The Whitewashing of Pete Rose & the Hall of Fame

Commissioner Rob Manfred has ruled to uphold the current lifetime ban on Pete Rose. His status on baseball’s permanent ineligible list has not changed since he agreed to that punishment in 1989. While it was not Pete’s motive to be lifted from that list to get back into managing, let alone any capacity for a major league team, it still keeps him off of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) ballots for the Hall of Fame. This decision from the MLB headquarters continues a legacy of the Hall’s whitewashing of one of the game’s greatest players and personalities.

While some writers, including some on this site, grow tired of Pete Rose in general, some feel he deserves his shot. Dayn Perry posted on that the BBWAA needs to give Pete Rose, the player, a chance for a plaque in Cooperstown. I could not agree more with Perry’s argument (the post is a good read) that Rose deserves an opportunity.

As of right now, no matter if a writer puts Rose on his/her ballot, he is not allowed to be inducted. The rule was made following Rose’s expulsion from the league that “any player on baseball’s ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate.” That is on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s website under “BBWAA Election Rules,” rule 3A.

Simply put, that rule is a terrible type of censorship.

It’s also noted that under those same rules for the Hall of Fame ballot that, “voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” That’s the vague rule that would give writers a chance to discredit Rose on the basis of having weak integrity or character for his gambling addiction (it’s clearly an addiction, as the man is still betting on baseball to this day). Even then, it’s a weak argument, given some of the poor decisions other Hall of Fame ballplayers have made.

We, as baseball fans and as baseball writers, need to focus on the fact that Pete Rose, the player, never got his chance on the ballot. Prior to become a full-time manager, Rose was one of the game’s most decorated players. He embodied the “good ol’ American work ethic,” as a player with no glossy talent except for great determination. He was Charlie Hustle and displayed that hustle in any situation (even in a meaningless exhibition).

Pete Rose was on many pennant and World Series winning teams. He won the NL Rookie of the Year (1963), the NL MVP (1973), two Gold Gloves (1969, 1970), a Silver Slugger (1981) and was a seventeen-time All-Star. He is still the career record holder in five different statistics: career hits (4,256), singles (3,215), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and plate appearances (15,890). He’s not a glorified singles hitter who hung around way too long; he still ranks in the top ten of many other career stat categories such as 2,165 runs scored (6th), 5,752 total bases (7th) and 746 doubles (2nd).

Even looking at Pete’s comparable players, nearly every single one of them is a Hall of Famer (sorry Johnny Damon). The other players he matches up well with are high batting average/on-base percentage players with solid speed and are usually catalysts to the heart of the order. These are top of the lineup, impact hitters.

Even looking at the JAWS for Rose as a left fielder (even though he played 939 games at first base compared to 673 in left) he ranks fifth overall. Just look at the guys sandwiched between him. His numbers (except for the power hitting) equal or exceed the average for Hall of Fame induction. The guys above him are Barry Bonds (do not get me started on why he needs to be in the Hall), Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, and Carl Yastrzemski (who was also quite the stat accumulator).

Pete Rose needs to be on the ballot and needs to be in the Hall of Fame. A rule, made after he was banned from baseball, keeps him from being eligible. Regardless of how the writers feel about Pete Rose the person, they need to put him in what is essentially a museum that marks history and honors players who have performed above the highest standard. Pete has done that and then some. Subjective rules have prevented him from being put in a place that is supposed to tell the unbiased story of the game. Leaving Rose out removes a huge part of baseball.

There’s no argument that Pete Rose is not the greatest human being. His own personal faults destroyed his career in baseball and still prevent him from getting into the most exclusive club in baseball, the Hall of Fame. He needs to be in the Hall. His story is a cautionary tale that will allow future generations to learn about a great player who achieved so much, but threw it all away by violating the most damning rule in the game. Let’s look at this objectively; let’s get this right. Here’s hoping that someday Pete will get his shot on the ballot.

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