January 12, 2004
Still more on Rose

Some more evidence from Richard Justice's column that Pete Rose badly miscalculated with his non-contrite admission of gambling on baseball after so many years of denial.

The Chicago Tribune surveyed 159 Hall of Fame voters, and only 45.3 percent of them said they would vote for Pete Rose if his name was placed on the ballot. That's far short of the 75 percent required for induction.

"Absolutely not," said Jerome Holtzman, the former esteemed Chicago baseball writer who serves as Major League Baseballs official historian. "I was against the idea from the very beginning.

"As you can see now, he wasn't a very admirable fellow."

ESPN's Peter Gammons put it even more bluntly.

"The release of this book has reminded me that Pete Rose does not like baseball; he likes himself," Gammons told the Tribune.

Once again, I must tip my cap to David Pinto for calling this one correctly.

Rose did about the same in the highly unscientific sample of fans who write letters to the sports page. The tally was four in favor of Rose' reinstatement and three against. I need to take issue with one of the no-Hall-for-Pete advocates:

Rose was a career .280s hitter with no power and little speed. He bounced around from position to position throughout his career and distinguished himself defensively at none of them. He was a member of a great Cincinnati team and undoubtedly made a contribution to that team's success, but he was surrounded by much greater players than himself -- Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, George Foster, etc. His career hits record is strictly a product of longevity.

There has been a steady erosion in the quality of player inducted into the Hall over the last 20 years or so. Pitchers like Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry were notable for their longevity only and have no place with the likes of Sandy Koufax and Warren Spahn. Robin Yount and Paul Molitor were good players, but do such players belong alongside Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron and the other true greats?

This same contention came up in the comments to an earlier post, and as I said there, this recapitulation of Rose's stats is unfair to him. Rose batted below .300 only once from 1965 to 1979, a very nice achievement in a low-offense era, he is second alltime in doubles, and he had a lifetime .375 OBP. He's clearly Hall-worthy from a stats perspective.

As for the claim in the latter paragraph that the quality of the Hall has degraded over the last 20 years, this is standard things-were-better-in-my-day claptrap. Looking at the list of inductees, in my opinion there have been exactly two marginal players voted in by the writers since 1984 - Don Drysdale and Tony Perez. (The last one before that is Red Ruffing in 1967.) It's also incorrect to characterize the Hall of Fame as being about "Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron" and players like that, for the Hall is just as much about the likes of Rube Marquard, Ross Youngs, Frank Chance, Jim Bottomley, and Dave Bancroft. Yount, Molitor, Niekro and Perry may not be the best players ever enshrined, but they are nowhere close to the worst.

Last but not least, anyone who thinks George Foster (!) was a "much greater player" than Pete Rose has been sniffing a little too much pine tar. Foster did have a great run from 1975 to 1981, but he was washed up at age 33 and didn't actually have his best seasons until after the Big Red Machine had been knocked off its NL West perch.

Getting back to Rose, the final nail in his coffin may come from the man whose report on his rulebreaking activities helped put him in the position he's in today. Read this editorial from John Dowd and see for yourself.

After a month of investigation, I had all the evidence now memorialized in my 225-page report. The evidence was overwhelming. He had violated one of baseball's most sacred rules -- rules meant to preserve the integrity of the game, rules intended to assure its fans that the competition on the field is free of taint. I shared all the facts with Rose's lawyers. Then Bart directed me to lay out the evidence directly to Rose in a deposition. Bart wanted Pete to see and hear all of the hard evidence. Bart instructed me not to confront Pete, but simply to present the evidence and get his responses to it. Pete lied and denied. It was a hard two days for Pete Rose.

Following the deposition, with the facts in hand, Bart directed me to find a resolution. I spent an entire month meeting with Pete's lawyers. Bart and I agreed on the fundamental points of such a resolution: Pete would have to reconfigure his life. He would have to stop betting. He would have to make a candid response to all of the hard evidence. He would have to explain his association with all of the characters in the betting operation. He would have to submit to, and complete, a full rehabilitation. During his rehabilitation, he would be removed from the game of baseball.

If he had agreed to these terms, and paid all taxes, interest and penalties due, he could have avoided prosecution on tax evasion. Upon successful completion of his rehabilitation, he would have been readmitted to the game of baseball and could receive all honors that come with achievement and good conduct. He would have been eligible, if chosen, for admission to the Hall of Fame.

I worked for a month with Pete's counsel. They tried but could not get Pete to admit the truth. They asked if I would meet with him alone and talk to him. They believed I could bring him around. Bart approved and I agreed to talk to Pete. But Pete's agent vetoed the meeting.

