Over the past few days, we've learned a lot about Pete Rose. We knew a
lot already, of course - his brilliant career, his passion for the game of
baseball, his stunning desire to be great. If you look at his
career, divorced from his self-inflicted problems, he is without question a Hall
Yet you can't separate the two. Rose committed the ultimate baseball
sin by betting on games, and not only that, betting on his own team.
Worse, he lied about that for 14 years. Now he wants forgiveness
and his Hall of Fame ceremony.
There is a level of forgiveness to which people can, and one hopes, would
aspire. John Lucas is a great example of this. Having destroyed his
life with cocaine, Lucas not only reclaimed it but works actively with other
addicts to help them overcome their problems. Everyone knows he has the
potential for falling again, but his sincerity and hard work gave him another
chance. That's basically true for Phil Ford, too, though he's not back in
coaching yet. He was honest about his relapse once it happened and has,
from all accounts, worked really hard at sobriety. He'll get another shot
at coaching eventually, and people, including us, will be happy for him.
Point is, when you wish to be forgiven, you have to bring something to the
table. What does Rose bring?
Nothing, basically. Fourteen years of lies, which don't seem to have
stopped even now. Rose says he "never picked up the phone" from
the clubhouse to place a bet, but two of his former flunkies says he asked them
to do it. Worse still, he's still gambling. You read right: even
now, the man has not stopped gambling. He says he doesn't gamble on
baseball, but he does bet at racetracks, according to former teammate Mike
Schmidt. How can he say any of the stuff he's currently saying with
a straight face?
Rose is currently on a charm offensive, a tactic severely complicated by his
utter lack of same. Basically it comes down to this: he's betting you are
too stupid to understand he's trying to deceive you.
Well here's our response. First: screw you. Second: considering
the magnitude of his "mistake," which saw a manager betting on his own
team and doing jail time, well, if Pete Rose gets in the Hall of Fame, baseball
fans should stay home until Shoeless Joe Jackson gets in, too.
Jackson of course was one of the Black Sox, a brilliant talent who took money
from gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series. Yet evidence suggests that
he took the money and continued to play his own game at his own level and did
nothing to throw the game. Moreover, his "mistake" was limited to one
playoff series, where Rose gambled repeatedly.
He paid a vastly higher price than Pete Rose ever considered paying, and it
burned him to the core of his being. Ty Cobb told a story of seeing him
working at a grocery store, bagging groceries, and saying, "Joe,
don't you recognize me?" Jackson said he did, but didn't think that
Cobb would want to talk to someone like him.
Now that's remorse. That's feeling it deep down. What Rose feels
is contempt - for rules, for baseballl, for fans. He just wants what he
wants, and he figures it's time he got it. Here's hoping that even if
baseball is foolish enough to reinstate this lout, this liar, this sorry
collection of corrupt and toxic impulses, that baseball writers will never
vote him in. He's asking for forgiveness, but he hasn't earned it. Not
even close. What he deserves is enduring contempt and scorn, and certainly
And if he does go in, he should go in behind Jackson, whose sins were far
less damning and whose lifelong suffering revealed a man who knew how far he
fell and why. Pete Rose will never understand that, and so he should be
kept as far away from baseball as possible.