On Monday morning, Pete Rose got out of jail and said he felt "great." Last night it was announced that Rod Carew had been elected to the Hall of Fame, along with Gaylord Perry, baseball's most famous cheater, and Fergie Jenkins, the best pitcher ever busted for drugs.
The more Rose thinks about how Perry and Jenkins had to sit on the stoop in front of Cooperstown cooling their feet of clay for the previous two years, the less great he may feel.
Perry and Jenkins were rejected not once but twice, and by painfully close margins, despite their undeniable credentials. Even this time, Perry was left off 101 ballots while Jenkins made the Hall with exactly one vote to spare.
If recent elections prove anything, it's that the Baseball Writers Association of America takes the morals clause in its ballot instructions very seriously. Obviously, something other than their statistics kept these guys out for at least an extra year. Perry confessed his spitballing in his autobiography. Jenkins's drug conviction is a matter of record.
Thus, two conclusions: The board of the Hall of Fame and its 12-man study committee, which meets Thursday in New York, does not need to change the current election process by adding a Rose Rule: i.e., that those who are "banned" from baseball are not eligible for the ballot.
First, it's unnecessary. The BBWAA is, if anything, puritanical in its voting. Let the writers do the deed; there's every indication this will occur. Second, such a suspiciously timed new rule might convince the public that an anti-Rose vendetta exists among the late Bart Giamatti's friends within the game's establishment. Dislike surely lingers, but no evidence of a grudge. The game would be hurt by such a crucify-Pete perception.
According to Ed Stack, president of the Hall of Fame, the timing of this week's study committee meeting was just accidental. "We've needed a blue-ribbon group to study the total package for quite a while," Stack said yesterday, citing "all the flak" the Hall took in recent years over its Old-Timers Committee decision in which no one gets elected. "Now we hear reports of a vendetta. That had not entered my mind at the time we called for this group."
However, Stack says bluntly: "Rose is not on the agenda, but considering everything that's happened I'm sure he will come up. I don't have any sense of whether this group will make any rule-change recommendations to the board."
According to one member of the study committee, "In an ideal scenario, we wouldn't touch the rules and the writers would keep Rose out of the Hall. That'd be the best of all possible worlds."
For what it's worth, if the board of the Hall changes its rules and, in effect, keeps the BBWAA from voting on Rose, baseball is going to have several hundred annoyed, insulted writers. The BBWAA has done more for the Hall of Fame than the Hall will ever do for it. Basically, the BBWAA exists to pick Hall-of-Famers and to do it conscientiously.If Rose ever wants to get back into the good graces of the public and press, and if he harbors any hope of reaching the Hall someday, he better come clean. And pretty soon. As long as he continues to deny the obvious, that he bet on Reds games when he was Cincinnati manager, he continues to make enemies.
There's great irony here. Many believe Rose agreed to drop his legal options and accept his lifetime ban for one key reason: the settlement he signed with Giamatti did not say specifically he'd bet on baseball.
Was this because the commissioner's Dowd Report was, somehow, completely wrong? Fat chance.
Was it because Rose was still "in denial" of his gambling addiction? Some believe this. They think Rose was so mortified that he would accept any punishment as long as he didn't have to admit his basic psychological problem.
Or was it, as friends say, because Rose had a huge need to get into the Hall and felt that a gambled-on-baseball confession would kill his chances? Did he take the ban, which was coming anyway, so he could duck any admission of breaking baseball's Rule No. 1 and, thus, get in by Cooperstown's back door?
Whatever the true case, Rose didn't anticipate two events. Commissioner Giamatti bushwhacked him quick -- saying point-blank he believed Rose had gambled on the Reds. Then, a week later, Giamatti died, locking the whole issue in granite.
In death, Giamatti has to some degree become canonized. So, every time Rose says he never bet on baseball, it not only appears that he's lying and insulting the common sense of the public but that he's calling a dead man -- and former president of Yale -- a liar. Also, Giamatti's top aide on the Rose case was Fay Vincent. So, every time Rose says, "I didn't do it," he's taking a shot at the current commissioner's integrity.
With time, it's becoming clear that Rose's biggest problem is not his past. Banned for gambling. Jailed for taxes. The man didn't shoot anybody. Enough is enough. Presumably, the public is ready to forgive, if not quite forget. After all, our society tends to have mercy on reformed sinners, no matter what they did. However, we also tend to continue tormenting the unrepentant. That's where Rose figures to get it in the neck.
His refusal to face his past, admit his guilt and shoot square with the baseball community is like a red flag waved in the face of every fan who wants to welcome him back to society and every writer who might vote him into the Hall of Fame.
If and when Pete Rose makes a clean breast of it, he might get my vote. Until then, as far as I'm concerned, it is beyond reasonable doubt that he bet on the Reds.
In three months, when Rose gets out of that halfway house, here's hoping he has more to say than "great." Here's hoping he can come all the way back to being an honest and redeemable man.