Pete Rose thinks Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame.
Earlier this week, Rose told a Pittsburgh radio station that he wished he had chosen a vice other than gambling, because the league cared more about that than other troubling behavioral problems.
However, if I am given a second chance, I won't need a third chance. And to be honest with you, I picked the wrong vice. I should have picked alcohol. I should have picked drugs or I should have picked up beating up my wife or girlfriend because if you do those three, you get a second chance. They haven't given too many gamblers a second chances in the world of baseball." [CBS]
In 1989, Major League Baseball slapped Rose, the game's all-time hits leader, with a lifetime ban for betting on baseball games. That ban also prevents Rose from ever being elected to the Hall of Fame.
Rose denied the gambling allegations for years, but ultimately copped to his crime in a 2004 autobiography, a move widely believed to be a last-ditch effort to get into the Hall. Players have a 15-year window after their careers end to be voted into Cooperstown; Rose's eligibility ended in 2006.
However, the commissioner of baseball can always reinstate banned players. If he were to do so, baseball's Veterans Committee — a body that picks players after the eligibility window has closed — could still send Rose to Cooperstown.
That leaves just one (huge) question: Should Rose be given that second chance?
One of the leading arguments in favor of Rose's candidacy is that the Hall of Fame ballot is now loaded with confirmed or suspected users of performance-enhancing drugs. Last year, the voters shut out everyone, including some over the mere suspicion that they had juiced.
Rose was never caught cheating during his playing days, in which he racked up 4,256 hits and set 19 other major league records. His unsullied career accomplishments are without a doubt worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame, whereas the feats of younger players who have been or could one day be inducted (Bonds, Clemens, and the like) will forever be tainted.
Hall of Famer Joe Morgan made that point this week in reference to the Biogenesis scandal, saying, "You're going to allow guys with PEDs on the ballot, then we have to allow him to be on the ballot." More to the point, USA Today's Bob Nightengale said the latest PED scandal had turned Rose, for the first time since his ban, into a "sympathetic figure."
On the other hand, that line of reasoning — that what Rose did was bad, but that other people have done bad things, too — is somewhat self defeating.
"It's like asking people to pick their poison: cyanide or strychnine?" says ESPN's Steve Wulf. "You really don't want players to go near either one of them."
Rose violated a clear, codified rule of the league: Do not, under any circumstances, bet on games, particularly those involving your own team. He did, and he was punished for it.
Perhaps more salient is Rose's larger point that players busted for criminal offenses like spousal abuse — as opposed to mere MLB policy — have endured lesser punishments.
Milton Bradley was found guilty of beating his wife; Francisco Rodriguez beat up his girlfriend's father; Delmon Young attacked a New York tourist while yelling, "Fu--ing Jews." The Tampa Bay Rays currently employ a pitcher, Josh Lueke, who was charged with rape and pleaded down to a lesser count.
None of those crimes are classified as violations within MLB's rulebook, so none of those players have been banned for life.
Commissioner Bud Selig has ignored Rose's application for reinstatement in the past, and he recently said, "Nothing's changed." Selig will step down after 2014, meaning a new commish more sympathetic to Rose's pleas could be on the way.