Why Rose sounds like a Hall of Famer

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The vast, vitriolic voices debating whether Pete Rose should be allowed into the Hall of Fame now that he has admitted to lying about gambling is enough to make you long for a calm, quiet dinner with Al Franken and Ann Coulter.

I admit the Rose story has always bored the heck out of me, but the latest grandstanding over this overblown drama is too much to ignore.

Pete Rose gambled. Pete Rose lied. Pete Rose, and this is my favorite, "sinned against baseball."

You can sin against baseball? Baseball is God? Jesus Christ can't hit a curveball? We all know that baseball always takes itself way too seriously, but sinning against a game?

(I would like to take a moment to admit that as a 10-year-old playing Risk with my sister Sarah, I once cheated by palming some extra troops into Madagascar, allowing me to seize a foothold in Africa. I hereby renounce my sin against the Parker Brothers.)

I get the shudders every time I hear Rose's name because I fear the ensuing pundit shouting match. Or worse, that Ken Burns, George Will and Doris Kearns Goodwin are going to appear on my TV and start describing the feeling of seeing grass in Ebbets Field.

Here is what I do know. Rose was a great player who shouldn't have gambled on baseball.

But the idea that he should be banned from the Hall of Fame because baseball is about "integrity" and "character" is as absurd as thinking college football coaches are really concerned about academics.

The only "sport" that celebrates, tolerates and encourages cheating more than baseball is pro wrestling. But at least Vince McMahon doesn't pretend otherwise.

In fact, baseball is great in part because of its rich and colorful history of spitballers, bat corkers, pine tarrers, umpire bumpers, womanizers, cheats, drunks and nutcases.

Let's take Ty Cobb. The Georgia Peach was an avowed racist, once allegedly stabbed an elevator operator and another time reportedly beat up a handicapped man who had no hands.

And he's in the Hall of Fame.

Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and David Wells all have admitted playing while drunk. Tim Raines used to slide headfirst because, he said, he didn't want to break the vial of cocaine he kept in his back pocket. No surprise his nickname was "Rock."

The joke about Darryl Strawberry being the only major leaguer who could snort the third-base line isn't true of course.

Lots of other guys could do it, too. And not just on the 1986 Mets.

It is enough to make the Portland Trail Blazers seek realignment in the NL West.

Not that it is just the players. Owners routinely con taxpayers into building lavish stadiums only to break their promise to field a contender. Right, Mr. Selig?

Then there are the supplements and steroids. Mark McGwire broke the single season home run record while using, part of the time at least, a substance banned by almost every major sports league or association and soon, most likely, the U.S government – but not (of course) baseball, which could care less. Barry Bonds then broke McGwire's record while also smashing the mark for expanding head size.

Obviously I don't know who is or isn't clean, but let me ask this: Would you honestly bet your house that Bonds would pass a legitimate drug test?

If so, I know a Nigerian businessman looking to deposit some money into your account.

Then there are the bats that have something in common with a bottle of merlot, which is only necessary because pitchers' gloves house enough sandpaper and carpentry tools to appear on Trading Spaces.

At least players can no longer take ephedra, which baseball (unlike nearly every other sport) refused to ban until the federal government finally did it first. Not that anyone is testing for it, of course.

There is, however, no truth to the rumor BALCO Labs is about to become a league sponsor.

Let's face the facts. Although the majority of players are honest competitors, baseball always has had a healthy number of scoundrels and an institutional interest in rewarding them. Cheating is part of the game.

That's baseball. You can't sin against it. It has no integrity.

Pete Rose doesn't either. Sounds like a Hall of Famer to me.