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By The Numbers: Should Baseball Be Willing To Forgive?

Pete Rose (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Pete Rose (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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By Father Gabe Costa
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As I mentioned in the last blog, the next several editions of By The Numbers will be written by students currently taking a course on sabermetrics. Leading off is Ms. Lauren Taylor…as you will see, she writes on a pretty controversial topic. Enjoy!

Lauren Taylor: As in life, when baseball players make significant miscalculations in their moral decisions, their career can suffer the consequences.  In this case, they can lose any opportunity of continuing to participate in playing the game of baseball as well as forfeiting potential Hall of Fame status.  In the cases of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, each of their well regretted decisions caused an ended career and ban from the Baseball Hall of Fame indefinitely.  The question I have chosen to propose is: “Should this ban be indefinite?” That is, if a player has an outstanding career that surpasses his counterparts, should those accomplishments be recognized?

A native of South Carolina, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s professional career started in 1908 and ended in 1919.  In his early career, he played for the Philadelphia Athletics without notable successes.  This resulted in Jackson’s trade to the Cleveland Naps, later the Indians, where his innate talent shined in a record batting average of .408 in 1915[1].  That summer he was traded to the Chicago White Sox and continued to make an impact in the baseball regime including winning a World Series title in 1917.  But in 1919, with another World Series on the line, the White Sox were defeated by the Cincinnati Reds.  This defeat caused great controversy in the world of Major League  Baseball resulting in accusations of 8 White Sox players, including Jackson, of throwing the World Series[2].  A jury in 1921 later acquitted Jackson of the charges placed upon him and his career, but the damage was done.  The Commissioner of Baseball, Judge K. M. Landis, disagreed with the ruling and banned all the players for life from baseball[3] .  “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s promising career was over, as well as any potential for a Hall of Fame honor.

Pete Rose also experienced a similar event that has plagued his baseball career.  Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Pete Rose’s professional career began in 1963 with the Cincinnati Reds.  With this team, Rose earned the Hickok Belt and Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year”.  After playing for the Phillies and Expos, he returned to Cincinnati where he became the player-manager in 1984.  Before retiring, Rose did accomplish a noteworthy final hit total of 4, 256.

But controversy followed him focusing on accusations of betting on baseball; accusations which he confidently denied.  After further investigation, this was found to be false.  Pete Rose admitted to betting on the Reds “every night” while managing the team.[4]  This was an issue because he had the ability to potentially control the chances of his team winning.  Rose was ultimately deemed ineligible to participate in baseball as a manager and from consideration for election into the Hall of Fame.

While these previous paragraphs may give some indication of their talents, a mathematical comparison to other players will help provide undeniable evidence that their statistics are truly Hall of Fame numbers.

Using sabermetrical metrics, I have compiled a chart listing some of the statistics of both “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose along with three other contemporary players for both Jackson and Rose. These other six players are all in the Hall of Fame.  Along with including traditional measures, I have also calculated their Runs Created, an instrument developed by Bill James, and Runs Created per At Bat for each player.  Recall,

RC=((H+W)/(AB+W))*TB

Runs Created per At Bat =RC/AB.

This will enlighten the different strengths of the players while comparing them at the same time.

chart By The Numbers: Should Baseball Be Willing To Forgive?

To dispel controversy, I am not trying to prove that these players were the best of their time; the chart clearly displays players with greater talents.  I am simply trying to demonstrate that “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s and Pete Rose’s accomplishments are noteworthy enough for a Hall of Fame honor.

Looking first at “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s career, the first argument one could make is in defense of his potential career that was cut short by the Black Sox Scandal.  His Runs Created value would have been larger if had the opportunity to play more that just 13 seasons.  For this reason, the lower RC value is accepted along with the values that correspond to his seasons.  But he still has a noteworthy Runs Created per At Bat value that shows even though he had the opportunity to bat less in his career than his counterpart, he made those chances count and was effective.  This value is significantly greater than both Cobb and Wagner, baseball icons of the first rank.  Another value to take note of is his slugging percentage. With the exception of Babe Ruth, his is the highest of his counterparts showing he was a very powerful hitter, another revealing fact about his hitting prowess.

Next, examining Pete Rose, the first aspect that shows his dominance over his competitors is his record total number of hits.  This number far surpasses the other Hall of Famers, and Rose stood out in this area of baseball without a doubt!  The next important statistic to examine is his Runs Created, where he once again beats his competitors.  His hits are a large factor in the RC value but it is still a noteworthy statistic that shows his reliability and durability.  His Runs Created per At Bat while not being the largest of his counterparts is still competitive.  He also has the highest Batting Average and Total Bases of this group, revealing his noteworthy talents in these areas.

Now for the final question: “Should the electors determining admission to the Hall of Fame Committee ignore these player’s crimes and acknowledge their accomplishments?”  Debate over allowing “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose the opportunity to be admitted into the Hall of Fame has been discussed and analyzed from many perspectives.  I would rather like to propose my opinion.  If they were already banned from the game of baseball and suffered the professional career loss, why also punish the accomplishments made?  If a ban was placed on a player, in the cases of scandals similar to the ones these players faced, I do not believe is should be indefinite.  Their records clearly show that these men are capable, if not outright deserved to be in the Hall of Fame next to their competitors.  I believe that baseball should learn to forgive the mistakes of players such as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose and allow their successes to be truly honored for generations to come.

Works Cited

Baseball-Reference.com – Major League Baseball Statistics and History. Accessed January 25, 2012. http://www.baseball-reference.com/.

“Rose Admits to Betting on Reds ‘every Night’ – MLB – ESPN.” ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports. Accessed January 25, 2012. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2798498.

“Shoeless” Joe Jackson – The Official Web Site. Accessed January 25, 2012. http://www.shoelessjoejackson.com/index.php.