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Madden: No Hall of Fame for Rose, please

Saturday, December 14, 2002

I hate having to write this column. I am bored by regularly having to discuss the topic broached. Yet I do it, because I must, lest a terrible wrong be done without my opinion noted.

Pete Rose can never be reinstated by Major League Baseball. He can never be made eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Any arguments contradicting my views are based on emotion, not logic. For nothing even resembling logic supports Rose's reinstatement.

Popular opinion might support Rose. But the mob does not rule. The mob does not change the laws of our nation, nor those of baseball.

According to Bart Giamatti, baseball's late commissioner, Rose broke the game's most sacred commandment. Thou shall not bet on baseball, especially not games involving your own team. If you do, you're banished permanently. Rose has never admitted his guilt, true, but he did sign off on his own ban.

And that's that. Or at least, that should be that.

But Commissioner Bud Selig, in the latest of a nonstop series of stupid moves, seems to be giving serious consideration to reinstating Rose. The mere thought, of course, is rousing rabble.

Among the primary rallying cries of the stupid: "Pete never took drugs! Pete never beat his wife! Guys who do that get second chances! Why not Pete?" Here's another favorite of these moronic gasbags: "Pete can't be the only baseball guy who bet on baseball! Why single him out?"

Addressing the former, baseball's rules dictate a second chance (and a third, etc.) for those who take drugs or practice spousal abuse. Not so for those who gamble on baseball. Drug pushers or marriage counselors cannot coerce a player or manager to fix a game. A bookie can, especially once he gets a player or manager deeply in debt. That's why baseball frowns so drastically on any kind of illegal gambling.

Addressing the latter, there's a very good chance that O.J. Simpson got away with murder. That doesn't mean you let Charles Manson walk.

There should be one caveat to the reaffirmation of Rose's ban. Major League Baseball should take the evidence that proves Rose bet on baseball and make it public. If such evidence can't be produced, then maybe Rose got railroaded. But I doubt that very much.

Some feel Rose should be reinstated if he admits he bet on baseball. Selig reportedly considers a Rose admission of guilt important. I find this laughable, as I do the recent American fad which says a mere mea culpa earns total forgiveness. It's reminiscent of when then-Attorney General Janet Reno admitted responsibility for the Branch Davidians tragedy in Waco, Texas, in 1993. Boy, that took guts, Janet. But what about all these bodies?

No compromise should be reached, either. Some support not allowing Rose to again work in baseball, but putting him in the Hall of Fame.

That's absurd. A ban is a ban. Yeah, I know, Rose is baseball's all-time hit king. But he is banned from baseball and thus not eligible for the Hall of Fame. That's not opinion. Those are the rules.

If you put Rose in the Hall of Fame, you had better make room for Shoeless Joe Jackson, too. Shoeless Joe was one of the Chicago Black Sox who threw the 1919 World Series, OK, but he was twice the player Rose was. You can't admit Rose and keep out Jackson. It doesn't make sense.

Right about now, those who support Rose are probably screaming, "Ty Cobb was a psychotic who intentionally tried to hurt the opposition! Babe Ruth was a drunk and a womanizer who burped a lot! Barry Bonds was on steroids when he broke the home run record!" True, true and maybe. But none of that gets you banned from baseball. Betting on baseball does.

This needs to go away. What's done is done. Rose still has fame and fortune thanks to baseball. But he lost the privilege of participating by breaking the rules, and nothing can undo that.

Want more? John Dowd, who originally investigated the Rose case for Major League Baseball, recently said that Rose "probably" bet against Cincinnati while he was managing the Reds. Do you think Rose maximized his team's chances in those games? Or did he (cough) save something for tomorrow?

Furthermore, Rose is a person of low moral character. He's a convicted tax cheat. A lousy husband and father. He has been known to associate with shady characters, including drug dealers. He annually mocks the Hall of Fame by peddling his autograph just blocks away on induction day.

Are you telling me that this guy deserves a break?

If Rose is reinstated to baseball and manages again, and I get the opportunity to ask him one question in total privacy, I know just what that question would be: "Hey, Pete, who do you like tonight? Your guys, or the other guys?"

If a terrible wrong must be done, I might as well cash in.

Mark Madden hosts a sports talk show 3-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN Radio 1250.

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