Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Some Roses really do smell like pooh pooh.

This year's pity party for Pete Rose was marked with the caveat that Pete's eligibility has expired. Some claim that since Pete Rose has never been eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame it is an impossibility for his eligibility to expire, thus they seem to be setting the stage that someday they will get to honor Pete Rose with enshrinement by playing on this technicality.

Pete Rose was a great baseball player. Period. You can't argue with the number of hits he put up and even when you try to pick apart his numbers you still come away respecting what he did on the field as a pure baseball player. And that should be a compelling argument to send his bust to Cooperstown, but something happened along the way.

Pete Rose bet on baseball while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds. Some of the bets were made from his office in the team clubhouse some might have been made from the phone in the dugout. At first, Rose denied this, but recently he admitted that he did indeed bet on games. He is adamant that he never bet against the Reds but this is not important and most people who believe Rose should be inducted into the Hall of Fame won't dispute these issues. Their position is that Rose should be honored for what he did as a player.

That's a fine point and I would agree with that assessment if Rose had conducted himself with dignity and demonstrated some respect for the game after he was banned from baseball. But dignity and respect are two traits that Pete Rose doesn't possess.

You see, Rose signed off on his banishment. He sat down with Bart Giamatti and agreed to be indefinitely suspended from baseball. The reason he did this was to avoid increased exposure. Baseball's investigators had dredged up a lot of dirt on his illegal gambling activities and federal investigators were hot on the trail of his tax returns. Rose basically wanted to take cover and he hoped signing the agreement would help to insulate himself from criminal prosecution, but he was nailed on tax evasion and he went to prison.

It is the way Rose behaved after he was suspended that warrants his exclusion from the Hall of Fame. The National Baseball Hall of Fame will not consider the candidacy of anybody on baseball's ineligible list. That includes the still popular Shoeless Joe Jackson and the mighty Pete Rose. Rose is still essentially banned from baseball and will remain out of the Hall of Fame until he is reinstated by the league. Instead of being contrite and apologetic for what he did to himself, Rose belittled the league and stirred up controversy.

For 15 years Rose maintained his innocence and maligned the league. He claimed that he was tricked into signing the ban by Bart Giamatti and believed that he would be granted reinstatement. Instead of making a compelling case and arguing his position with some diplomacy Rose went to war with Baseball. He continued to remain conspicuous and used every Hall of Fame induction ceremony as his own personal soap box, diminishing the satisfaction of those being honored. Rose claimed to love the game, but his actions made it clear that it wasn't the game he cared about, it was himself.

In 2004 Rose changed his tune and admitted that he bet on baseball, but his sincerity was in doubt since the revelation came in the form of a book he was selling. After the book was written Rose went right back into his rage against baseball when he was denied reinstatement yet again. Rose is very much like a three year-old who briefly emerges from tantrums to feign a little contrition only to fly right back into the hysterics when he doesn't get his way.

It's clear that Rose believes he is bigger than the game. He doesn't see the Hall of Fame as an honor, but rather a right that is being denied him. This is why Rose bet on baseball. He didn't need the money, nor was he addicted to the thrill of betting. Rose bet on baseball because he wanted to prove to himself and everybody involved that he was bigger than the game.

The irony is that it is the way Rose has behaved since his ban was enacted that is keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose would have been reinstated and enshrined in the Hall of Fame 10 years ago if he had done the following three things:

1. Apologize.

Rose seems to be sorry...that he got caught. Instead of denying the painfully obvious, Rose should have admitted that he bet on baseball and simply apologized for breaking one of the game's cardinal rules.

2. Respect the game.

Rose expected everything to blow over, but it didn't The reason is because Rose chose to punish baseball for punishing him. He denied the allegations in spite of the comprehensive 235 page Dowd Report offering proof that he did bet on baseball. Rose should have kept his distance and remained contrite. He inflicted a wound on baseball and instead of giving the league and the fans time to heal he kept picking at the scab and drawing fresh blood year after year. He has some loyal supporters, but his tactics polarized the league and its fan. Instead of running around signing memorabilia, Rose should have stayed away from the game.

3. Mend the errors of his ways.

Rose had a problem and it would appear he still does. Had Rose taken the position that he had a problem, gotten help and become a positive role model the league would have had no choice but to reinstate him. In fact, if Rose had taken the initiative to show the league that he was interested in becoming a better person it's quite possible that they would have reached out to him.

But Pete Rose didn't take the prudent course of action. 16 years has come and gone and Pete Rose is shaking his fist at Major League Baseball screaming, how dare you. He seems to think that the Hall of Fame isn't complete without his big old jug headed bust collecting dust in there. It seems to me that Pete Rose needs the Hall of Fame a hell of a lot more than the Hall of Fame needs him.

No comments: