By Jason Keidel
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Though this is a hit job on the hit king, it wasn’t always that way.
For 20 years, I had blown the Hall of Fame horn for Pete Rose. While he broke the most sacred baseball rule — gambling not only on the sport, but on his own team — it did nothing to erase or taint his deeds as a player. Vote him into Cooperstown while keeping him out of the sport.
There was a duplicity, if not hypocrisy, to it all. Ban Rose for betting, but reward countless others who were jamming PEDs into their bulging buttocks. Forget what you think of Rose, it was obvious MLB only enforced rules that didn’t impact the bottom line.
But it’s now become impossible to root for, stand for or stand by Rose.
Every time you think he’s hit personal or professional bottom, we all fall through a trap door together. And we feel exponentially dumber for having either supported or defended him. Or even for just keeping an objective mind and heart toward the man.
Now we have the latest allegations that Rose was intimate with an underage girl in the 1970s. While it’s not our place to try the case here, it fits a pattern, a pathology, Rose’s allergy to truth and decency and his affinity for indecency.
Perhaps it’s silly, with all we now know about baseball, to equate it with its old-world maxims of wholesome, family values and American purity. But it at least represents something good about sports, about us. Baseball is not just a game, but also a portal or springboard to society. It’s the sport of Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax and Curt Flood.
What does Rose represent, other than himself? An absolute disregard for rules or laws or public sentiment?
Does Rose have a decent bone in his body? He even makes the truth look ugly. Not only did he bet on baseball, he bet on the Cincinnati Reds — the team that made him a national icon — while he was managing them. Then he saw the light, embraced the halo of truth that surrounds most of us … but only to sell a book he just published.
In light of this recent news, the Philadelphia Phillies have canceled their upcoming day for Rose, during which they were to retire his number. Good. Rose has not only lost the right to the Baseball Hall of Fame, he’s lost the right to earn a living from baseball altogether, directly or obliquely. We can’t stop him from signing a jersey or baseball or the endless trinkets he pimps from some strip mall in Las Vegas.
While we’re at it, Fox Sports 1 would be wise to terminate his contract, keep Rose from staining their studio one day longer. Lord knows he’s hardly Curt Gowdy with a mic, with “That’s a nice hit!” often the extent of his keen analysis. Love or loathe Alex Rodriguez, but at least he comes correct, does his homework and clearly knows the game, the score and the deal. Pete Rose just shows up as Pete Rose the personality and former player, and can barely name the teams or players he’s paid to analyze.
Major League Baseball can keep him from getting a job in the sport. It can keep him out of its ballparks, from preening on some sunny baseball diamond, smug and unrepentant as ever. And surely it can keep him from managing a pro club ever again. It can’t keep him from hovering around its more hallowed events. Surely, we recall Rose creeping around Cooperstown during its annual induction, signing all manner of objects for a few bucks.
Rose would probably sell his soul for a few bucks. Wait, he already has.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel