January 07, 2004
The class of 2004

First and foremost, congratulations to Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley for their well-deserved election to the Hall of Fame. I'm surprised Ryne Sandberg is still not in, though with Wade Boggs as the only deserving newcomer to the ballot next year, he shouldn't have to wait much longer. Nobody else really came close. The writers matched the Internet Hall of Fame voters, though both Blyleven and Sandberg came much closer in the IHoF ballot.

Both new inductees were a little put off by the timing of Pete Rose's Gambling Admission World Tour kickoff and the resultant attention that's been diverted from them as a result. In the end, though, it won't matter. The Hall of Fame is forever, while Rose's book will soon be a historical footnote. Hold your heads up, fellas.

As for Rose, it seems his apologyless admission may be backfiring on him. Peter Gammons has turned against him. Jayson Stark is unimpressed. Both George Vecsey and Richard Justice note that Rose's insistence that he never bet against his own team rings hollow when you consider that he didn't bet on his team all the time. Says Justice:

If you followed the Cincinnati Reds during the 1988 season, you're probably wondering if you were Charlie Hustled.

You're probably wondering if you caught your favorite team on a night the manager had a big wad of cash riding on the outcome.

Or maybe you were one of the unlucky saps who took the kids to Riverfront Stadium for a game on which Rose did not place a bet.

At least now you understand why he rested his closer and gave that outfielder with the bum leg a night off.

At the time you probably thought your manager was a knucklehead. Now you're guessing he was resting two of his most important players because he had big money riding on the next day's game.

Makes you sick, doesnt it?

While Rob Dibble is still on his side, what should be troubling for Rose and his aspirations is the fact that quite a few Hall voters seem to be pissed at him.

A sampling of Hall of Fame voters and members shows some have questions about Rose's candidacy. Voting instructions say to consider integrity, sportsmanship and character.

One voter, Frank Luksa of The Dallas Morning News, knows what he'll do if Rose is reinstated by commissioner Bud Selig and comes up for election to the Hall.

"He gets a flat 'No' from me," Luksa said. "I think he crossed the line from which there is no retreat. I'm a hard-liner on that. It's commandment No. 1 of baseball. You are messing with the integrity of the game."


"No!" said Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News. "He committed the biggest atrocity that can be committed against the sport, the worst crime that can be committed. I don't think anything can be done to disgrace the game more than what he did."

Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News covered Rose through all his years in Cincinnati. McCoy would vote for the player -- although he doesn't think Rose belongs on the Hall's ballot.

Tom Gage of the Detroit News was undecided.

"There are reasons to vote for him and reasons not to," he said. "There's no denying he was a great player. I don't like the fact that he lied for 14 years. Do I vote for the player or the person? I'm on the fence and I don't like being there."

Jack Lang, longtime secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA and a member of the writers' wing of the Hall of Fame, said he would not vote for Rose.

"I would sum it up this way," Lang said. "Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Yes. Does he deserve it? No."

This sure lends a lot of credence to David Pinto's hypothesis that Rose may not get elected if he becomes eligible. I'm a lot less skeptical of that now.

Even the fans may not be as much in Rose's corner as I might've thought. The Chron has an unscientific but not utterly uninformative online poll alongside Justice's column, and when I checked in, the vote was 54%-41% against Rose's reinstatement, with 5% undecided. (Side note: Why would anyone pick "Undecided" in an Internet poll? Can't you just not vote? Sheesh.)

Finally, to get back to the HoF vote itself, Jay Jaffe of Futility Infielder has a long article on Baseball Prospectus that attempts to update Bill James' Hall of Fame Standards test with more modern metrics. By his reckoning, Alan Trammell, Ryne Sandberg, and Keith Hernandez should have joined Molly and Eck in the Hall. Unfortunately for Hernandez, whose candidacy I admit I never seriously considered, he got less than 5% of the vote and thus will be dropped from future ballots.

UPDATE: William Burton makes the useful point that there's more ways to bet than just win/loss, and that a manager who made various proposition bets would also degrade the game.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 07, 2004 to Baseball | TrackBack

Thanks for the link!

