Adam Cheek, Staff Writer
Seventeen major league records. Ten seasons of 200 or more hits and 4,256 total. On any other day, these statistics would mean a first-ballot induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, maybe even unanimous.
In Pete Rose’s case, however, it does not.
Rose’s baseball betting resulted in loss of Hall of Fame eligibility. Then-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti ruled that Rose would never be nominated for enshrinement.
However, with alleged performance-enhancing drug users such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on the current Hall of Fame ballot, it begs the question of just how damning Rose’s actions were compared to players who used those substances. Considering how iconic Rose became off his talent and on-field presence, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be given reconsideration.
The Hall of Fame exists to celebrate the greatest players the game has ever seen, commemorating their on-field performances and excellence. The annual election stands as a testament to their abilities, electing players who receive more than 75 percent of votes each year.
Rose played baseball in the major leagues for almost 25 years, primarily for the Cincinnati Reds. He compiled a page in the MLB record books that is seldom seen in the annals of baseball history.
Nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” for his aggressive demeanor on the field, Rose won three World Series, three batting titles, one MVP award and two Gold Glove Awards, appearing in 17 All-Star Games at a record five different positions.
Rose had a lifetime batting average of .303 in just over 14,000 at-bats and scored more than 2,000 runs. His career wins above replacement ranks 40th all-time at 79.7, meaning that — in sabermetric terms — his teams would have lost nearly 80 additional games without his presence.
As a manager, Rose allegedly bet on the Reds to win. The accusations of his betting surfaced in 1989. This meant he would likely play or manage the best that he could every time he set foot in the dugout. In a loose comparison, most players do that now in a way, albeit legally — they sign massive contracts, contracts which will not be renewed or offered if they do not play their best, in essence betting on themselves to perform as highly as possible.
“Charlie Hustle” eventually admitted to the allegations in 2004, saying he never bet against the Reds — the team he played for and then managed after his retirement — but some believe he did.
Repeatedly considered for reallowance onto the ballot, Rose has never been successful, denied by Giamatti’s succeeding commissioners Fay Vincent, Bud Selig and Rob Manfred.
Admittedly, Rose broke a clearly-outlined policy in the MLB rulebook prohibiting any type of betting while as a player, manager or otherwise involved with a team. However, the MLB’s drug policy — the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program — is a similar full ban on a player’s involvement with performance-enhancing drugs.
All players are barred from the use and possession of performance-enhancing drugs, and Bonds, who set the all-time home run record in 2007, and Clemens are two of the most prominent alleged users since the steroid era began in the late 1990s. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were also under this blanket of scrutiny for their use of performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids and other substances. McGwire admitted to his use in 2010 and Sosa tested positive a year prior.
Despite the numerous records McGwire set in his famous 1998 “home run race” with Sosa, he never received more than 24 percent of the votes for hall of fame induction during his 10-year span of eligibility. Sosa has never been a factor during his current run.
Meanwhile, Bonds and Clemens are nearing the end of their ballot eligibility, but are inching toward the 75 percent needed for induction. This increase in votes is attributed to the fact that young people aren’t worried about players using steroids.
This goes against the history of the sport, however. Baseball was built and has long survived on the appreciation and incorporation of natural talent. If we are giving that up now to some degree, there’s no reason why Rose should not be reconsidered.
The allegation that Rose would influence games to favor his bets falls into the same quandary as performance-enhancing drugs. The players that use performance-enhancing drugs are influencing — and controlling — their outcomes, enhancing statistics and averages.
While the steroid era will forever tarnish America’s pastime, it should never be forgotten that one of the greatest players to ever step onto the field is barred from the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose, possibly the greatest hitter of all time and a baseball icon, will likely never see his name emblazoned in gold on a wooden plaque in the building’s hallowed halls.
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