Monday, January 5, 2004

Rose belongs in Hall, but not in baseball

The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press

We knew Pete Rose was the major league's all-time hits leader. But we didn't know he was the leader in nerve, gall and effrontery, too.

After 14 years of professing his innocence, of denying allegations that he bet on baseball, of claiming he's been wronged all this time because Bud Selig hasn't reinstated him, it appears Rose has something new to say:

"Uh, never mind. I did it."

Rose is expected to confess Thursday night during an interview on ABC. His new book, My Prison Without Bars, will be released earlier that day, and it's also expected to include an admission of guilt.

My, don't we all feel a lot better about him now?

Whatever you think of the alleged betting that led to Rose's lifetime ban from baseball in 1989, making him ineligible for the Hall of Fame in 1991, that's a totally separate issue now. Whether you think it's OK if Rose always bet his team to win, or it's OK if he bet without sharing information or being compromised by bookies, that's no longer the point.

The question is: What do you think about being lied to all this time?

With all the evidence John Dowd presented in a voluminous report, levelheaded people had no choice but to believe Rose bet on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds. Rose's first mistake was gambling on his sport. His second was failing to cop a plea, instead opting for the "I didn't do it" defense.

Pete Rose at the '89 press conference where he responded to his suspension.
(File photo)
The late, former commissioner Bart Giamatti was convinced that Rose bet on baseball. So was anyone who caught Rose's press conference after he was banned, when he looked like a deer-in-the-headlights trying to explain why he accepted the punishment if he was innocent.

But if Rose wasn't going to 'fess up immediately, or when the Hall of Fame issue arose four years later, he should've stuck to his story, no matter how delusional it seemed. Coming forward now doesn't make him look better; it makes him look worse.

Coming forward now shows him in his true light, a lying, manipulative weasel who'll do anything to get back in baseball and in the Hall of Fame. Why those goals have to be a package deal is beyond me, just like I can't fathom why Selig would consider reinstating Rose.

Selig made an admission of guilt mandatory if Rose is to return. But it makes more sense to allow Rose in the Hall, while keeping his lifetime ban in place. There's no way Rose should be allowed to manage or hold another job in baseball again.

Gambling on baseball is the game's cardinal sin, and everyone involved is warned of the consequences. Keeping Rose out of baseball is a harsh sentence but it fits the crime. The Hall of Fame is a different story, though.

There are all kinds of rogues in Cooperstown. None ever told a tale as tall as Rose for 14 years. But none have 4,256 hits, either.

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