There are times I understand a lifetime ban on baseball for tainting the game by your actions. There are times when I understand the difference between cheating to win--and deliberately losing to ensure a winning bet.
There are also times when I like to pretend that my baseball heroes are all upstanding members of the community, who walk little old ladies across the street, and who set a great example for their fans with their actions and words at all times. Don't get me wrong; some of them certainly are.
But I know better; we ALL know better. If the Hall of Fame was a testament to personal integrity and moral fiber instead of baseball talent, I daresay we'd have some housecleaning to do. So why do we even pretend that it is?
I'm with Hank Aaron:
Pete Rose, who received a lifetime ban 20 years ago for betting on baseball, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, former home-run king Hank Aaron said.
"I would certainly like to see him in," Aaron said. "He belongs in, really. His career is one that he needs to be right here in the middle of all of this."
I in no way condone any of Pete Rose's actions or the way he has gracelessly handled the subject over the years. Rose committed the grave sin of besmirching baseball itself; and not for the arguably altruistic motive of making baseball better--adding homeruns, power pitching, raising the the game to a new level of talent and excitement--but for selfish gain designed to harm the game. He will never live down this sin, nor should he. But that's entirely beside the point.
Congratulations, Pete Rose; you were a incredible ballplayer who had a flawed personal life. Welcome to the Hall of Fame; you'd be in good company.There is no arguing with Rose's numbers; he's a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, and free of the proposed asterisk of the future. If you've been to the Hall, no doubt you have noticed that Rose is conspicuously missing. Despite the fact he's in all of the pictures, all of the big plays and moments, his name is not listed among the Cooperstown elite. And if for no other reason than to complete the baseball timeline, it should be.
Selig's punishment of Rose may be sound in theory, but I think there has to be a way to honor the player, if not the person. How about forgoing the customary ceremony and just placing Rose's plaque up on the wall? How about giving him the backdoor treatment to the Hall, completing that baseball era while giving no recognition to someone who defiled the game? This is assuming, of course, that the induction to the Hall is solely for the player's benefit, and not for the organization or its fans. I can promise you that Rickey's induction and ceremonies this week meant as much to the fans who grew up watching him and the city of Oakland as it did to Rickey himself. I imagine there are still those who wait patiently for that honor to be bestowed on Pete Rose, the ballplayer.
In my non-Hall-of-Fame-voter opinion, putting Rose in is a much easier call than the forthcoming decisions of an era in which we have only seen the tip of iceberg.
The Committee has some decisions to make in the next few years, as the steroid-era players become eligible for the Hall. We've already seen how the borderline McGwire was treated; if his numbers weren't a slam-dunk (and they weren't), he certainly wasn't getting any help.
There will be a time in the not-too-distant future when there will be a player brought before the Committee who is both shoe-in and a proven steroid user. The precedence will be important for the rest of this era. Are they voted in the first time? And do they go in clean, or do you take the asterisk suggestion?
"The Pete Rose thing is different than steroids," Aaron said. "If I had been Pete, I think I would have asked for forgiveness many, many years ago."
Aaron, who hit 755 home runs, also said he believes no performance-enhancing drug can turn a player with minimal talent into a Hall of Famer.
"I certainly don't think you can stand up there and hit a Nolan Ryan 100-mph fastball just because you put something in your arm or took a pill."
On some level, the players entering the Hall from now on will have to be judged by their peers and not by their predecessors, because Aaron is right. Steroids don't make Hall of Fame players; not really. They may elongate a career; they may give an extra edge, they may have helped injuries heal faster and make the player stronger, but I have to believe that a player who is a slam dunk for the Hall would have also been inducted in an era where there were no steroids for anyone. What Aaron doesn't say is that batters not only had to hit the 100-mph fastball from clean players; they also had to compensate for the pitchers who were using, as well. If we can assume that the modern era was thoroughly inundated with steroids (and how can we not?), then the top percent of players should still qualify for the Hall; just as they have since the beginning of baseball.
The Committee can't leave them all out, so they have to start with someone. Who will lead the HOF steroid parade? How do you begin to explain this era of baseball in the Hall of Fame to future baseball fans? Do you think any borderline players associated with steroids will ever get in?
And when will Pete Rose be allowed to go in?
Game tonight is at 7pm. Game thread will open as soon as the lineups are announced.