The Edge: Baseball needs Rose
Major League Baseball just doesn't get it!
Last week the once great American past-time was handed a chance to revive some of the game's integrity when baseball's all-time greatest hitter Pete Rose asked to be reinstated. Sadly, the executives of the game, as is the case with almost all important issues, looked past the sorry state that baseball is in and swept it under the carpet.
Rose was suspended from baseball in 1989 when former commissioner, the late A. Bartlett Giamatti, held an investigation into Rose's alleged sports gambling. Although it was never proven, it was presumed that Rose bet on baseball, which included games involving the Cincinnati Reds, of which he was the manager. Based upon these allegations a harsh lifetime suspension from baseball was cast on him.
The suspension of the Reds' legend closed a storied career which began in 1963 with a rookie-of-the-year award, reaching its pinnacle when he surpassed Ty Cobb's all-time career hit mark ending his career with 4,256 base hits.
Rose brought an old-school, head-first style of baseball to the field, a style unmatched by any of the overpaid Prima Donnas that play baseball in the '90s. He was a leader, both as a player and coach and was admired for both his hustle and passion.
Sadly, Rose enjoyed the action off the field which tragically brought to an end his brilliant big league career. Along with banishment came the tearful judgment from the Hall of Fame's board of directors to not allow Rose's name to ever be printed on any Cooperstown ballot and it is here the problem lies. Rose played with his heart on his sleeve for over 20 years and it was his personal life that caused his downfall. Why is it that Chicago Bulls' star Michael Jordan received only a slap on the wrist for his gambling last year?
It's time the executives of the game realize this decision has more bearing on the success of the sport than re-alignment and new playoff formats or any other issue that the suits in their posh offices can think of. Business is business and must be addressed, but at the same time owners and the current council in charge of baseball operations, with the vacant commissioner's seat, have to realize this issue is something more than dollars and cents. This is baseball. Pete Rose is baseball.
Team owners make the claim that the fans started to leave in '94 during the player strike and eventual owner lock-out, but sadly they are overlooking the true reason for the loss of respect. The day Pete Rose was banned from the game of baseball the respect of the sport began a downhill trek that sadly has yet to be rebounded. If the owners and councils running the game take a step back from the day-to-day business of the sport and view it for what it is a game, they would realize that Pete Rose belongs in baseball. Who cares if Rose bet on baseball or enjoyed himself at the track every once and a while. He was human and has paid the price. And certainly discount the fact that Rose was charged for tax evasion. Rose paid back the $366,000 he owed to the I.R.S. and spent five months at a federal prison. He has served his time.
The decision now weighs heavily on the shoulders of the council in charge of baseball. The league has to realize there is a right thing to do ultimately admit that they need Pete Rose. By opening up the doors of the small museum in Cooperstown, New York and allowing his likeness to hang along side the other greats is a start. From there, just maybe the fans will begin to realize that baseball is the pure game it once was. The truth of the matter is, until Rose hangs in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown a black cloud will hang over professional baseball for eternity.