By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Baseball Writers Association of America is literally waiting to hear from the commissioner's office on whether some sort of probationary reinstatement might be hammered out that would allow Pete Rose to be placed on the Hall of Fame ballot by Nov. 15.
"We are waiting to see if we need to change it to add Pete," said Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA. "I have to assume we aren't and that it's cooled off - because I haven't heard a thing . . . no heads-up, no nothing."
The ballots must be mailed out in three weeks, which is why mid-November is the deadline.
O'Connell said it isn't as though he'd been led to definitely expect that Rose would be going on the Hall of Fame ballot this year.
"(But) I had conversations with (commissioner) Bud Selig and Dale Petroskey and Jane Clark (representing the Hall of Fame)," said O'Connell, noting that nobody told him to forget about Rose and mail out the ballots.
Reinstatement is still a live issue in the commissioner's office, although perhaps not quite as live as Rose would like. He wants to get back to managing a major-league team, which is what he was doing before he was banned from baseball in August 1989 because of his involvement with gambling.
Clearly, from his recent comments to the Enquirer, Rose feels managing again is achievable in the foreseeable future.
"Pete's interest is being able to work in the game of baseball - plain and simple," former Rose teammate Mike Schmidt said last August, noting that he expected reinstatement to come sometime this month. "(Rose) would love some day to be a member of the Hall of Fame, but that's another story. The most important thing to Pete Rose is an opportunity to make a living."
Schmidt has attended several meetings as a Rose go-between with MLB.
Everybody who knows Rose knows what his idea of a "baseball living" is. MLB officials responded to Schmidt's remarks by saying there was no timetable for reinstatement. They reiterated it this week.
Whether Rose's view of his reinstatement is sunnier than what his people have been promised is open to speculation. But one thing is clear: Without full reinstatement that clears his way to manage, Rose isn't about to give baseball what it wants - a public admission that he bet on games in which he was involved as a manager of the Reds.
Baseball doesn't appear eager to clear Rose's path to the manager's chair.
If it's true what the New York Daily News quoted "sources" as saying Thursday - that Rose is no closer to reinstatement despite what has been reported recently - then baseball appears to be backpedaling from what even Schmidt had been led to believe.
Selig would have good reason for caring more about Rose in the Hall of Fame than he would about Rose managing again. The Hall would be a public relations bonanza for Selig, with hardly any risk. A relapsed Rose couldn't kill baseball hanging on a wall.
O'Connell didn't speculate on that being the reason why Selig is willing to consider reinstatement, but if the Cooperstown bonanza is it, Selig is right.
"It's the prodigal son returning," O'Connell said. "The game would be welcoming back the guy who got lost."
The clock is ticking on that opportunity, however. All indications are that O'Connell's sense of things is correct: Rose won't make this year's ballot. That leaves him only two years to get elected.
And if baseball doesn't take him off the permanently ineligible list until what is expected to be a year's probationary period expires, then that means Rose would have only one all-or-nothing BBWAA ballot to make it to Cooperstown.
If it's a one-shot deal, Baseball and Rose will need to have their act a lot more together than it is right now.
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