The irony was impossible to ignore.
Outgoing baseball commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig admitted Friday that when he’s going to face the media in a city where there’s an ongoing controversy, he likes to make a bet with himself about how many questions will be asked before the first one about the lingering issue.
He lost Friday. There was one question asked before somebody wondered about any updates regarding Pete Rose’s lifetime suspension for, of course, betting on baseball.
“Darn, missed by one,” said Selig, who is scheduled to retire in late January and be replaced by Rob Manfred, currently Major League Baseball’s chief operating officer.
While Selig knew the question was coming, his answer was virtually no different than what he’s said since taking over as commissioner in 1992, three years after Rose accepted then-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti’s lifetime suspension.
“I understand that this is the land of Pete Rose,” Selig said during a news conference in the Crosley Room adjacent to the Great American Ball Park’s press box. “I drove in here on Pete Rose Way. He has a great history here. He was a great hitter.
“Look, there are a lot of things in life that, as commissioner, you wish hadn’t happened. I was close to A. Bartlett Giamatti, and I understand the feeling in Cincinnati. How it ends eventually, I don’t know. All I can say is it’s under advisement and it would be inappropriate for me to comment.”
Selig is indulging in a farewell tour of sorts, hoping to visit each of the 30 major-league ballparks before the season is over. He was in Cincinnati on Friday for the ribbon-cutting on the $7 million Procter & Gamble MLB Urban Youth Academy near Cincinnati Gardens.
He claimed to have spent “many, many hours” talking to “many, many people” about the Rose controversy, but he was no closer to changing the all-time career hits leader’s status. He was clear that any decision he makes will be in what he considers to be the best interest of baseball.
“A sport without intregrity is not a sport,” he said.
Rose will continue to be allowed to participate in select events, Selig said, similar to helping honor Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan at the unveiling of his status outside Great American Ball Park last year. Rose already has been cleared to participate in activities surrounding the 2015 All-Star Game, which is scheduled to be played July 14 in Cincinnati.
Selig, who repeatedly described himself as a “history buff” during the press conference and plans to teach the subject after leaving baseball, said a ballclub’s past plays a major role when he considers a request to allow Rose to participate in an event. Without MLB permission, the only way Rose can be in an organized baseball ballpark is as a fan.
“If there are certain things that honor the history of the club,” Selig said, “that’s been my exception.”