Whenever things are sleazy in baseball, Pete Rose’s name somehow always seems to surface, whether the game’s all-time hits leader has anything to do with the matter at hand or not.
Such is presently the case, as talk of 65-, 150-game and lifetime suspensions for PED use fill the air. And though one has nothing to do with the other, there now exists an outcry for Major League Baseball to put Rose into the Hall of Fame since players who used steroids are eligible themselves.
What we’re forgetting amidst this outcry, however, is known steroids users, while suspended from the game for extended periods of time, were able to return to the game. They were not permanently banned from baseball, nor did they agree to a lifetime ban as Rose did 24 years ago. And it’s important not to forget that — Pete Rose agreed to the lifetime ban of then-Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, even though he was still years away from admitting that he lied all along and did, in fact, bet on baseball when he was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Then, of course, staying true to his character, he decided to come clean in a book he wrote to make even more gobs of money for himself.
This Put Pete In The Hall proposition, which borders on outraged demand from Rose apologists, has even earned a voice from Bob Costas, who always seems to have baseball’s best interests at heart, and who never hesitates to voice them. Costas agreed, in light of the tarnish currently being brought to the game’s reputation by the PED users, that the Rose circumstance should at least be re-examined and that Rose should at least be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame because what he did was not as bad for the competitive balance of baseball as using steroids is.
Yes, of course, on his play alone, Rose is as Hall of Fame as anybody who ever played the game. However, he is not eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame because he has been banished from the game. Major League Baseball and the Baseball Hall of Fame are independent of each other, but if one is not eligible to have anything to do with organized baseball, one is not eligible to be put on the Hall of Fame ballot. That is the Hall of Fame’s guideline, not Major League Baseball’s, and from what we've been led to believe, Rose will not be reinstated to the game in his lifetime.
Would Rose be voted in if he were eligible? While he might receive some support on the baseball writers’ ballot, it’s unlikely he would receive enough to be elected. That, however, is neither here nor there, as his eligibility to be placed on the ballot expired in 2006. Thus, if he were ever to be made eligible for election it would be up to the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee to determine, and since that committee is made up of Hall of Famers, few of whom have any love for Rose for committing the cardinal sin of betting on baseball, it would appear even less likely he would be elected by them.
What I find interesting is that Costas believes steroids are more damaging to the competitive balance and integrity of the game than gambling on the game is. Not to condone either reprehensible act, but I tend to disagree because if I’m juicing I am at least trying to win since I have cheated to try to make myself a better player by illegal and artificial means. However, if I’m gambling on games I’m managing, I have a pretty direct hand in trying to alter the game in the direction I have wagered.
Oh, but Rose said he only bet on the Reds to win. Well, based on his lying for over 20 years about his not gambling on the game at all, how do we know that? And even if that were the case, what did it tell the gamblers when Rose didn’t bet on the Reds? For beginners, that he could have manipulated his roster and his game tactics to their fullest to win the games he did bet on.
Now, did Rose manage less to win games he did not bet on his team to win? Probably not, but that you even make a choice on whether or not to gamble on a team and a game you have such control over, dirties your approach and your integrity as it pertains to the game at large.
Again, as reprehensible and damaging to the competitive balance of the game the use of performance enhancing drugs is, it is not more damaging to said competitive balance than gambling has been and is. The steroids scandal has been going on since 1998, yet baseball continues to draw record crowds. In fact, the hypocrites who run baseball were more than happy to turn the other cheek when they knew it was going on because what we thought were historic home run chases helped the game bounce back from nowhere after the same bozos stopped a season and canceled the 1994 World Series.
That marked the lowest point in both public interest and trust in the game since 1919 when baseball nearly went out of business because Chicago White Sox players were paid to lose the World Series. By gamblers.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.