MLB should let others decide Pete Rose’s Hall of Fame case

For Pete Rose, this is a baseball gamble worth taking.

In a 20-page document delivered Wednesday to commissioner Rob Manfred and other MLB officials, Rose’s attorneys made the latest case why their client should be reinstated off the permanently ineligible list and, particularly, become eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Rose has tried before, but this might be his, um, best bet.

The non-punishments doled out to Astros players from the illegal sign-stealing investigation and MLB’s expanding footprint into the gambling world provide the Rose camp further ammunition to implore Manfred to take Rose off the permanently ineligible list. That would namely provide Rose a potential avenue for Hall of Fame consideration.

I have always thought Rose should have been on the writers’ ballot. I was among those who wrote in his name annually during what would have been his eligibility period, as much as a protest against the Hall not trusting the writers with this decision as anything.

Remember, in 1989, then-commissioner Bart Giamatti permanently banned Rose, but that did not take away Rose’s right to be on the ballot. The Hall did that unilaterally two years later as a preemptive strike against Rose appearing on the ballot for the first time and the discomfort of what could happen on a potential Rose induction day with living members of the Hall staying away en masse.

In a phone conversation Wednesday about this latest petition, Rose’s lawyer Ray Genco said, “The ex post facto rule is not allowed in the criminal justice system and this is an easy fix. If we let voters vote, it all resolves itself.”

I concur that the Hall of Fame restrictions were an after-the-fact extra punishment. If Manfred wants to keep Rose banished because his office was only created as a result of the 1919 Black Sox scandal making gambling on baseball the third rail of the sport, so be it. The Hall, in theory, is an independent institution. But if Manfred made a bully pulpit signal toward Cooperstown, it would carry heavy weight and force the Hall to not hide behind MLB on this issue.

The problem then would be, how would you even vote on Rose? He is well beyond the limit after his playing career for appearing on the writers’ ballot. But should that be ignored because he never technically appeared on the writers’ ballot and therefore should get his 10 years on it? Or should a special veterans group be created to decide, in which case who comprises that much smaller committee would become controversial since it could be stacked one way or the other?

But at least getting Rose to be considered for the Hall would be a compromise. Because I still see full reinstatement as unlikely.

Yes, MLB — like all leagues — is getting deeper into the gambling game, unable to resist that big pile of money. But league officials will tell you their involvement (besides to make money) is to try to create as many firewalls as possible to prevent the next Pete Rose from gambling on games. They know the betting will go on anyway, better to be partners and figure out how to make sure no one within the game is gambling on baseball as Rose did, for which he was banned.

A compelling case could be made by Rose’s attorneys that steroid users (some of whom are in the Hall) and players involved in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal impacted outcomes and did not receive near the punishment (if any) that Rose has endured for three-plus decades. But, for better or worse, there are no firm rules in place that would permanently ban players for those egregious acts. There is for gambling on baseball. Rule 21 is posted in every clubhouse. This is not a Pete Rose punishment only. If a player today was found to have gambled on baseball he would be permanently banned.

Pete Rose MLB reinstatement Hall of Fame Astros cheating
In a 20-page document delivered Wednesday to commissioner Rob Manfred and other MLB officials, Rose’s attorneys made the latest case why their client should be reinstated off the permanently ineligible list and become eligible for the Hall of Fame.AP

Also, take the case of the Astros. There were suspensions (albeit for one year) given to since-fired GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for being leaders whose oversight should have squashed the Houston cheating. Rose was the Reds manager when being investigated for gambling. The players received no punishment for a variety of reasons, notably based on the promise that if they testified truthfully there would be no sanctions.

Rose lied to MLB about his baseball gambling and kept the public lie going for years until he was trying to sell a book, at which point he came clean. Starting with Giamatti, MLB has asked Rose to reconfigure his life, which Rose might have trouble showing has been the case.

Rose tried for reinstatement previously with Manfred and was denied in 2015, and also tried with the Hall and was denied in 2017.

I usually shun half-measures. But it would work here. Keep Rose permanently banned, but let voters or as unbiased a committee as possible decide his Cooperstown case. Even if voted in, Rose’s plaque would note the permanent ban, a pretty strong lingering punishment, but one with the mercy to at least allow determination about who he was as a baseball player on the field.

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