Posted by: David Pinto on January 7, 2004 11:27 AM

Did you see The News Hour last night? Ray Suarez spoke to Roger Angell and Jim Bouton; Bouton was pretty much on the "put him in" side, while Angell came off as disgusted, angry about Rose's lying to Roger Kahn in the previous autobiography, and not in favor.

Posted by: Linkmeister on January 7, 2004 11:58 AM

Dave Little of the New York Daily News had a terrific article yesterday on how Pete might have made his moves during a game if he had a bet on it. As for Roger Khan, his comments regarding this mess was perfect. Personally, this destroys any credibility Pete Rose ever had.

Posted by: William Hughes on January 7, 2004 12:20 PM

I do not think that Pete Rose was a great player. He was simply an accumulator of empty statistics. Hehad 4,256 hits and is first on that list but he also made more outs than any player in history. He did not hit for power, had mediocre speed, was a defensive liability at four positions, did not walk enough to have a really good OBP.

In essence, he hit a lot of singles. I would take Sandberg, for instance, or Molitor or Yount, or Morgan or countless others over Rose without a moment of hesitation.

Even considering just the Reds, Rose was no better than the fifth best player on the Big Red Machine. Bench, Morgan, Perez and Foster were clearly better and Conception and Griffely might have been as good.

Rose had a long and relavely mediocre (for a guy being considered for the Hall of Fame) career. In addition, he is a corrupt liar who commited multiple felonies.

Hal of Fame? I think not.

Posted by: dwight Meredith on January 7, 2004 1:31 PM

Pete Rose brought disgrace to baseball in his actions on the field, as manager and gambler.

That should be enough to keep him out.

I wrote more about this on my blog.

Posted by: William Burton on January 7, 2004 1:46 PM

Dwight, I think you're incorrect about Rose's career. Looking at his overall stats, he hit a ton of doubles (second most in baseball history) and drew a good number of walks, giving him a lifetime .375 OBP and ten Top Ten annual OBPs. He's well above average on all Hall of Fame tests, and all ten of his closest comps are current or future HoF'ers. I think the only valid argument to keep him out is the character one.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 7, 2004 2:25 PM

The problem with the Hall of Fame is that it is essentially a popularity contest.

If we are going to start picking and choosing the ballplayers that we honor based on whether or not we liked them as a person, then how long will it be before other issues creep into consideration. I can see a time when great ballplayers fall short in the balloting because they were gay or because they were atheist or because they opposed some U.S. military action.

By hiding our personal biases and dislikes behind ill defined buzzwords like "integrity," we open the door to all kinds of discrimination that has nothing to do with how well someone played the game of baseball.

Posted by: Mike Thomas on January 7, 2004 3:12 PM

Put up a display/plaque/bust in the hall, detailing his on-field accomplishments, and including the reason his baseball career ended. But don't induct him as a member of the Hall of Fame, and don't do it with a big ceremony. And make it posthumous.

Start with Shoeless Joe.

Posted by: TK on January 7, 2004 3:55 PM

As someone who was in the "come clean and come back in" crowd, I'm sick of him at this point. The closest he came to an apology was that he was "sorry" this had to happen because of its effect on Pete Rose.

Sorry not because of its effect on the game he "loved."

Sorry not because he slandered Bart Giamatti, Fay Vincent and John Dowd on the way.

He's sorry because Pete Rose's actions hurt Pete Rose.

Apologies are worthless without sincerity and contrition, and I didn't hear anything in Pete's words to lead me to believe that either were present.

Comparisons to Shoeless Joe are somewhat fair, but a bit off base. For one thing, Rose (to our knowledge) never took money to tank a game; for another, we do live in a different society today, both for better and for worse, which believes in granting second chances to those who have strayed. Nevertheless, even in "confessing" Pete has done little to indicate that he "gets it." His claim that his gambling is all legal now is a crock; it's like someone once convicted of DUI saying they should be allowed to drive a school bus because their current heavy drinking isn't done just before taking the wheel. Either clean up, get help and stop it and get your second chance, or deal with the consequences.

