The Dilemma of Pete Rose

PeteRoseI’m just about finished with my Spring ’15 baseball read, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. Here are my conclusions:

  1. Pete Rose is one of the greatest baseball players of all-time and his on-the-field performance is worthy of being recognized in the Hall of Fame. This is indisputable.
  2. Pete Rose bet on baseball and on the Reds while he managed the team. This much he admitted. Because of this he was placed on baseball’s permanent ineligible list.
  3. In 1991, the Hall of Fame voted formally to exclude individuals on the permanently ineligible list from being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Rose is the only living member of the ineligible list.
  4. Pete Rose is an asshole. He cheated on his wives. He wasn’t a good father. He gambled. He was arrogant. He hung out with some rough people.
  5. There are worse guys in the Hall of Fame. Drug addicts. Gamblers. Racists. Cheaters.
  6. There is no proof that Rose ever cheated in a game as a player or manager. There is no proof he made any managerial decisions based on his bets. It’s hard to imagine though that it didn’t play into his decisions in some way, even if only subconsciously.
  7. Tons of cheaters are at least eligible to be voted on for the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire. Sammy Sosa. Rafael Palmeiro. Barry Bonds. Etc. It is unlikely that they will ever get enough votes to get in, but they are eligible.
  8. Anyone who has bet on baseball should not be allowed to be around the game to any significant extent. By this I mean manage, coach, scout, etc. I have no issue with a guy like Pete Rose attending games in the stands or even being honored on the field. He has been, at least twice, since being placed on the ineligible list. Apparently the baseball gods think it’s better for an admitted cheater to coach, but not a gambler (see Mark McGwire). Steroids and gambling both mess with the integrity of the game and should be treated equally, don’t you think? As for Rose, there is no proof he ever bet against his own team and frankly it doesn’t seem to be in his nature to do so. Which is worse? Betting on your team to win, or pumping yourself full of performance enhancing drugs to get an edge?
  9. Pete Rose should have his day in the court of public opinion. By this I mean let the writers vote on his induction to the Hall of Fame. That seems fair. He may not get in, but I bet he’ll get a lot more votes than McGwire and Bonds.

I was fortunate to grow up during a time when Pete Rose played baseball. I hated Pete Rose, but not because he was an asshole — I hated him because he was on the other team and he could beat you single-handedly. He was without question one of the toughest competitors I ever saw play the game. Pete Rose holds something like 17 major league baseball records, including most career hits (4,256) and most games played (3,562). His on-the-field performance was the stuff that legends are made of. He won three World Series titles, one World Series MVP and appeared in 17 all-star games. He was the NL MVP and Rookie of the Year. Nobody ever played the game with more intensity.

Yes, Pete Rose bet on baseball. And like I said, he shouldn’t be allowed to manage, coach or otherwise interact with young players because he is in fact a bad influence. But he deserves to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot and let the voters have the opportunity to vote for him, just like the steroid guys and just like Gaylord Perry (who admitted to cheating his whole career). Rose didn’t cheat, so what he did on the field has integrity.

It’s an easy fix. It can be done without removing him from the ineligible list. All that has to be done is the Hall of Fame must remove the 1991 language about ineligible players not being eligible for the Hall of Fame. After all, they added it to keep Pete Rose out of the Hall and they can delete it to let him have his day in the court of public opinion.

Oh, and for the record, if I had a vote for the Hall of Fame he’d be a yes.

 

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