Rethinking Pete

The issue of Pete Rose has become many different issues. Probably the biggest of those issues is separating what Pete Rose the player accomplished on the field and what Pete Rose the person did to the game off the field. With all that Rose means to baseball, what should ultimately be done and just what is Rose's place in history?

Let me open by saying that I believe Pete Rose was the greatest ballplayer of my generation. As a Philadelphia Phillies fan I watched and loathed him when he played for the Reds. He would find every way he could to beat you. And he would beat you. I hated him. Yes, I hated him... until he became a Phillie. Then I loved him with a passion beyond words. Even after he went back to the Reds, I had a warm spot for him, and for all these years since his banishment from the game I have felt sorry for him. While I didn't think he should be allowed back in the dug out (that in itself is a sad thought) I did think he belonged in the Hall of Fame. I'm no longer sure of that. You see, I've grown up and I no longer need him to be exonerated in order to justify my respect for the player that he was. The player was not the man, and the man made too many mistakes. I think there needs to be a limit on forgivable mistakes, unfortunately he crossed that line a long time ago.

It's my opinion that one of the big problems with the world today is the way it eagerly embraces the idea of "Grey Area". Everything seems to fall into the category of "Grey Area". When I was young there was little room for grey area, there was right and wrong. No matter who you were, if you did wrong and it got out (I'll admit, there were public relation machines that spent a lot of money making sure certain things about certain people didn't always get out, and that's just as wrong) there was no debating the severity of a particular situation: right was right, wrong was wrong. and you paid the price. If you were a politician, an actor, a musician, an athlete, you paid the same price as the average Joe. Actually, you paid more severely because you were considered to be a role model for future generations, therefore, your actions were more important.

Gene Krupa's drumming career was ruined by a pot bust, Lenny Bruce was arrested for breaking the laws of decency... there was no such thing as a 'porn star', only sad, hopeless creatures who whored themselves out in front of cameras for money. Politicians even rumored of sexual promiscuity never got past the primary. There was no such thing as "the law doesn't apply to him." There was no "he was confused at the time." There was no "the law wasn't clear." "He's learned his lesson" was a statement reserved for those who'd suffered the consequences of their iniquities and only after a long period of proving they were sincerely repentant were given the chance to try again.

Two years ago Ray Lewis was with friends when they committed murder. Witnesses put him at the scene of the crime, yet given every opportunity to tell the truth, he continued to lie, over and over, until he was charged with accessory to murder. At that point he suddenly knew everything and sung like a bird. He made a half-hearted apology and was immediately forgiven. That same year he was voted MVP of the Super Bowl. He's now embraced by the public as a sports hero, and parents buy his jersey for their children to wear... and that is wrong. Ray Lewis should be in jail for obstruction of justice, because that's the way it is in the real world. That's the way it is for ordinary people like you and me.

Now, let's take a look at Mister Pete Rose. He was caught gambling on baseball while he was the manager of a Major League team. The Commissioner of Baseball, Bart Giamontti, with a world of evidence in his lap, broke from tradition and offered Pete a form of amnesty if only he would confess his guilt. Pete Rose refused, and like 19 others before him, 19 other players who knew the rules, which are posted in the doorway of every Major League clubhouse, was banned from baseball for life. The only difference was that the previous 19 were never given the choice between conviction and amnesty. Even when, in some cases, like that of Joe Jackson, evidence clearly showed the player wasn't 100% guilty of the crime. Mr. Rose was. And presented with an unprecedented opportunity to make things right, to make a statement, to show how big of a man he truly was, Pete Rose opted to be a coward. He has been lying for nearly 15 years. He has been swearing innocence for nearly 15 years. And now, faced with the fear of passing the time limit of eligibility for sports writers to vote him into the Hall of Fame, and facing the probability of having to deal with a far less forgiving veterans committee in order to get into the Hall, he changes his tune. Now, he says "yes, I gambled on baseball... yes I bet on the Reds, but I never bet against them and I never placed a wager from the clubhouse." Come on Pete, don't insult me. I had enough of that from another coward (yes, Ray Lewis, you are a coward) two years ago.

Pete Rose continues to gamble, as he says "legally" in Las Vegas. Isn't that like an alcoholic who declares he's found a way to only have a couple of drinks? Think for a minute, when Pete managed the Reds, and was up to his eyeballs in debt to mobsters, do you think he wouldn't have thrown a game to save his knee caps?

Okay, we made a deal with him. Baseball said admit to it and we'll consider your application for reinstatement. Okay, you got me there. So let's take that statement for what it is... it says 'consider', not out-right accept. By waiting almost 15 years to tell the truth, Mister Rose has made it impossible to forgive him without some sort of retribution. And here it is: Agree to accept his application for reinstatement, but only with a two year probationary period. If Pete keeps his nose clean for two years, he will be allowed back in baseball in all capacities, although I don't think the stove will be too hot to hire him to manage at a later date. He may be voted into the HOF only by vote of the veterans committee. He will get in. It may take 20 or 30 years until the hardliners have died and the younger guys - the one's who let their sons wear Ray Lewis jerseys - will eventually vote him in. If he's not alive for it, that's too bad. The other 19 never had the chance, so Pete, "show me it's not about the money". Accept these conditions as fair payment for all those years of deception, and maybe it won't take 20 years for you to get into the Hall. So much as balk at the idea and the offer is off the table for good. For life. Maybe, just maybe an act of true humility will take the Veteran's Committee by surprise and you will be forgiven.

You see, I've grown up and I no longer need Pete Rose to be exonerated in order to justify my respect for the player that he was. Somewhere along the line, professional athletes must be held accountable for their indiscretions. It may as well be now.

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