Pete's trying to skate by with as little as he can in order to be reinstated. Fortunately, based on the public opinion I've seen, it's not working. I'm more disgusted with him now than I was when he was in total denial.

Posted by: Tim on January 7, 2004 5:33 PM

And by the way, there are legitimate reasons for voting "undecided" or "I don't know" on Internet polls.

Many poll questions aren't as black-or-white, zero-one or "yes/no" as the polls often make them seem. Frequently, the devil is in the details.

My favorite example is as follows. Let's say you had two polls about one's position on (say) abortion. One of them says, "Do you favor a complete ban on all abortion, including cases of rape or incest, or danger to the health of the mother?" The other says, "Do you favor free and legal abortion on demand, taxpayer funded, at any stage of the pregnancy?"

The majority of people would probably answer "no" to both questions despite one indicating pro-choice tendencies and the other pro-life tendencies. Now if you simplified the question to simply "Do you support abortion rights?", then the person who would answer "no" to both of the aforementioned questions -- who is somewhere "in the middle" and is yet representative of the mainstream of American thinking on abortion -- might not know how to answer simply "yes" or "no". And in those cases, people may want to respond if for no other reason than to say, "you know what? Your question sucks as worded."

Because the devil is in the details. Yes, this blog entry is about baseball, not abortion, but just the same it does show how the insipid black-and-white "yes or no" polls on the Internet are often flawed. The questions are usually asked in an oversimplified manner, and in most controversial issues, more detail is necessary; if it were a cut-and-dried "yes or no" for most folks, then the issue likely wouldn't be too controversial.

To bring it back to the Rose question over the years, saying "yes" or "no" without qualification is like asking people to say "yes" or "no" to the abortion issue without additional clarifications. "Sometimes" or "yes with qualifications" are rarely given as options. Many (if not most) felt that if Rose admitted to gambling and issued a sincere apology and sought treatment, they'd welcome him back into baseball. A simple "yes" doesn't convey those limitations, and a simple "no" wouldn't acknowledge a window of opportunity. Unfortunately, "undecided" is often the best answer for these people.

Posted by: Tim on January 7, 2004 7:55 PM

For the record, I was just being snarky, since I generally find Internet polls to be a waste of time. Nonetheless, point taken.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 7, 2004 8:40 PM

Dear Friends,

TY COBB was not a racist. He shared much empathy for minorities, especially colored people.

Wesley Fricks
TY COBB Historian

Ty Cobb, Fiery Diamond Star, Favors Negroes In Baseball

Independent Journal - January 29th, 1952

MENLO PARK (AP) Tyrus Raymond Cobb, fiery old time star of the diamond, stepped up to the plate today to clout a verbal home run in favor of Negroes in baseball.

Himself a native of the deep south, Cobb voiced approval of the recent decision of the Dallas club to use Negro players if they came up to Texas league caliber.

The old Georgia Peach of Detroit Tigers fame was a fighter from the word go during his brilliant playing career. He neither asked for nor gave quarter in 24 tumultuous years in the American League. Time has mellowed the one time firebrand and he views the sport in the pleasant role of a country squire. He spoke emphatically on the subject of Negroes in baseball, however.

"Certainly it is O.K. for them to play," he said, "I see no reason in the world why we shouldn't compete with colored athletes as long as they conduct themselves with politeness and gentility. Let me say also that no white man has the right to be less of a gentleman than a colored man, in my book that goes not only for baseball but in all walks of life.

"I like them, (Negro race) personally. When I was little I had a colored mammy. I played with colored children."

Referring again to last week's developments in the Texas league, Cobb declared, "It was bound to come." He meant the breaking down of Baseball's racial barriers in the old south.

Cobb expressed the belief Negroes eventually would be playing in every league in the country. He concluded with: "Why not, as long as they deport themselves like gentlemen?"

Posted by: Wesley Fricks on May 30, 2004 9:30 PM