Rose's fate still being discussed
His 13-year stay in baseball's purgatory may finally be reaching a conclusion.
On the one hand, Pete Rose is barred from baseball for life, identified as a reprobate gambler and doomed to wear a scarlet letter "G" as the Hester Prynne of his sport.
On the other hand, Pete Rose is honored at two World Series, celebrated as one of the game's greatest players, embraced by the fans and allowed to bask in emotional ceremonies at baseball's showcase events.
A mixed message? Of course. Rose, remember, was a switch hitter.
Now, as the Hall of Fame prepares to announce the Class of 2003 on Tuesday, Rose's 13-year stay in purgatory may finally be reaching a conclusion. There are plans for a conclave of the game's greats to consider his situation, sort of like a board of governors discussing an application to an exclusive club.
Who to believe?
This whole affair really isn't all that complicated. Baseball insists Rose bet on games. He says he did not. Either you believe the word of three commissioners -- although it's unclear that Bud Selig is relying on any more information than Bart Giamatti or Fay Vincent had -- or you believe Rose.
If you believe the commissioners, you then must decide whether Rose has been punished long enough. If you believe Rose, you then have to wonder why he accepted the lifetime ban in the first place and why he hasn't made a bigger fuss over this matter before now.
Baseball wants some kind of admission, an admission from Rose of his past misdeeds. It's as if he is going to confession to cleanse his soul. Is that really necessary?
What is not at issue are Rose's career accomplishments, unparalleled achievements. He was the heart and soul of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine, a man who had the ability to lift ordinary teams such as Philadelphia by the scruff of the neck and turn them into winners. He got down and dirty doing it -- maybe too far down and perhaps a little too dirty.
Rose's case has been debated for years, sort of like the designated hitter. Baseball hasn't solved that riddle yet, either. Hopefully, the 58 living Hall of Famers will have better success when they gather to consider Rose.
Meeting set for February
This meeting won't occur immediately, you understand. They can't be rushing into these things. Originally scheduled for Jan. 17, it was put off until February, further delaying the matter. No reason was given for the postponement.
So now Rose gets to cool his heels a little longer. What's another month when he's waited 13 years?
There are people who have committed violent crimes and been in and out of jail in less time than Rose has been stuck in this never-never land. And none of those other individuals had 4,256 hits.
All those hits are the bottom line.
Every player with 4,000 hits should be in the Hall of Fame, whether it's Ty Cobb, who once went into the stands to beat up a crippled man, or Pete Rose, who confined his fisticuffs to the field.
Cobb liked to slide with his spikes high, which made him rather unpopular around his league. Rose preferred going into bases leading with his head -- and, of course, his mouth -- a tactic that frequently got him into trouble, too.
Cobb was a no-brainer for Cooperstown, his other baggage notwithstanding. The same should be the case with Rose.
Rose deserves his place
Give the man his rightful place among the greats of the game, his tribute for getting more hits than any other player in the history of the game. He has earned that.
If baseball is still concerned about his character, then bar him from being a manager or a coach, or occupying any position in which he could affect the outcome of a game.
Instead, use him as an ambassador of baseball. He has more passion about the game than most of the suits actively involved in it. Let him represent the commissioner at the Little League World Series. Let him do clinics. Let him interact with the fans, who clearly have forgiven him, even if baseball's proprietors have not.