So where does our next summer diversion come from?
It was a nice reprieve last weekend from what's becoming one of the worst seasons in the history of baseball's most tenured franchise. Pete Rose, his lifetime ban from baseball upheld this past December, was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame. It was a nice consolation prize from Rob Manfred, who otherwise missed a golden opportunity to benefit from Rose and his various missteps along the way, since 1989.
Simply put, Manfred blew it. He kept his predecessors happy. He kept the old guard baseball media off his back. He probably played an homage to the 'purity' of the game.
But he blew it.
Watching the various activities around "all things Pete' last weekend, it made me wonder if there really isn't a place for Rose in baseball. Consider the possibilities.
For openers, nobody sells the game like Pete Rose. He's always talking about it. ALWAYS. He knows hitting inside out and will gladly share his philosophies about such. There isn't a better hitter in the history of the game still alive (and if Ted Williams were alive, I'm not sure I'd put him ahead of Rose). He watches Major League Baseball games incessantly. And I'm sure the cynic would say "that's because he's gambling on games."
Whether he is or isn't anymore, I don't know. He'd have to be a complete idiot to continue doing that, while lobbying to return to the game. But listen to his work with Fox Sports. Listen to any interviews he gives. He remains passionate about his former line of work. He sells it.
On a secondary level, Rose can help baseball through a couple of demographic problems it has. Baseball is a sport that skews old. It's anecdotal, I know. But next time you go to Great American Ball Park, look around. You see a lot of dads and moms with kids. You see a lot of grandparents, with or without kids. But where are the kids? Where is that demographic of 14-25 that attend, without parent? Don't know about you, but I don't see a lot of them. The Washington Postdid an interesting study about a year ago. It's worth the read.
Major League Baseball also has a diversity issue. Most of it's fans are white and it struggles to get others to either watch or buy tickets. The Atlantic had this articlea couple of years ago that breaks down professional sports by race, gender and age. Go to the baseball chart. It's enlightening. While the income of a baseball fans is desirable to be sure, it's a sport that appeals overwhelming to aging, white men. That's a problem.
So how does any of this relate to Pete Rose? It all does.
A good salesman, when asked what he sells, will reply, "What are you buying?" A good salesman, with gravitas of course, can take a product and make it attractive to a wide and varied market. Pete Rose is a good salesman. He loves his sport. He loves talking about his sport.
And most important, he makes his sport interesting. That is in short supply in baseball these days.
The Reds have been leaders in broadening their team (and their sport) in its appeal to a diverse community. Their Reds Urban Youth Academy in the Cincinnati suburb of Roselawn has helped attract new, and more importantly, younger and diverse fans. Imagine Pete Rose at that facility every day teaching and instructing. Imagine the new, younger and more diverse fans that would help the Reds, and baseball, develop.
And then imagine this: Rose would be the ultimate example of what can be taken from you, if you don't play the game of life correctly. And, given a second chance, the ultimate example of how you can turn your life around. Pete Rose would teach the game, provide an example and help cultivate new fans.
It seems to me, Major League Baseball Commissioner, Rob Manfred had all of that in front of him when he passed on revisiting the Rose case last December. And it seems to me, Manfred blew it.