This is an article that was originally published on HardRockSports.com.
After another boring All-Star game, HardRock Sports columnist Scott A. Ham talks about how Bud Selig has made the Pete Rose situation more confusing than ever.
Something very interesting happened before the All-Star game Tuesday night, interesting because it managed to make complete sense and confuse me at the same time. The league announced the one hundred players on the All-Century team ballot, baseball’s equivalent to the NBA’s Fifty Greatest. Kevin Costner (Hollywood’s version of a baseball player) introduced 32 of the living players from the ballot as they jogged onto the field, culminating with the entrance of Ted Williams. There was quite a crowd of baseball greats past and present all gathered together and it made for a stirring moment.
One guy who was on the ballot and in Boston, but not on the field or represented by one of the 98 banners displaying the nominees around the grandstand was Pete Rose. In what seems like a grand contradiction on the part of Major League Baseball, Pete Rose and fellow banishee “Shoeless” Joe Jackson were both allowed to be on the ballot, but were given no recognition of any form during the introductions.
The reasoning is obvious. Bud Selig didn’t want to trot Pete Rose out onto the field at Fenway, one of the most historical landmarks in all of sports and most certainly baseball, to a standing ovation broadcast on national television. The pro-Rose backlash would send Selig into spin-cycle for weeks.
Why place his name on the ballot then? Selig attempted to explain Rose’s inclusion/exclusion this way:
"Neither Pete Rose nor Joe Jackson’s official status has anything to do with the selection of the All-Century team. They’re great players, they’re entitled to be on the ballot. … I want to be very precise in the way I say it: It doesn’t in any way affect their status with major league baseball. However, they are two great players that have made an impact on the field, and they’re entitled to be on the ballot."
When pressed about the possibility of reinstating Rose after his 1997 petition which has gone unanswered, Selig responded “I don’t think there’s anything new or if there’s anything new that I would do to change what Bart Giamatti did.”
In plainer terms: No.
So, in summation: Selig believes Rose should remain banned from baseball, scolded him for giving a pep talk to the Reds in spring training and finds his status unsuitable for consideration regarding the Hall of Fame. But he is more than willing to tempt fate and see if he will be elected to the All-Century team.
It’s a pretty safe bet that people will jump at that chance to honor Rose in light of his lifetime banishment. If the fans don’t choose him, an additional veterans-type committee is set to be assigned to balance the list by five players, making Rose’s chances even better. This list will almost definitely find a major display in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the prospect of Rose’s inclusion leaving irony to smack it’s lips.
Obviously, the All-Century team isn’t that important to the image of baseball in Selig’s eyes. If it were even remotely close to the importance of the Hall of Fame, Selig wouldn’t let Rose anywhere near this list. If Jackson and Rose truly are great players that deserve to be on the ballot but can not be in Cooperstown due to banishment, how can baseball honor them in any way, shape or form? Does this make any sense?
I won’t go too deeply into judging whether Rose should be reinstated, except to say this: Giamatti swore before his death that he had every reason to believe, based on evidence in his possession, that Rose had bet on Cincinnati Reds games while he was the manager. What he wanted was his admittance to that fact and Rose has refused to do it.
Giamatti wass well respected within the baseball community and I don’t think he would have publicly taken this perspective without a solid foundation for his beliefs. If Rose did in fact bet on games that he managed, I don’t care if he confesses, he doesn’t deserve to be a part of baseball again. Anyone who deliberately puts the integrity of the game in jeopardy for his own personal benefit has no respect for the game and doesn’t deserve any accolades, whether he owns the career hits record or not.
You can say that we’ll never know if he bet against the Reds, but judging by some of the teams they had during that era, he would have been a terrible gambler if he didn’t. You’re coaching a squad that’s going nowhere, you’ve got five large riding against your team and your down by two going into the ninth inning. Are you going to go out of your way to try and win this game? Maybe. Maybe not.
That’s the question mark that sits above Rose’s head and the fact that we even have to ask that question is reprehensible.
In regards to Rose’s slight at Fenway, if Selig was willing to put him on the ballot, he should have been willing to make him part of the ceremony. Selig is trying to take the high road by taking a short cut on the low road. He felt he had to give Rose and Jackson some kind of acknowledgement with the All-Century team but he wasn’t willing to swallow his pride and watch as the crowd welcomed Rose with open arms. It was a spineless move on Selig’s part and hopefully not an indicator of how he will be handling the office of commissioner.