With the end of Bud Selig as Commissioner of Major League Baseball and the beginning of Rob Manfred’s reign in the position, many feel that one of the first issues he should address is the matter of whether or not to finally reinstate Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hit king, and make him eligible for the Hall of Fame. Rose of course was infamously banned from baseball for life by then-commissioner Bart Giamatti in 1989 after investigator Jim Dowd compiled a scathing report confirming that Charlie Hustle had in fact bet on baseball, specifically the team he was managing and played for, the Cincinnati Reds. Rose voluntarily accepted a permanent place on baseball’s ineligible list, in return for baseball making no formal finding with regard to the gambling allegations and the ability to apply for reinstatement after one year, which Giamatti denied immediately. Rose never admitted to gambling on baseball until the release of his tell-all book, My Prison Without Bars in 2004. In the years before then, the Baseball Writers voted to ban all individuals on the ineligible list from Hall of Fame eligibility, while Giamatti’s successors as commissioner- Fay Vincent and Bud Selig- never acted on Rose’s applications for reinstatement.

The reasoning behind Rose’s continued ban from baseball and the Hall of Fame is obvious- he broke one of baseball’s most sacred rules, hurt the integrity of the game, and never expressed remorse for his actions until the price was right. But in a world where the Steroid Era tarnished the integrity of the entire sport, with many of baseball’s higher-ups turning a blind eye to the offensive explosion around them as a result of the rising profits that were the price of the long-revered single-season home run record, and the possibility of many of these culprits having the ability to be voted into the Hall of Fame, it does seem to diminish Rose’s crime. Rose was three years removed from his last game as a player when he was banned, and it has never been proven that Rose bet against his team to lose, which is a harsher blow to the sport’s integrity then betting on his team to win a game on some levels. But the purists who agree with Rose’s ban site the fact that baseball’s infamous Rule 21- the gambling clause- has been an actual rule since the 1920’s whereas the Steroid Era players never broke any actual rules due to baseball’s lack of a drug policy until the 2000’s. The problem with this argument is the damage that the Steroids Era did to the game of baseball- the trampling of the long-revered home run records that were broken by those who became genetically enhanced, in addition to what it turned the sport into; with the list of those who used and were among some of the biggest names of the period seemingly endless, and tarnishing the resumes of those who played in that era and never used the drugs. We’ve seen the damage done to the game with the Hall of Fame voting over the last few years; as players such as Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell – who were never proven to have used PED’s, have all missed out on the Hall in part due to steroid speculation, as a result of its prevalence during the time period, while Jose Canseco – the man who first broke the Steroid scandal (even though he also only did it for a book deal) – says that as many as four players who have already been voted into the Hall were steroid users.

There are a number of ways Rob Manfred could choose to handle Rose’s case. He could agree that the all-time hit king belongs in the Hall for his on-field achievements while continuing to enact a ban from baseball functions, or he could simply choose to let the baseball writers decide Rose’s fate. This would be accomplished by merely reinstating Rose from the ineligible list, and placing him on the ballot for the Hall. The baseball writers would then have up to 15 years to decide if Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame, which some could consider his final penance for his crimes. With the way that the BBWAA has handled the Steroid Era players in recent years, one can’t consider them likely to vote him in, at least at first, which would probably be appropriate for Rose, at least in the eyes of those on the fence as to whether he has paid enough.

One thing is for sure- baseball’s Hall of Fame and voting process have come under fire the last few years for its handling of those who played during the Steroid Era, and the exclusion of Pete Rose; whose crime in no way tarnishes what he accomplished on the field, as there has never been evidence that he gambled on games when he was a player, only as a manager. In the end, baseball’s Hall of Fame is supposed to be a museum that chronicles the history of the game, and that history is not always pretty. Racial discrimination was rampant before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and the Hall is full of those who represent the Negro Leagues and never got the chance to play in the majors, as well as many of the racist players and executives who did little to try to change that. In the early 1900’s baseball had a serious problem with gambling and players throwing games for a payday as a result of crooked owners who didn’t always pay their players– as highlighted by the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919. Pete Rose never did anything close to that, and all of his records were achieved as a result of God-given talent and an unmatched drive to be the best the right way. For the history of baseball to be properly represented, Rob Manfred must allow one of its greatest players to be a part of it, after a 26-year punishment. It’s time for the game to move forward.

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