This week, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfed, upheld the decision of his predecessor Bud Selig in denying Pete Rose’s readmission back into baseball. Predictably, the many apologists for Rose came out of the woodwork, like cult members guzzling the Kool-Aid.
There is no question Rose has Hall of Fame numbers. His 4,256 hits is the most of any player, a feat likely to remain for decades, if not never to be broken. Couple his great numbers with the style in which he played, a grit and competitiveness few come close to, and it is obvious he was, and still is a favorite among fans. It’s hard not to admire Pete Rose the player. He had characteristics we long to see in those we lay down much hard earn money to see.
Despite his great on-field accomplishments, “Charlie Hustle” broke the cardinal rule of the game, he bet on baseball. Every Major League Baseball clubhouse has this edict written in it.
Those who have come to Rose’s defense will point to some in the hall who have shady pasts and claim the shrine should be about a player’s accomplishments on the field. To hell with who they were as a person. They’ll say, well, Ty Cobb was a known racist, mean-spirited, down right dirty player and he’s in. If Cobb is in then Rose should be in.
The problem with the Rose discussion is many base worthiness into the Hall on what we deem more or less acceptable societally. After all, gambling is viewed as less severely than being a raciest, thief, murderer, etc. This argument fails to get to the root issue. While Cobb and others who are enshrined may not have been the most cordial, clean living people, their acts, while often despicable, did not damage the integrity of the game. Gambling does. That’s the difference.
Racism or other forms of bigotry can strain clubhouse relations, however as bad as that is, the integrity of what transpires on the field remains intact. When you have members of an organization betting on the game, it throws a question of legitimacy into play. Baseball, above all else, has a duty to protect their game. What Rose did had the potential to destroy all legitimacy the game had. That is why this is so serious and the punishment matches the severity of the act. When fans start to question whether or not what they are seeing is in fact competitively legitimate, you then have an event that is on par with professional wrestling.
There is no evidence to suggest Rose ever threw a game. As a teammate, would you want to be on the field with a player who had some other ulterior motive other than winning for the team. I wouldn’t think so.
We as a people are willing to give second, even more chances, if someone is honest about their mistakes and shows contrition. Rose for years denied betting on baseball despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He then admitted to gambling on the sport in 2004, but only as a manager and not on the Cincinnati Reds, the team he led. Then he did admit to betting on the Reds but only for them to win. Over the past year new evidence has surfaced showing Pete bet on baseball as a player. Rose has yet to address those findings.
While Pete Rose continues to be a sympathetic figure in the eyes of many adoring fans, he certainly isn’t in mine. Pete Rose should not be and never should be enshrined in Cooperstown.