Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred should’ve taken a new path. Instead he hid behind his predecessors and relied on their rulings at the time on Shoeless Joe Jackson. It appears now, that Jackson’s fate is sealed for the next several years. Perhaps another commissioner somewhere down the road, will have the backbone and the stones to not fall in line with the “establishment” that has been the big league baseball hierarchy for close to a century.
For baseball fans and historians such as myself, we all held our breath with the news that Manfred was considering reinstating the banned-for-life Jackson at the urging of the museum that uses his very name. This was an opportunity to right a wrong, and in the process, show baseball fans everywhere that Manfred wasn’t just another stuffed suit, not courageous enough to give Jackson and his fans, what has been long overdue…95 years to be exact.
One of my friends and writing mentors, Howard Cole, who is the founder of the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America), agrees with Manfred. He’s completely okay with the fact that since so much time has passed, that it’s probably in the best interest of the game, to just let lying dogs sleep. I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t care if it’s one year, fifty years, or two centuries. If the wrong decision was made on Jackson at the time, then it is the absolute obligation of today’s leaders of the game to make things right.
Manfred used the argument not to reinstate, that since Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ original ruling, there wasn’t enough change in the situation to consider reinstating Jackson. Here’s the thing: Unspoken or not, Landis sternly stood fast as African-Americans weren’t allowed to play big league baseball either. You don’t think for one minute this approach was wrong or incorrect either? Landis sided with owners, was a racist, and wielded absolute control over the game, never to be questioned. If the game is supposed to move forward, then how can it if today’s commissioner leans on the rulings of such a corrupt individual as Landis? If case you also didn’t know, Landis was the Federal Judge sitting on the bench at the time when players were governed under the long-standing “reserve clause” as well…and chose to do…nothing. I will always believe he supported the owners, knowing that something bigger for him in the game of baseball rest down the line.
Don’t give me the “Well Manfred also leaned on the rulings of more recent Commissioner’s Giamatti and Vincent” in determining his ruling. Wrong again. This isn’t 1989. This isn’t even 1999. This is 2015, and as more evidence continues to come to the surface, showing that while Jackson may have known about the fix, he was a far cry from being a participant. I won’t puke back up his 1919 World Series numbers. We all know what they are. This also isn’t about Pete Rose. I do agree with Howard on one thing: with Jackson getting batted down, Rose has little to no shot of seeing reinstatement in his lifetime. One has nothing to do with the other.
Rob Manfred could’ve shown the masses that he is his own man. He could’ve established his own identity to fans, and righted a wrong. Instead, he buried his head, and today, it’s business as usual, and one of the greatest players of the Dead Ball era continues to have legacy tarnished by the actions of corrupt teammates, a dirt bag original commissioner, and a lack of love from modern-day leaders and executives of the game. Rest in Peace Shoeless Joe, I’ll keep pulling for you now and forever.