Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pete Rose - Never to Cooperstown

Sportscenter is running a story about whether or not Pete Rose belongs in the National Baseball of Fame. It's a story that usually appears a couple of times per year - 1) when the new Hall of Fame class is announced (January) and 2) Induction Weekend (late July/Early August). The story interviews both the pro and con positions, including Mike Schmidt, Joe Morgan, and Fay Vincent. As a lifelong Phillies fan, I appreciate what Rose did for the franchise, and the first article of Phillies clothing I wore as a baby was a Pete Rose onesy. However, despite all of this, I still land squarely on the con side of the question of whether Peter Edward Rose belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I wasn't always against it; I was for it younger because my parents were (and still are) for it. I guess you could apply the John Kerry 'I was for it before I was against it' status, but it has been a long development as to how I came to be against Rose's induction. First and foremost, Pete Rose violated one of the most basic rules of baseball - one that hangs in large letters in all baseball clubhouses:
Rule 21(d):BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

That is pretty clear, isn't it? The Hall of Fame prohibits people on the ineligible list from being enshrined. Why would Rose sign off on a permanent ban if he was innocent? It's much like why Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire haven't sued anyone for 'defamation of character' - bringing everything up messes with their stories of denial. Pete Rose would have been completely exposed had a full and open investigation been done in 1989 and 1990, not that the Dowd Report didn't already do such a thing.

Secondly, Rose is a liar, through and through. America is a forgiving society, but not when it comes to lying. Remember the key lesson - not the crime, it's the coverup. Pete Rose lied for well over a decade that he never bet on baseball, then crassly admitted it in order to sell a book: My Prison Without Bars. Why should people believe anything that comes out of his mouth? The Baseball Hall of Fame is one organization that specifically lists integrity as part of its criteria.

Now, before anyone screams foul and points out the charlatans and jerks who are in the Hall, let me point out that I find those to be non-sequiturs. If Pete Rose were merely a philanderer and a horrible father (which he was), then he'd be in. But he went beyond that and violated the integrity of the game, gambling on games as a manager that he had the ability to fix. That's a problem! We like to think our sports are pure, but if your team's manager is running a bookmaking operation out of his office with the ability to influence the outcome just to make a few bucks, where's the fun or the integrity in that?

It's a sad story, because he didn't have to do it. He certainly didn't need the money, but as many pointed out, his competitiveness became his Achilles' heel. I feel bad for him, but not to the extent that I feel he has 'been punished enough' (as Mike Schmidt recently said). No, I don't want him to rot in hell or anything like that, but I do believe he is not Hall of Fame worthy, and I hope that he doesn't get in just because people feel sorry for him that he is getting older. The punishment is just, and it needs to remain.

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