Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Please, Bud, free The Hit King

Thirteen years' exile is long enough penance

Thirteen years is a long time to spend asking for a second chance. It's an eternity when you're on the outside, nose against the window, waiting for someone to let you in. Prison inmates don't wait 13 years for parole hearings, not unless they murdered someone.

Should he? Shouldn't he? Did he? Didn't he? Will he? Or not?

Thirteen years into it, how much does it really matter?

Free Pete Rose, OK? For no other reason than it's time.

I know this is a popular opinion here. It's easy to say. But what's right is right. Nobody's mad at Rose anymore. Not even, apparently, Bud Selig. Who, according to any number of accounts, is prepared to parole The Hit King.

Rose photos from Cinergy farewell softball game
Good for Selig. Given the state of his game, paroling Rose would amount to a shot of Pepto-Bismol at the height of a stomach ache. The patient is ailing. He doesn't need lingering bad news.

Rose bet on baseball. Maybe. Probably. We think. Is 13 years enough for that crime?

If Rose had admitted on Aug.24, 1989, that he bet on baseball, would baseball still have sentenced him to13 years? Is he more guilty now than he was then?

Since 1989, baseball has allowed performance-enhanced muscleheads to juice unimpeded, because until a few months ago, it had no steroid policy. Since 1989, baseball has allowed competitive balance to set up housekeeping in the Bronx. Since '89, baseball has turned off a generation of fans, who think it's boring. And, oh yes, since 1989, baseball has canceled its World Series.

These would seem greater concerns than Peter Edward Rose's affection for betting. Apparently not. But since these other assaults on the game's vitality have proceeded unchecked, it seems a little harsh to keep Rose in exile, don't you think?

I was on the phone awhile Tuesday, another in the army of media sleuths, calling my "sources" for "inside info." People who say they know what will happen, don't. They're guessing. So am I.

  Findings of baseball's 1989 investigation into Rose's gambling
My best guess is Selig will ask Rose to concede he bet on the game. Rose will balk. Selig needs something. Otherwise, the last 13 years will make baseball look petty and spiteful, rather than merciful and forgiving, which is the pose Selig most wants (and needs) to strike.

If Rose admits to the gambling, the vast majority of us won't care. It has been so long. The bigger question has never been answered: Does Pete still have a problem? If yes, how could anyone hire him to a position where he could influence a game?

Rose wants to manage again. He told me that a month ago, as we had coffee at The Waterfront restaurant. The Hall of Fame is secondary to returning to the field, he said. He also said then that "things are looking really good."

  Recent Pete Rose reports on
Rose steals stage at World Series
Farewell to Cinergy: Rose brings the house down - for good
Fans satisfied that Rose got last hurrah
DAUGHERTY: We still love our Pete
Browning paints tribute to Rose
Video, highlights of Rose's record hit, 4,192
When I had a mutual friend contact Rose Tuesday, Rose told him "everything's going to work out."

Let's hope so. It really is time for this to end. In April, Pete Rose will be 62 years old. He has spent 13 years divorced from his first love. She wouldn't even return his phone calls. (Yet she did trot him out in prime time twice, when a major sponsor was involved.)

Rose has spent lots of time flying around the country, signing his name to pictures, bats and the like, living this empty, semi-hero life. The man with more hits than anyone has missed the prime of his retirement days. The glow has passed him by. Isn't that enough?

The world's most prolific hitter should not be an object of pity. We have bigger things to worry about.

Why should baseball bring back Rose? It's time, is all.

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DAUGHERTY: Please, Bud, free The Hit King
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