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October 24, 2002
Whack a Mole
Let's go right to the mail.
If you truly believe that Pete Rose does not belong in The Hall of Fame, then why don't you disassociate yourself from the game completely. Baseball's ultimate honor belongs to Rose whether you believe he gambled on baseball or not. To say otherwise is to live in a world of fantasy!
This guy went back to a column I wrote in June, 2001 in which I discussed the Pete Rose situation, so clearly, what he lacks in logic and a moral compass, he makes up for in tenacity.
Forget labor stoppages, cooked books, wife swapping, discrimination, and steroids; if one thing could ever push me away from baseball for good, it was the vile set of pre-game events at last night's World Series game. It's bad enough that MasterCard managed to finally defile over a hundred years of baseball history by pandering to our collective short attention span. That sort of dignity-slaying marketing onslaught has become so commonplace that it hardly warrants an indignant response, just glazed and practiced apathy. (Although I expect many small children were, like myself, pretty horrified at the visage and elocution of Ray Liotta.) No, the worst part of it was that the baseball fans at the event saved their loudest ovation for the introduction of baseball's STD, Pete Rose.
For those of you who've been in a cave for the last several years, Rose bet on a bunch of baseball games, and agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball in return for the cessation of investigation into his baseball gambling. And he didn't just agree as a kind of nolo contendere; part of the agreement explicitly states that the Commissioner at the time, Bart Giamatti, had a factual basis for Rose's banishment:
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.
At issue is not whether or not Pete Rose bet on baseball. He did. Everyone knows it. There are credible witnesses, betting slips with his handwriting, and phone records. At issue is whether or not there's any behavior that is, from a baseball perspective, irretrievably offensive. A lot of people have called for Pete to apologize, so baseball can move on and properly honor him. What the hell difference would that make? "I'm sorry" doesn't undo what's been done, and what's been done is to commit the sin that directly destroys the credibility and integrity of the game. Of course, Pete may not recognize that, having no credibility or integrity himself.
I'm probably more of an admirer of Bud Selig than most. Like him or not, he's done an outstanding job of what he was hired to do. Clubs are prospering, the MLBPA has been pretty effectively muzzled, franchise values are up, and viewership metrics aren't as bad as people think, once context is taken into consideration. But on this one issue, Bud Selig has done a truly outstanding job. Pete Rose broke the unbreakable rule. And his behavior since leaving the game has been nothing short of either pathetic or appalling, depending on how much credit you give Rose himself. He's made victimhood his own cottage industry, and has used the media and the Commissioner as a foil to make himself seem sympathetic and deserving of redemption.
Rose has gotten the short end of the stick in one specific way. The Board of the BBWAA decided afterRose signed his agreement that people on the permanently ineligible list would be barred from induction into Cooperstown. It's possible that Rose would not have signed the agreement had that rule already been in place. To me, that's enough to allow Pete a normal vote by the BBWAA.
Allowing him into the HoF and allowing him in organized baseball are two different things. Personally, I couldn't care less if Rose were allowed in the Hall. The HoF has already shot its credibility through farce inductions, and I pay more attention to the Internet Baseball Awards than I do the HoF balloting. But under no circumstances should Rose be allowed back in organized baseball in any way, shape, or form. His sins are too great, his behavior too appalling to forgive. Contrary to the image Pete worked so hard to cultivate, Rose was blessed with tremendous physical and mental gifts freakishly attuned to the game of baseball. He then treated the game with a complete lack of regard, and grievously insulted its fans, its integrity, and every player who's ever taken the field.
Rose is unworthy of the accolades he received last night, and the fans who cheered him should take steps to educate themselves about what Rose's actions were, and why they are beyond the bounds of forgiveness. If Rose is deserving of anything from baseball fans, it's our enduring scorn and contempt.