Of course Pete Rose lied to us again, so it’s comical it would cause more outrage. Rose has always been single easiest debate topic, the lowest hanging sports radio fruit. Does he belong in Cooperstown for his 4,300 hits? Or must he be stonewalled at the Hall of Fame’s pearly gates because of the cardinal sin of betting on baseball? For more than 25 years we have chased our tails, whipping ourselves into a crop-topped, red-legged frenzy.
This week (curiously) we learned of new documents proving Rose bet on baseball while still playing, as player-manager in 1986. Previously, we were told (and Rose steadfastly insisted) he only wagered after his playing days, when he was solely the skipper. The baseball purists howled. “See, you can’t put Pete in the Hall. He’s lied again!” John Dowd, who led the investigation of Rose in 1989, cackled at the news calling Charlie Hustle a “street criminal.” It was another round of publicly whipping Rose.
But my question is: What’s changed? We knew Rose bet on baseball. Even he finally admitted that. Whether it was as a player or player-manager, he crossed the deepest river in sports. We know Rose has lied through his teeth forever. For 15 years he refused to even cop to betting on baseball until 2004 when there was money to be made and books to hock. Rose would bet on a game of Marco Polo, and lie to his own grandmother to make a buck. We’re surprised by this stuff?
So if nothing has changed in our expectations of Pete, and betting on baseball while playing or managing is the ultimate no-no, how could this alter his Hall of Fame chances? It’s because we now live in an American society that fuels itself on being mad, shocked, disappointed, and outraged. Without these emotions we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Being satisfied? Patient? Fulfilled? Nah. We’d rather be mad at Kim and Kanye, A-Rod and Brady.
It’s interesting this new evidence was finally uncovered when it started to feel like Pete would get reinstated. A new commissioner promised a fresh perspective following Pete’s 20-year Holy War with Bud Selig. Enough time had passed where many Rose critics softened. Pete will be part of Cincinnati’s All-Star Game festivities in a few weeks. The stars were aligning for Rose to move up like the Jefferson’s, from the tacky Vegas show rooms to the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.
And then this drops. Kinda smells like there were some shadowy MLB figures lurking in the darkness, primed to let the last cat out of the bag to shut down Pete’s case as he rounded third one last time. It’s all so silly. Rose can be banned from having a job in baseball, and still eligible for the Hall of Fame. MLB doesn’t own Cooperstown. In 1991 the rules changed because of Rose. A committee decided if you were ineligible from baseball, you couldn’t be on the ballot. It prevented the voters from having to deal with the messy Rose situation. They could easily void that rule, keep Rose from being employed by MLB, but make him eligible to have a simple plaque in a museum. Which is all Cooperstown is. A museum, not a shrine.
We allow the voters to decide the Hall of Fame fates of known steroid users like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro (both have been on the ballot). We allow the voters to speciously judge players that may not have been PED cheats (like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza). But we won’t allow them to decide whether the all-time hit king deserves enshrinement because we’re afraid they might actually put him in? Gotcha.
Nothing changed this week. Pete just did Pete, again. But baseball apparently needs to muddy the waters more, because it’s always easier to just avoid the problem than deal with it.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.