Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is reportedly considering whether to lift the lifetime ban of all-time hits leader Pete Rose. The New York Daily News says lobbying by several former greats at this weekend's Hall of Fame induction ceremony has spurred the commissioner into action.
It's been 20 years since then-commissioner Bart Giamatti put Rose on the ineligible list amid allegations that he bet on baseball. Rose denied it at the time, but a few years ago finally admitted he did indeed place wages on games while he was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds. The ban means Rose cannot be employed by any MLB team. It also makes him ineligible for the Hall of Fame.
But during an impromptu interview with reporters, Hank Aaron -- baseball's number two all time home run hitter -- said, "I would like to see Pete in. He belongs there." Now, Aaron and Selig are longtime friends. It's well known in baseball circles that Aaron's opinions are held in high regard by Selig, so Aaron saying this means an awful lot.
But according to outspoken Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, Aaron's comments were a calculated move, not some flip comment: "Believe me, that little session Hank had with you guys was anything but impromptu. He wanted to get that out there. It was time."
The News also learned that in a meeting of the Hall of Fame's board of directors on Saturday, two of Rose's former teammates, vice chairman Joe Morgan and Frank Robinson, also voiced support that Selig would reinstate Rose.
If Rose is reinstated and becomes eligible for the Hall, he would have to be voted in by the Veterans Committee, because his eligibility on the writers ballot has expired. The Veterans Committee is made up of the 65 living members of the Hall of Fame. Not all of them support Rose's inclusion in their exclusive club. "I know there are still guys who feel strongly against him," said one Hall of Famer, "and I don't know if that would change even if Selig clears him."
So does Rose belong in the Hall of Fame? The criteria for getting into the Hall is clear:
"Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."
Rose certainly has the first two covered -- he is unquestionably one of the greatest players in baseball history. As far as "integrity, sportsmanship and character," the argument can be made that Rose falls well short. After all, betting on games violates all three of those qualities.
But it is important to point out that Rose bet on games after his playing career was over. And Rose would be voted only on his days on the field, nothing else. Of course, a man's character cannot be judged solely on what happens between the white lines. It is often pointed out that a lot of players in the Hall of Fame were, to put it nicely, jerks. But they didn't violate one of baseball's most sacred commandments -- thou shalt not bet on the games.
Is it truly a Hall of Fame if the man who collected more hits than anyone in the game is not included? Or does the inclusion of a man who bet on games make a sham of the Hall?