The All-American boy was a good kid. He worked hard, got good grades, and played baseball on the weekends with his friends at a nearby park. He dreamed of playing in the big leagues one day. He idolized the players that dominated his favorite sport: Pete Rose and Johnny Bench among others. He was an ardent supporter of his hometown Cincinnati Reds. As he grew older, he began to hear whispers that Rose was deep in gambling debt, or that he was beginning to break the cardinal rule of the game: betting on baseball. He ignored them. His childhood hero would never abandon the game he loved, at least not in such a callous way. But on August 24, 1989, Pete Rose, manager of the Cincinnati Reds, was forever banned from baseball. Johnny’s world had collapsed. His hero-worship was a sham. Ironically, so was his Rose. Pete Rose knowingly broke the cardinal rule in baseball and has only recently admitted to what he had spent years denying. He willingly accepted a lifetime ban, including exclusion from the Hall of Fame, and quite clearly does not deserve a chance to have that changed.
After a careful examination of the facts surrounding Rose’s gambling habits, it is quite clear that his illegal endeavors were detrimental to the health of his club and to the league as a whole. Managing to win every game significantly affects how a given team operates. Relief pitchers are used more frequently, more aggressive tactics like stealing or charging the catcher, which often lead to injuries, are encouraged, and prospects are not given chances to develop. Overuse of the bullpen leads to late-season collapses and an eventual decrease in productivity, which gives the opposing teams chances to win games that, if Rose did not manage so aggressively, should not have even existed. Further, a manager’s job is to promote the wellbeing of his club and position it for long-term success—a job that Rose ignored by playing established veterans for short-term gain (read: winnings) at the expense of long-term sustainability through giving younger players much needed seasoning. He managed to win every game, but at what cost?
Many Rose supporters are fond to point out that those that break rules that have direct impacts on the game, such as known PED users, are not currently banned from baseball. That is a reasonable argument given the severity of the offense. However, the argument becomes invalid once one realizes that the men often cited, namely Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, used performance-enhancing drugs at a time when they were actually acceptable under MLB drug policy—pre-2001. Rose, however, knowingly broke a longstanding rule in baseball history: 21 (seanlahman, 1). Such actions necessitate punishment, and Rose fully understood the penalty associated with his form of gambling—a lifetime ban. Further, in an effort to hide such illicit activity, he was later convicted of federal crimes: tax evasion. Where some broke laws of the game, Rose broke laws of society. Actions have consequences, and Pete Rose must learn to live with his.
Despite clear arguments against Rose’s reinstatement and by extension his Hall of Fame eligibility, Rose does not even have the credentials necessary to ensure a place in Cooperstown to make reinstatement worthwhile. Rose’s seemingly unmatchable offensive production is filled with holes. His most prominent achievement, his record for collecting the most hits in MLB history, is tainted. In his effort to pass Ty Cobb, Rose needed well over 13,000 at bats, nearly 2,000 more than Cobb. Further, Rose was far less effective than Cobb, possessing the record for the most outs. His OPS+, a measure of offensive production standardized across eras and stadiums, is good for only 429th in league history—clearly not Hall of Fame worthy by any stretch of the imagination. Rose was in every definition of the word a “compiler.” He only reached the statistical heights he did by playing for a National League record 24 seasons, not through any particularly great skills or ability. He was also a very poor defender. Rose had a career dWAR, a measure of defensive production standardized against that of a replacement level player, of, rather fittingly, -14, meaning that he cost his teams 14 wins over the course of his career simply through his incompetent play. New statistical analysis has provided baseball with better ways of analyzing players and it is now clear that Pete Rose does not deserve to be in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Pete Rose knowingly broke a rule with full knowledge of the consequences. He accepted a lifetime ban without any form of appeal to avoid the release of other documents to the public. He must now live with his choice. His actions violated the central tenets of the game and changed the outcomes of games across the league. He put personal gain ahead of the long-term health of his club and did not bother to position his team for success. So long as he was profiting, he was happy. Furthermore, Rose lacks the basic statistical production needed for a Hall of Fame induction, making lifting the ban a fruitless exercise. He lacked the premier talent necessary for induction. His records, even after the simplest of statistical analyses, are hollow. His legacy is overrated. Rose even spent years denying what he had privately acknowledged through his aforementioned acceptance of the ban. One thing is certain, however: Rose was a hustler---in every definition of the word.