|Monday, July 29
Rose: Don't blame Selig for game's woes
By Jayson Stark
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- In the long history of Pete Rose's unrelenting attempt to do that last exoneration dance with Bud Selig, the Hit King has sung many a tune. But Monday in Cooperstown, he unveiled one we'd never heard before:
"It Ain't Bud's Fault."
That All-Star Game disaster? Not Bud's fault.
The steroid crisis? Not Bud's fault, either.
Those boos the commish got pelted with at Ozzie Smith's induction ceremony? More symbolic than personal.
"I bet Bud Selig hates to come up here, and that's not the way it should be," the Hit King said Monday between autographs and small talk with a steady stream of folks telling him whose side they were on (not Bud's).
"I bet David Stern can't wait to go to (the hoops Hall of Fame in) Springfield. But Bud's gotta hate to go to Cooperstown. And that's a shame."
Rose never did see the induction ceremony, he admitted, because the ESPN family of television networks didn't cooperate -- televising it on ESPN Classic instead of a network he could get in the Pete Rose Baseball Collectibles store, right down the block from the Hall of Fame. (Sorry about that, Mr. Hit King.)
Nevertheless, Rose thinks he understands what those boos for the commish were all about.
"They're blaming him for the labor talks," Rose said. "I don't know what they want him to do. They're blaming him for steroids. I don't know what they want him to do about that, either. Bud's not the one who can implement steroid testing."
And that All-Star Game boofest, right there in Selig's hometown? Here comes a Pete Rose quote you may have to take a deep breath before you read.
OK, ready? Here it comes:
"I'll tell you the truth," Rose said. "I went to bed that night feeling sorry for the commissioner."
All right, exhale. He really, truly said that. And why? Because Bud got booed in his own playpen.
"See, when he gets booed here (in Cooperstown), he's getting booed in a gray uniform because he's traveling," Rose said. "Hey, we all get booed when we're wearing that gray uniform. But he got booed in a white uniform 'cause he got booed in Milwaukee. And that's a problem. Think how mad that crowd must have been for him to get booed in Milwaukee."
Of course, if the Hit King had been sitting in those seats, he'd have been booing, too. But it wouldn't necessarily have been his good friend, Bud, he was hooting at.
"I have to defend the commissioner on the All-Star Game," Rose said. "It's amazing to me how those guys (the managers) screwed the game up. I mean, how'd you like to be the commissioner of baseball, and now the managers come up to you in the 11th inning and say, 'We have to call the game. We don't have any pitchers." What's he supposed to do -- pull pitchers out of his back pocket?"
Not that the commish was blameless, Rose said. He's the one who "sets the atmosphere" that has produced the "laxity in the game" -- a laxity which you may have noticed wasn't there in the days when Rose was turning Ray Fosse into a crash-test dummy in the '70 All-Star Game.
"Baseball didn't need that," the King said of the infamous All-Star tie. "If that's the way it's gonna be -- if you're not gonna play to win -- just televise the home-run contest. Don't even televise the game."
Now that's a Pete Rose idea that doesn't figure to catch on. But if you've followed Rose's career, which has been tough to avoid, you know he has lots of ideas. And that, he says, is where he could help the commissioner out if somebody would just let him.
"This is just me thinking, but what if Bud Selig goes out there," Rose said, "and takes the microphone and says, 'We ran out of pitchers and we have to stop the game. However, we're gonna have each team go through their lineup one time, and whoever hits the most home runs is gonna win.'"
Fun idea. No doubt about it. And if the commissioner of baseball would like any more ideas where that came from -- ideas that could turn him into a much more popular leader -- Mr. Pete Rose would gladly volunteer for that job.
"Obviously, of everybody in this country, I'm probably more aware of what goes on with the commissioner than anybody else," Rose claimed. "And one thing I know Bud could do to make those boos into cheers is give me a second chance."
It's possible, we'd concede, that Bud doesn't see it that way. But fortunately, Rose has other ideas for his consideration.
"I'd just like to sit down with Bud and figure out some public-relations strategies for baseball," Rose said. "I'm pretty good public-relations-wise. I'm out there with the people. I know what the people think."
And what the people think, Rose said, is that baseball needs to sell itself better.
"Somebody asked me yesterday what I'd do if I was the commissioner," the Hit King said. "And I said the first thing I'd do is fire everybody in the public-relations department, 'cause they don't know what they're doing. I'm not sitting here trying to make the public-relations department mad. I'm just trying to help them do a better job."
And one way they could do a better job, he suggested, is by polishing the commish's act.
"He didn't do a very personable thing when he went in front of Congress," Rose said. "He was so bad that day that the next time, they sent (MLB C.O.O.) Bob DuPuy. I mean, when you've got that congresswoman, Maxine Waters, saying three times, 'Mr. Commish, I have to remind you you're under oath,' that's not good. I said, 'What's going on? That's not good for baseball. That's not good for leadership.'
"The funny thing is," Rose went on, "I keep hearing Bud's the nicest guy in the world. Reggie (Jackson) said yesterday that Bud's a nice guy. Duke Snider told me Bud's a nice guy. But for a man with his supposed power, he's just not a good public speaker.
"Half the time at his press conferences, he's holding up a hand to one ear, and they've got a girl there repeating the questions. I can't imagine David Stern doing that. David Stern takes charge. Tagliabue and Rozelle in football, they took charge.
"But I'm not here to bash Bud Selig," the Hit King said. "That seems to be the thing to do today. But hey, the guy's down right now. ...
"I don't want to see Bud Selig fired," Rose concluded, sounding particularly earnest. "But I do want to see him get fired if it will help the game take off again. No game is good when the leader gets fired. That's why it wasn't good when Fay Vincent or General Eckert got fired. When the president is impeached, is it good for your country? It's not good."
Then again, having the all-time hit leader suspended for life isn't too good, either. So it's possible the Hit King and baseball's leader have more in common than they even know. They both know what it's like to be blamed for the ills of a sport they love.
So Pete Rose may have gone to bed feeling sorry for the commissioner. But somehow, we don't envision the commish waking up any morning soon and calling the Hit King for some advice.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.