After the recent release of Commissioner’s Rob Manfred announcement that Pete Rose’s ban in baseball had upheld, we saw many different commentators have takes on the ruling. You can see some here, here and here. For the purposes of this article though, I will look at Buster Olney’s piece arguing that Pete Rose can, and should, be selected for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
Here is one passage in particular where I believe Olney has erred in his critique of the Hall’s well-known character clause:
“The character clause is believed to have been written by Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the former commissioner who labored, in his last years, to keep the sport segregated. For years, the character clause was almost entirely ignored by the baseball writers, who apparently recognized the fact that they were voting on humans with human foibles — racists, drunks, womanizers, criminals and users of performance-enhancing drugs — and generally picked the best baseball players… But once Mark McGwire‘s name reached the ballot, the character clause suddenly became relevant in the eyes of the latest generation of voters, and the Hall of Fame, with its rules machinations — such as its refusal to adjust the number of names a voter can vote for — has seemed to work against some of the steroid-era candidates.”
This line of reasoning can commonly be seen across media, be it sports or otherwise. This though is a fallacy known in philosophy as the genetic fallacy. In this case Olney is critiquing the character clause because its original intent has taken on a new meaning. Just because something has evolved to something new, does not make it irrelevant or worthless. Things can take on a new meaning and new circumstances can dictate new interpretations. The character clause is one such instance of change, but Olney tries to attack the clause by attacking its progenitor, Judge Landis, and then saying how it was ignored for decades. The clause has been interpreted and reapplied; it’s the voter’s prerogative to do as such.
Pete Rose is a terrible, awful, no good, very bad person. He lies and then only admits to lying when new evidence is found that he was mendacious. We all know this. He deserves neither to be in MLB or the Hall. There are many injustices in the world, but Pete Rose not being a Hall-of-Famer is nary among them.