December 11, 2002


PETE IN THE HALL? DON'T BET ON IT: There are new reports this week that Pete Rose has been negotiating with Commissioner Bud Selig about a potential reinstatement into baseball, one that may one day allow baseball's all-time hits leader to finally enter the Hall of Fame.
Rose, of course, agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball in 1989 after he was accused by an independent investigator of betting on his own team's games during his five seasons as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Since then Rose (who did a stretch in prison for tax evasion in the early '90s) has steadfastly maintained his innocence, despite facing a mountain of evidence that makes the one against OJ look like an anthill.
It's long been conventional wisdom that Rose can't even think about being reinstated until he admits his guilt, though there are serious doubts that Rose will end up in the Hall. This is due to an implied "gentleman's agreement" among baseball higher-ups that Rose remain banished out of respect to the late commish Bart Giamatti, who died of a heart attack less than a week after negotiating Rose's suspension. That the recent meeting with Selig even took place indicates that Rose's denials of wrongdoing may have softened, although even if reinstatement is agreed to there's likely to be a grace period of a few years before Rose can enter the Hall.
In every poll a majority of fans vote overwhelmingly in favor of Pete's reinstatement, but I believe that's because most of today's fans misunderstand the charges. Rose wasn't suspended because of some moralistic stand by baseball against gambling- he was banned because he bet on his own team's games while he was managing them- and did so over the course of several years. Sure, it looks bad that the Hall of Fame is missing one of the great hitters of all time. But the crime that Rose committed can and should not be dismissed lightly: on numerous occasions he put the very integrity of the game into serious question.
That said, I would not oppose a compromise solution that, in the event of a confession, allowed Rose into the Hall while keeping him banned from working or otherwise making money from baseball. Although since Rose keeps appearing publicly each year in Cooperstown and on the field at just about every World Series, it hardly seems these days like he's banned at all.

Posted by Stephen Silver at December 11, 2002 05:25 AM
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