Evanson: What's the fascination with Pete Rose?
Like death and taxes, every year about this time, Major League Baseball votes in its latest crop of Hall of Famers. People debate who did and didn't get in, and Pete Rose crawls out from underneath the proverbial rock, shows up in Las Vegas, and gets in someone's ear about why he should be reinstated by baseball and allowed into the Hall of Fame.
He gets on television, sings the blues, makes excuses for every misstep he undoubtedly took, and typically lies about something that's later exposed for being just that — a lie.
But while neither Rose nor his act have ever changed, what also stays the same is some people's indiscriminate loyalty to a man who simply doesn't deserve it.
At every turn, Rose has lied. He lied in 1989 when confronted with his gambling, numerous times over the next decade in an attempt to defend his indefensible behavior, and even in 2004 as part of a book in which he "attempts" to come clean by owning a portion of his misdeeds.
And five years ago, in a face-to-face with current MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, Rose again went to his bottomless well of deceits, only to be confronted with the facts looming just a hop, skip and jump away from the nonsense perpetually spewing from his mouth: He bet on baseball as a manager in 1987, and also as a player in 1986 and likely 1985 — facts proven by betting records kept by Michael Bertolini, a Rose associate.
The guy can't tell the truth, which is why former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent refuses to even entertain hypotheticals about ifs, ands or buts regarding the now banished player/manager's fate had he come clean from the beginning.
"We talked about that, but that assumes an elephant can fly," Vincent told USA Today. "It assumes that Pete Rose might have done something in 1989 that he's totally incapable of doing, and that's telling the truth and acting in baseball's best interest instead of his own. All he has ever been concerned about is Pete Rose."
So why do people figuratively go to bat for this guy, time and time again?
Because he's the all-time hits leader?
His gritty style made him relatable to the common man?
I don't know, but I know it's not due to his character. After all, he's a convicted tax cheat and, by all accounts, far from a model husband or father. He even admitted to at least one sexual relationship with a 15-year-old in the 1970s, and in response said, "Based upon my information and belief at that time, she was 16 years of age."
Oh, our bad.
Do I think he should be in the Hall of Fame? Sure. Much like with a generation of either admitted or somewhat obvious steroid users, his play on the field leaves little doubt. Be it Rose, Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez or any other admittedly great player of their time, they earned it by way of their performance versus their peers. But in addition to earning a forever place amongst the game's elite, they equally earned historical documentation of their improprieties along the way.
Barry Bonds was more than just a great player; he also appeared in the back half of his career to be a nuclear version of his former self.
Roger Clemens was a great pitcher during his time in Boston and Toronto, but by documented accounts, he experienced a "renaissance" towards the tail end of his career with help from a chemical or two.
Alex Rodriguez had more than 3,000 hits, hit nearly 700 career home runs and batted .295 over his 22-year playing career. But he also twice admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs over a 10-year stretch in the middle of his career.
And Pete Rose is MLB's all-time leader in games played (3,562), at bats (14,053), hits (4,256) and singles (3,215), but he also broke an unbreakable rule of the game — and has done nothing but lie about it ever since.
All of which should be noted on a plaque speaking to their complicated careers in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Pete Rose the athlete was a heck of a player, but Pete Rose the man deserves little praise. He has repeatedly shown he's willing to put himself above baseball and the well-being of others. So why is everyone so concerned about him getting what he rightfully "deserves?"
You can put him in the Hall of Fame, but as far as what he "deserves?" I'd say he has been getting that for more than 30 years.
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