By Shane Nicholson
Last night’s All-Star Game was just the kind of interlude you need during the long campaign of baseball fandom.
You had the best player in the world lead off with a home run against the most unhittable pitcher in the world.
You had an ungodly amount of pitching class on display, with Ks going up on the scoreboard at an epic rate.
You had great hitters getting the best of that pitching at just the right times.
You had one of the more entertaining Mid-Summer Classics for quite some time, and if you’re a fan of an AL team like me you got the result you wanted.
And then you had Pete Rose. And holy hell did you have a lot of Pete Rose.
He was there in the intro package, he was there on commercials, his disembodied head seemed to find its way into every graphics package possible. It felt more like, Pete Rose: brought to you by the 2015 All-Star Game. And where there’s Pete Rose you can bet there’s a sports book hanging on the other end of the line.
Look, there may have been for a period some measure of plausible deniability for Rose when it came to betting as a manager. It was a lot of he-said-he-said among some very shady people, Rose not a saint himself.
For its part, Major League Baseball dropped the ax early and has stood by that decision for 25 years. It was never a doubt in their mind even while Rose worked tirelessly to create doubt in the public.
When he finally copped to betting as a manager he must have thought he’d punched his ticket to Cooperstown finally, and maybe that could have been the case. But the problem for Rose as has long been was that his story was just as far from the truth as it’d always been. He just can’t help himself, it seems.
It was convenient in the build up to what the powers-that-be in baseball knew would become a bit of a Pete Rose Love-In last night in Cincinnati that evidence indicting Rose for having bet as a player (and on his own team) trickled out. There it was in The New York Times, and then there it was on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. It introduced the version of Rose many of us have known for years to a whole new generation.
But the problem is this generation just doesn’t care anymore. They don’t care that Rose corked his bats as he chased Ty Cobb’s record. They don’t care that he went through more amphetamines than most pharmacists do in a career. They don’t care that he bet on every game in every way possible for seemingly the duration of his career.
So we’ve come to a bit of a conundrum here. Yes, Pete Rose is an ass who committed crimes and soiled the game. He violated the most basic and simple rule on the wall of every clubhouse in all levels of the profession: those who stand here shall not gamble.
But at the same time you have exhibits dedicated to Rose in the Hall of Fame. You already have him enshrined even if you don’t have him enshrined – the cognitive dissonance of Rose’s place in history, all surrounded by a whirlwind of stupid.
The solution is simple and final: induct Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame proper. Make sure his plaque says “This man violated every rule in the game, but he could hit a baseball and played forever.” Hang it in the Hall, perhaps next to Joe Jackson who should surely be there as well.
But stop the stupid. Just end it. People paid to pretend like they really care about Rose’s gambling problems, as if it violates their very core beliefs, makes them question their faith in humanity. The Hall is a museum you pay admission to, not the holy grail of baseball it’s become in the minds of some old sportswriters.
There’s loads of players in there who cheated, players who bet, players who did drugs and beat women and all other sorts of things they pretend should prevent one’s enshrinement. There’s players in there simply because their friends were on the veterans committee at the right time. It’s a museum of baseball, nothing more.
And it’s a museum which already houses and honors parts of Rose’s illustrious playing career. It has for some time and it charges you a price to look at it, just like Rose will charge you $25 for a picture at a card show.
MLB needs to stop the charade. You can’t trot him out when it’s convenient while working to subvert his Hall of Fame shot, whatever state it’s in, in the background.
And as for the Hall of Fame itself, well, Pete Rose is already in the Hall of Fame, and he’s not going anywhere. Inducting him would end this two-decade “debate” over whether they should or shouldn’t.
Let’s just bite the bullet, get it over with, and end the stupid once and for all. Give Pete his little bronze plaque; give us a little less Pete on our TV screens.