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00000176-770f-dc2f-ad76-7f0fad990000Monday at 5:44 pmEmail Sports at Large

New Baseball Commissioner Should Stick With Old Pete Rose Policy

Peter Rose taken in 2013 by pvsbond via flickr

Last month, in a Baltimore hotel, Rob Manfred became baseball commissioner-elect.

Manfred won’t succeed Bud Selig until January, but the wish list of things that folks want him to consider is already long. Among them are speeding up the game and doing something to finally resolve the designated hitter conflict between the American and National leagues.

Those are both good ideas. But there’s another floating out there that Manfred should scuttle now before it catches more wind in its sails: the thought that Pete Rose should be taken off the ineligible list and thus earn consideration for the Hall of Fame. This proposal ought to be as much a non-starter for Manfred as it has been forSelig.

Rose has more hits than any player in history, but has worn the baseball equivalent of a scarlet letter for 25 years now. He agreed to the lifetime ban after investigators uncovered evidence that Rose had placed bets on games while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 1987.

Rose steadfastly maintained that he did not bet, but signed the letter because of the weight of evidence against him. Then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti ignored the distinction and instituted the ban. Giamatti died five months after he imposed sanctions, and both of his successors, Fay Vincent and Selig, have followed his wishes.

Rose and his supporters have trotted out some of the same straw man arguments to lobby for his reinstatement.

Among them is the position that there are racists and ne’er-do-wells in the Hall. Drug users and criminals are eligible, too. All poor old Pete did was bet on baseball.

Rose trots out the saw that America is a nation of second chances.  At 73 years old, he says that he deserves just that: an opportunity to show that he has rehabilitated.

The former view is nothing more than false equivalence. There are certainly bad characters in the Hall of Fame, but none of them violated the most sacred rule in sports, that you can’t wager on an event that you take part in.

The sign that says that has hung in every baseball clubhouse since 1919, when members of the Chicago White Sox were banished from the game for betting in the World Series. Even Shoeless Joe Jackson, whose complicity in the Black Sox scandal is in dispute, is on the banished list.

Rose’s plea for sympathy might have merit except for this: For 15 years, Rose said he didn’t bet at all. He only changed his story in 2004 as a part of a book tour.

To this day, Rose continues to thumb baseball’s eye by setting up shop in Cooperstown on Hall of Fame weekend. He signs autographs, bats, programs and pennants, all at a tidy price. He does what he does best, namely sell Pete Rose, without an iota of remorse.

A few years ago, I gave Bud Selig some advice on this subject and I’m happy to pass it along to Rob Manfred now. Any man who accumulated more hits than anyone should be a part of baseball’s official history. And in the case of Pete Rose, that honor should come posthumously.

You can reach us via e-mail with your questions and comments at sportsatlarge [at] wypr [dot] org. And follow me on Twitter: @ sportsatlarge.