COMMENTARY| Most "goats" in team sports do something wrong at the worst time when their mistake causes their team to lose in the most agonizing way for the team's fans. Not so for fans of the Cincinnati Reds. The biggest goat in the storied history of the Reds wasn't that kind of goat: he did not misplay a ground ball or strike out with a deciding game on the line. This goat was one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and his mistake was so brazen and unnecessary that it makes him the Goat King because Pete Rose squandered a legacy unlike any other -- not only in Cincinnati but in all of baseball.
The sentence of banishment from baseball that Rose received in1989 for idiotically betting on 52 Reds games in 1987 as manager is approaching a quarter of a century now. There's no real reason to think that Rose's fall from the grace of baseball will ever stop being an endless nosedive into a bottomless pit. There's also no reason to think that any commissioner of baseball will ever reinstate Rose so that baseball's all-time hits leader can become eligible for the Hall of Fame and partake of team activities like retirement of his number "14" or formal interaction with current Reds players that his Big Red Machine teammates like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and George Foster have.
But that's how it has to be for a goat. There is no redemption or happy ending. There is no forgetting or forgiving. No matter how highly regarded Rose was for what he accomplished on the field, his legacy is forever that of a goat.
Baseball could always try to come to the rescue of Rose. It could press the same kind of delete button that erased the press conference video of baseball commissioner Bud Selig dropping an F-bomb or use the same kind of eraser that Topps baseball cards used to disassociate Rose's name from his playing records. Still, those kind of revisionist tactics may work for baseball's top officer and a company that profits from players but will not work for Rose because any change in the course of history now will come far, far too late to snatch his magnificent career from the jaws of ignominy.
None of this means that the Reds' organization should ever drop the effort to bring Rose into the fold in any way possible, even if that means Reds' manager Dusty Baker is vocal about his desire to see Rose involved with his players right now.
Even if something does change with Rose's status nationally -- perhaps in a way similar to Rose's selection to the fan-voted All-Century team in 1999 when he was allowed to participate in a World Series on-field ceremony -- that should do nothing but fuel the desire for the Reds to have Cincinnati's favorite native son further recognized in his hometown. The Reds can't fly in the face of baseball by restoring all rights to Rose, but the organization can pursue recognition of Rose because he is, after all, their goat and a glorious one at that.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
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