Shucks, looks like we're stuck with Pete Rose the rest of this century. What rotten luck for all who hate hustle, humor and honesty. Somewhere, Snidely Whiplash is weeping.

Just as Pete the Player gets set to put the 4,192nd nail in his monument to himself, Pete the Manager is laying the cornerstone of a new building that may someday rise comparably high.

The little agate box in newspapers all over America this morning will note that Rose got two more hits today and now needs only 31 to pass Ty Cobb.

Yawn.

The chase to pass Cobb's 4,191 career hits -- a record considered unapproachable for 60 years -- isn't really a race at all, but rather a foregone conclusion.

What matters about Rose this year isn't his hitting, even though his .397 on-base percentage at age 44 (third best in the National League) is amazing.

The larger Rose story is his handling of a Reds team that was picked for last place but, after completing a three-game sweep of the Mets today, is just 3 1/2 games out of first. As Rose said with a shrug, "I'm gonna get the 4,192 hits. I go to bed every night worrying about whether we won, not about Ty Cobb's record."

If the National League's manager of the year were picked today, Rose would win. The Reds lack everything. Except him. In one-run games (20-10) and extra-inning games (7-2) they're the best.

Could Rose be smart, too?

"Pete could be the first man to make the All-Star team at six positions," said Reds pitcher John Stuper. "Manager, too."

In the eighth today, when manager Rose used a pinch-runner for doddering player Rose, the Shea Stadium crowd of 30,154 gave them both an ovation.

"Probably thought they were finally rid of me," said Rose, who may or may not retire after this year. "Happy to see me go. But we may be back in October to see the Mets in the playoffs."

Come on, Pete. You're gonna lead Max Venable, Dann Bilardello and Wayne Krenchicki to the pennant? Who's your starting pitcher for the World Series? Ron (True Creature) Robinson? You're gonna scare these guys to death.

"If they can't take the pressure of me talking pennant race, then we better find out 'cause they ain't gonna be here next year. I didn't take this job to try to get 'em to come in third."

Rose the manager is starting to come into focus. It's a many-layered portrait. The first impression, which he fosters, is that he barely manages. "Boy, I managed my butt off tonight, didn't I?" laughed Rose Tuesday night after a win in which he did absolutely nothing.

"He kinda throws the ball out and lets 'em play," said pitching coach Jim Kaat. "He knows percentages, but he doesn't overuse percentage theories. He's more likely to go with the hot hand.

"He motivates by allowing guys to relax and know where they stand. What you see is what you get, all the time."

"He reminds me of Chuck Tanner. Not a whole lot of rules and regulations," said Dave Parker, who got fat in Pittsburgh but is lean and mean and having an MVP season this year. "All he wants is for you to be on time and give 100 percent. The man does it himself so I don't think he's really requesting that much out of his players.

"I know since Pete got here (last August) I'm enthusiastic every time I cross the line."

Because Kaat handles the pitchers and coach George Scherger makes many in-game moves, it's typical for Reds such as Stuper to say, "Maybe he's like Dwight Eisenhower. He delegates authority well."

As soon as Buddy Bell arrived in Cincinnati last week from Texas, his new mates gave him this Rose synopsis: "They say he's honest. He'll tell you the truth about where you stand (laughs) whether you want to hear it or not. And, of course, he knows the game. That's a pretty good combination."

This simple man's school of managing is the line Rose takes, too. "I'm honest. I try to communicate. I think I'm pretty fair. I give guys a chance to play their way out of a job," he said. "I've had difficult meetings. But if you explain things, they can see it's right . . . Hell, you're not going to make everybody happy all the time. So forget it."

This spring, when hot-prospect Eric Davis needed a kick, Rose called him in and sent him to Denver with his ears ringing with home truths. When Cesar Cedeno went sour at the plate, Rose had a long meeting with him to explain why his playing time would be cut.

By contrast, when ace Mario Soto moaned about pitching in a four-man rotation, Rose called the whole starting staff into his office and had everyone air their feelings. Only Soto preferred a five-man rotation.

Rose went to a five-man, but he let Soto know it was a favor. The staff stumbled, Soto worst of all, and now -- with Soto leading the "let's go four-man" parade -- the rotation is back the way Rose wanted it and rolling on all cylinders.

Despite the way Rose constantly deflects credit for team success, a phrase has grown up around the Reds -- Rose Luck.

The hit-and-runs, the pitchouts, the bunt defense gambles, the pinch-hitting switches, the calls to the bullpen seem to work more often than they should.

Rose has few theories of the game, just a sense of the game.

Some have played baseball as well as Rose, but no one has loved it as much. For 25 years, no detail, no subtlety, no outward paradox, no hardship that the game presented offended or bored him. He accepted the sport as given and made it his life's work to understand the thing and be in harmony with it.

Because he has loved the game for its own sake, on its own terms, the game now loves him back and cannot cease rewarding him. Rose was born to play baseball, we say. What we didn't realize, but now suspect, was that he may have been born to manage it, too.

For all those years -- the sweltering doubleheaders in St. Louis, the raw, mist-swept nights at Candlestick Park -- Rose never could keep his eyes off the field. Everything fascinated him. While others wool-gathered, he gathered the game -- one fact, one connection, one insight at a time.

Not only techniques and strategies lured him, but the minds of the men around him. He always wanted to know the psychological genesis -- although he'd never have called it that -- of why each player won or lost. Baseball's ultimate doer also was its best watcher.

Players who were not also ardent fans appalled Rose. The game loved them yet they cheated on it.

Now, Rose's bread may be coming back on the waters. Managing seems so natural to him that he can't even explain it. "There's no strategy in the game, really," he said.

And to him it may not seem so.

Some say that, in his pursuit of Cobb, Rose has been lucky. Whatever needed to happen for him to reach 4,191 has fallen into place.

But there's often causality in what looks like chance. In Rose's case, his luck may not run out for many years.