for 15 years until 2004, when he admitted it in his autobiography.
A teary-eyed Pete Rose speaks at Riverfront Stadium after he was banned from baseball on Aug. 24, 1989.
If Rose tried to con Manfred or bluff through questions about those new betting slips, there won't be a chance for a celebration for Rose at Cooperstown – in his lifetime or any other's.
We don't know how Rose pleaded his case with Manfred. He might have simply asked for forgiveness, saying he has paid a high price for what he did, and promoting the idea that he could be a good ambassador for the game. Nobody loves baseball more - or knows more about it - than Rose.
Rose's attorney may have tried to build a case around MLB's "Agreement and Resolution" with Rose, signed by Giamatti and Rose that fateful day on Aug. 24, 1989. It states, in part:
"The commissioner will not make any formal findings or determinations on any matter including without limitation the allegation that Peter Edward Rose bet on any Major League Baseball game."
It does not say Rose was banned for betting on the Reds. The agreement says Rose was banned under Rule 21 for "allegations" of misconduct "not in the best interest of baseball."
However, at a news conference in New York that morning, Giamatti was asked if he thought Rose bet on baseball and answered without hesitation: "I am confronted by the facts of record by Mr. Dowd and on the basis of that, yes, I have concluded that he bet on baseball."
But it's hard to imagine Rose winning reinstatement on a technicality, even if he sued Baseball like he did when he challenged Giamatti's authority and fought to suppress the Dowd Report during that long summer of 1989.
Commissioner Bart Giamatti bans Pete Rose from baseball on Aug. 24, 1989.
Rose believes he has been punished long enough and hopes Manfred will agree.
"I did take responsibility for what I did, but there's still people that just won't let it go away," Rose said last year. "I was suspended in 1989 … '89! It's time to get over it, I think."
But Manfred has plenty of reasons to say no to Rose.
Manfred has to weigh whether Rose "reconfigured his life" as Giamatti directed him. The evidence - Rose still gambles and never sought help for a gambling addiction (at least he never said so publicly) - suggests that Rose did not.
"The burden is entirely on Mr. Rose to reconfigure his life in a way he deems appropriate," Giamatti said at the time. Rose lives in Las Vegas signing autographs for money. That may not fit the lifestyle Giamatti had in mind.
Manfred also has to know that a lot of people in baseball - even Johnny Bench - don't want Rose reinstated. Some, like Dowd and former commissioner Fay Vincent, have been outspoken in saying that reinstating him would weaken the deterrent against gambling on baseball.
"No one in the history of the game who has been declared permanently ineligible has been reinstated," Dowd told ESPN Friday. "That gives Rule 21 tremendous force that protects the integrity of the game."
Rule 21 (d) bans any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee who bets on any game in which the bettor has a duty to perform.
Also, Manfred, who has only been in the commissioner's chair since Bud Selig resigned in January, might not want to overturn nearly 100 years of baseball precedent going back to the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.
Reinstatement wouldn't mean Rose would be back in a uniform as a manager or coach. At 74, Rose agrees he is too old to be considered for an active on-the-field job. Besides, a coaching job wouldn't pay him as much as the $1 million he says he makes annually selling his autograph.
Rose has said he wants to be a baseball ambassador and seems happy in his new job as a studio analyst on FOX Sports baseball broadcasts. Being reinstated would have big advantages, though. For one, it would let Rose broadcast from the ballpark. He is currently barred from non-public areas because of his ban. For another, it would take the scarlet "B" off his chest and restore some of the dignity he earned as the game's all-time hit leader.
Most importantly to Rose, being reinstated would make him eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot. Even though the odds of being elected would be against him, Rose still hopes to see his image on a plaque in Cooperstown.
Manfred told Patrick this week that he doubted Rose would ever get in the Hall as long as he remained on the ineligible list. So maybe Manfred would be willing to meet Rose halfway - refuse to reinstate him but lobby the Hall of Fame to drop the rule that prevents anyone on ineligible list from being on the Hall ballot. Manfred raised speculation about that after saying he views reinstatement for Rose and eligibility for the Hall as two separate issues.
The Hall has already announced a plan for putting Rose on the ballot.
"There are two very, very different issues," Manfred said again on the Dan Patrick Show. "I only have one of them. My issue is, if I take him off the permanently ineligible list next week, someone could hire him next week for a job in baseball. That’s the issue I have in front of me. I see that question very different from the question: Should he be in the Hall of Fame based on what he did as a player and a manager?"
Manfred said he has no control over whether or not Rose appears on a Hall of Fame ballot, but as a commissioner and a Hall of Fame board member, his preference would carry a lot of weight, just like Vincent's did in 1991 when the Hall voted in the so-called "Pete Rose Rule" in the first place.
Vincent blamed Rose for Giamatti's death from a heart attack eight days after Rose was banned. Giamatti had said Rose's refusal to meet with him that summer and Rose's court battles with Baseball had put Giamatti through a "private agony." So Vincent got the board to change the rules and ban Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson and others on the ineligible list.
In July, Manfred turned down a request to review Jackson's case for reinstatement in a simple one-page letter.
Manfred must think that Rose's case is different. He might see advantages in showing some favor to Rose. Does being banned or being reinstated have to be all or nothing? Do you mean Manfred can't tell Rose, "No, you're not allowed to work in MLB, but you can announce from the broadcast booth and do interviews on the field and have the same media privileges the others have"?
More than appealing to thousands of Rose fans, Manfred might even think it would temper some of the hard feelings about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and other steroid users as Baseball struggles with how to represent their accomplishments in the history of the game.
Rose had not formally applied for reinstatement until now thinking a new commissioner - Selig had been in the seat since 1992 - gave him his best chance for a pardon. Giamatti allowed Rose to apply for reinstatement within a year, but it's clear that Rose waited until he was ready to admit to betting on the Reds. He met with Selig in 2003 and later said he admitted his betting to Selig and hoped that would lead to reinstatement. But Selig got angry with Rose after he came out with his book.
Now the clock is ticking for Rose. He has waited 26 years. He probably won't mind waiting three months more.
"If I ever get a second chance, I'll be the happiest man in the world," Rose said recently. "I won't need a third chance."