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June 1, 2001
The Key's Already on Your Ring
We're getting close to this year's Cooperstown festivities, when the media's attention turns to grainy footage of the newly enshrined and the current travails of Peter Edward Rose.
And what of Pete these days?
Rose has been trying to build public support for his enshrinement nearly non-stop for more than a decade. Well, perhaps not non-stop. He does it in between degrading stints on cable shopping networks and desperate talk show appearances, not unlike yours truly.
People have been arguing whether Rose should get into the Hall of Fame for some time. Rose himself, demonstrating either remarkable gall or stunning stupidity, draws the parallel between his behavior and that of drug addicts such as Steve Howe and Darryl Strawberry, pointing out how many chances that they have received. "I'm not out there taking drugs," states a legitimately confused Rose.
Supporters of Rose's enshrinement parrot this argument, and talk about Rose's amazing longevity, and the fact that he has more hits than anyone else in the history of baseball. Opponents of Rose's being honored, like myself, point out that baseball basically only has one rule. That Rule is Rule 21: Don't gamble on games. Rose apparently broke that rule, and therefore, his ban for life from MLB is completely just.
Rose's banning from MLB is a slightly different issue from his being banned from the Hall of Fame. When Rose entered into the agreement that led to his banishment from baseball, there was no rule about his also being ineligible for Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame governance added that little kicker after Rose entered into the agreement with Bart Giamatti, and in that light, it is possible that Rose may not have enjoined the agreement with MLB had he known that he would subsequently have been barred from the Hall. Which sucks if you're Pete.
I don't want to get into details of the Dowd Report here. I would encourage everyone to actually read the Dowd Report and the agreement between Giamatti and Rose, both of which are available in .pdf format at http://www.dowdreport.com. I do want to spend a little time on the agreement itself, one which Rose signed after careful and lengthy consideration with legal counsel. Rose himself agrees to the lifetime ban under Rule 21, in return for the cessation of the investigation into his gambling, and MLB not actually reaching a finding that he bet on baseball games.
And therein lies his potential salvation.
If Rose is, in fact, innocent, and didn't bet on baseball games, he can publicly withdraw his agreement to these terms. It may or may not have legal validity, but he can certainly bring pressure to bear on Bud Selig's office to complete the investigation into his conduct. If Rose has exculpatory evidence, or if the Office of the Commissioner cannot clearly demonstrate that he bet on baseball, Rose can enter the Hall of Fame with his head held high.
Of course, this won't happen. The agreement that Rose signed was so incredibly brutal that the only reason he could possibly have signed it would be if he was as guilty as sin. Consider item 4 from the agreement that Rose entered into on the advice of his own attorneys:
Peter Edward Rose acknowledges that the Commissioner has a factual basis to impose the penalty provided herein, and hereby accepts the penalty imposed on him by the Commissioner, and agrees not to challenge that penalty in court or otherwise. He also agrees he will not institute any legal proceedings against the Commissioner or any of his representatives, either Major League, or any Major League club.
That is not the sort of statement you sign if you're innocent, gang.
Pete Rose is one of the biggest embarrassments in history, not only that of baseball, but of the United States. His blatant and pervasive dishonesty, coupled with his deplorable and pathetic attempts to paint himself as a victim, are enough for his exclusion from the Hall even without the problem of gambling on baseball. Rose played the media like a lute during his time as a player, controlling his public image with exceptional zeal and care. His behavior after his retirement as a player is so miserable as to actually cause me to pity him.
Rose is an inveterate liar and despicable character who has already befouled the game of baseball more than any thousand drug addicts ever could. The idea that he would ever enter the Hall of Fame is nothing short of despairing. He's in baseball exile, where he belongs, and the only way he can get out of it is to agree to a complete disclosure of the truth regarding his behavior--something to which he will never agree. He's tried everything he can think of short of this disclosure to slink into Cooperstown, and he's failed.
God willing, he will continue to fail. Short of simply going away, that's all baseball can really hope for.
Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.