We were at complete loggerheads. Pete's criminal counsel wanted the resolution we were working on, but his agent would not budge. Bart, then-deputy commissioner Fay Vincent and I met with Pete's agent. He told us that Pete was a legend and would not admit to any of the allegations. It was a short meeting. I then asked Bill White, the president of the National League, if there were friends of Pete's -- Reds teammates -- we could call upon to help him in his obvious time of need. Bill told me that Pete had no friends in baseball.

As Pinto suggests, this surely deals a blow to the parallels Rose has tried to draw between himself and players who've had drug problems. Unlike Rose, Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley got help for their problems. If only Rose had gotten help for his.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 12, 2004 to Baseball | TrackBack

Great post, and thanks for the link!

Posted by: David Pinto on January 12, 2004 8:00 AM

I agree with David about this being another great post on this subject.

Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton and Paul Molitor are "milestone" Hall of Famers, ones that would not have been voted in if they hadn't won 300 games or had 3,000 hits.

George Foster had some good years in Cincinnati, however, he bombed in New York. I do agree, however, that Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan were better ball players than Rose, however, that does not diminish Pete's statistics.

Pete Rose mentions his love of baseball but as we are learning, he loves himself more than he ever did the game.

Posted by: William Hughes on January 12, 2004 8:51 AM

Agreed with William about the "milestone" admissions.

Bert Blyleven belongs in Cooperstown more than Perry or Niekro, IMO, but his biggest "demerit" was in not getting 13 more wins with those many lousy teams he played for.

Posted by: Tim on January 12, 2004 9:02 AM

I see the John Dowd editorial as a blow to those who claim that what Rose did by gambling on baseball was so heinous and unforgivable that he should be permanently banned and never admitted to the Hall of Fame. Obviously, neither Dowd nor the late Bart Giamatti felt this way.
What the Dowd piece makes clear is that they were perfectly willing to allow Rose back into baseball provided that he first come clean and rehabilitate himself. Unfortunately, Rose chose the ďlie and denyĒ route and only now some 14 years later has he taken the first steps towards owning up to what he did. But that does not change the fact that what Rose did 14 years earlier was not considered something that should merit a permanent ban. In fact, Iím convinced now that had Giamatti lived he would have eventually worked something out with Rose.
Personally, Iím not all that concerned about whether Rose is readmitted to MLB. I think everyone should be given a second chance and if a team wants to take that chance on Rose I think he should be allowed back in on a probationary status. But my real beef all along has been his exclusion from the Hall of Fame. I think it is outrageous that Roseís entire playing career should be pitched down the memory hole because he doesnít meet the high moral standards and character requirements of a group of baseball writers. If Giamatti was willing to let Rose back in, they should be too. By announcing their intent to vote against him even if he is readmitted simply because they donít like him is what prompted my earlier comment about bias creeping into the balloting process.

Posted by: Mike Thomas on January 12, 2004 11:12 AM

Don't be absurd

1) Rose's entire playing career has not been pitched down the memory hole. He's still acknowledged as the career hits leader, etc. There's no revisionism. I suspect (but admit that I don't know of my own knowledge) that there are even Rose exhibits at the Hall of Fame Museum - something from his hitting streak, perhaps.

2) Hall of Fame induction is baseball's highest honor. Permanent ineligibility is baseball's harshest penalty. It is only sensible that they be mutually exclusive.

Even Bill James, who has written for years that baseball has no case against Rose, argues that Rose doesn't belong in the hall while ineligible (see Politics of Glory, ch 27).

Posted by: Danil on January 12, 2004 6:22 PM

Petey Rose been bery bery good to me. Charley Hustle, you bet!

Posted by: Chico Escuela on January 12, 2004 6:34 PM

"Permanent ineligibility is baseball's harshest penalty."

Yes, and it is too harsh for the crime that Rose is guilty of. That is my whole point. The fact that even Bart Giammatti was ready to readmit Rose after a short suspension just makes my case.

Posted by: Mike Thomas on January 13, 2004 9:36 AM

OK, that's fine, but in that case you are putting the cart before the horse. *If* an intermediate penalty is appropriate (perhaps 10 years of ineligibility, the lifetime ban reserved for throwing games), then first change the rule, then petition for Rose's sentence to be reassessed, then at the end of his sentence put his name before the nominating committee.

You might further reconsider when in the process ABG was considering a "short suspension". My recollection is that all thoughts of a slap on the wrist went out the window when Rose decided to make a public scene rather than throwing himself onto the mercy of the court.

Posted by: Danil on January 13, 2004 11:23 AM