Where does Astros cheating rank in scandals? Ask Pete Rose

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Pete Rose was taking a break from signing autographs at the MGM Grand hotel when asked a question he’s uniquely qualified to address.

What’s worse, betting on baseball or cheating at baseball?

“I don’t know,’’ Rose tells The Associated Press. “All I know is I’ve been suspended for 30 years now. I don’t know anybody that’s been suspended for 30 years.”

It’s a fair point, especially when compared to the punishments handed out so far in the worst scandal to hit baseball since the steroid era. What Rose did was wrong — according to baseball rules — but there’s still a lot of people who believe he should be adding a Hall of Fame designation when he signs memorabilia in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas.

Still, 30 years away from the game he was so great at seems like an awful long time, especially when Major League Baseball and other sports leagues have made their peace — and are doing business — with the bookies who post lines on their games.

And face it. If you believe Rose on the details of what he did — and that’s a stretch for some — his betting didn’t have nearly the impact on baseball than a cheating scheme that has brought into question the legitimacy of not just one, but two, World Series.

“Which one is worse, stealing signs electronically, taking steroids or betting on baseball?” the all-time major league hit leader asked. All three are bad. But at least what I did never had anything to do with the outcome of the game.”

The Astros cheating scandal, of course, is still new, at least publicly. A week ago, no one was questioning whether the Astros were really the 2017 champions or the Red Sox a year after that.

Now it’s all in play, and the discussion is beginning to turn to how the sign scandal ranks with other scandals in baseball history.

Pretty high up with each passing day, if only because there are few comparable scandals and two of them involve gambling. The Black Sox scandal of 1919 and Rose betting on baseball games from the dugout in Cincinnati are about the only ones that come close.

There’s also the steroid era, where it was hard to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. The players themselves weren’t much help, sticking up for teammates and for the most part claiming ignorance of steroid use.

The unwritten baseball code of silence, though, seems to be unraveling quickly with the sign-stealing scandal. That began in November when former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers went on record to The Athletic about the scheme the Astros employed during his time there to steal signs.