Thanks to the behind-the-scenes lobbying from some of the most influential Hall of Famers, commissioner Bud Selig is said to be seriously considering lifting Pete Rose's lifetime suspension from baseball.
The tip-off that Selig may now be inclined to pardon baseball's all-time hit king was Hank Aaron's seemingly impromptu interview session with a small group of reporters in the lobby of the Otesaga Hotel on Saturday. In declaring for the first time that he would want an asterisk put on the achievements of any steroid cheats elected to the Hall of Fame, Aaron brought up Rose, who, in August of 1989, was given a lifetime ban for gambling on baseball, saying: "I would like to see Pete in. He belongs there."
My personal feeling on the Rose situation is that, given his past, he should never ever be allowed to be in a position where he could impact or effect what happens on the field. That means no coaching, no managing, no front office position that touches on baseball operations, and no supervision or authority over anyone who does. But the fact remains that Rose remains a very popular figure among the fans -- he gets standing ovations simply by walking to a seat for which he bought a ticket at Great American Park -- and could probably do a lot to promote the Reds in particular, baseball at large, and the charitable organizations affiliated with those entities if given the chance. Such a thing could be accomplished if he were given a limited reinstatement. Such a thing would also likely cut down on the amount of shameless self-promotion in which he engages as well, because he likely wouldn't need to make an ass out of himself for a paycheck, and that's something that baseball should care about.
And yes, reinstatement means renewed eligibility for the Hall of Fame via the Veterans' Committee. I've gone back and forth on this over the years, but as of now I think Rose probably should be in the Hall of Fame. Why? Because at bottom, the Hall of Fame is a museum/historical society, and I don't like the idea of whitewashing history. Maybe you don't give him his big day on the podium like Rice and Henderson had yesterday, but not having his plaque up there bothers my sense of historical accuracy far more than having it up there would bother my sense of ethics. And obviously the plaque has to mention his bannination and the reasons for it. I realize that reasonable people disagree on this point, of course.
Of course this raises the question of what, if anything, a Rose reinstatement would mean for the steroids users. True, they're not banned and thus their eligibility for the Hall hasn't been technically affected, but I do think Rose being allowed back into the game would have an impact on them all the same. I say this because I can't help but think that, at the heart of many BBWAA members' feelings regarding steroids users, is the sentiment that "hey, if baseball can keep out Rose for violating the gambling rules, I can use my vote to keep out steroids users." If Rose was back, isn't it possible that some writers would re-think their opposition to the PED guys? That no one should stand in the way of history being recorded the way it should be?
I suppose reasonable people can disagree about that too.