Joe Morgan, National Public Radio and a slew of other folks in and around baseball think Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame.
This sentiment seems to crop up in the wake of every major PED scandal. And each time it does, though their personal experiences with baseball are different, those arguing for Rose always seem to put forth the same case: if baseball is going to let PED users into the Hall, they should let in Rose, whose crime looks paltry by comparison.
Betting on your team while in a position to influence the outcome of a game, and the careers of individual players, is serious stuff.
More serious, in my opinion, than steroids.
PEDs have a less direct impact over a player’s career than a manager’s decisions. I’ve played with guys who’ve taken steroids, and while they became stronger and more energetic, they weren’t one ounce better at baseball. It’s not the sure thing many have come to believe it is. The manager, on the other hand, always has influence.
Yet, beyond the efficacy of PEDs, saying that gambling is small potatoes because PEDs are the new and supposedly proven evil doesn’t make what Rose did any less of a violation of the rules.
Rose was well aware of the consequences of gambling on baseball. There is a placard regarding the penalty for gambling posted in every major league clubhouse. He did the crime, now he’s doing the time.
So why the outcry for him to be forgiven?
I realize he’s the all-time hits leader, and I agree that his accomplishment should be honoured in the Hall, except he broke a clearly defined rule that says he can’t be.
Consequently, Rose is now serving his permanent ban.
Permanent ban…permanent ban…where have I heard that phrase before?
Oh yes, isn’t that the exact same punishment many now want for players caught using PEDs? Am I to believe that in the case of steroids and HGH, it’s fair to ban players permanently, but in the case of gambling on the game, it’s not?
When I hear players say they want permanent bans on fellow players caught using PEDs, I shake my head as such a reaction seems to pay no heed to baseball’s shifting sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, as it changes over time.
If baseball took a look at the amount of money spent on injuries, investigating cheaters and new, yet always one-step-behind testing methods, it may very well find it more cost effective to invest in well-researched, medically monitored, doses of the drugs it condemns as pure evil.
As it stands, today’s players take shots of high-powered anti-inflammatories; they crush sketchy energy drinks; they take powders, pills and all sorts of other chemicals that may or may not harm or help them. But simply because these things don’t make for a positive test, they are safe? Fair? Legal?
I’m not so sure.
In fact, I’m not so sure that in two decades from now, we all won’t have easier access to efficacious, medically-sound hormones or steroids that improve our quality of life.
And if that happens, when they are more readily available and we know friends and family who consume them, will we look back at the villainous, cheating, yet trail-blazing players of the steroids era and say, “Gosh, what he did really wasn’t that bad?”
What constitutes an edge or performance enhancing may continue to change, but, in Rose’s case, what he did was clearly wrong and there will never be a moment in the future when managers throwing games for their own personal gain will be socially acceptable enough to do a paradigm shift, let alone one based on comparison to something perceived as a greater evil.
Meanwhile, in our current PED-centric paradigm, we find the prospect of players like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds making it into the Hall of Fame an abomination – players who have never been convicted of any crime against baseball, players whom we will most assuredly regret not allowing into the Hall once the present paradigm of scandal abates.
Ironically, despite the abscence of evidence, Bonds and Clemens are the two most prominent players in the steroid era, and not because of their success, but because of their attitude towards any who would dare suggest they are anything but clean, wholesome players.
Their well-publicized resentment has earned them public condemnation, making forgiveness all but impossible. And yet, this behaviour is exactly the kind Rose engaged in for decades after getting caught with damning evidence that he, in fact, had gambled on the game.
The one thing that no one seems to recognize in all of this is if Rose were not the all-time hits leader, this argument wouldn’t be happening.
Just as if Bonds and Clemens weren’t elite players in their time, they’d have faded away by now. If Rose were not the all-time hits leader, he be just another player who broke the rules and damaged his career, and we’d all have to look up why he was even being talked about.