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Monday, May 25, 2009
Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame
A commenter to my post on steroids and the Hall of Fame asks about Pete Rose. I thought it warranted a new post, rather than a comment. I actually wrote about this point three years ago.
Rose should not be in the Hall, because different rules apply. Rose is ineligible for the Hall under Rule 3E, which bars selection of anyone who is on MLB's permanently ineligible list. Rose is on that list because he agreed to be placed on the list (which he did to avoid the now-we-know-was-inevitable finding that he did, in fact, bet on games involving the Reds). There is no character/integrity/sportsmanship debate to be had with Rose--he is out because the rules (properly, I believe) keep him out.
But as the commenter notes, Rose was suspended for post-playing conduct. This raises a couple of points.
First, I still agree with the current outcome under Rule 3E. The ineligible list is the ineligible list for Hall purposes, regardless of when or why the suspension occurred.
But note the anomalies. Rose retired as a player in 1986 and would have been on the ballot for the first time (and almost certainly elected) in 1992. Suppose his gambling had not been revealed until 1995? I cannot find whether there is a procedure for removing someone from the Hall if that person is suspended from the game subsequent to his induction. So we could ask whether it makes sense to deny admission to a player based on a suspension for post-playing conduct when we would not remove him from the Hall for the same conduct. Actually, this happened in miniature in the early 1980s, when Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were barred from any official involvement with MLB because they held PR positions with casinos (although Commissioner Bowie Kuhn had meant the suspension only to apply to formal employment and not to all involvement in the game). The Hall did nothing and the "suspension" was lifted after two years. Worse, under my counter-factual, Rose might not have been removed from the Hall (if no such procedure exists) even if had been discovered, post-induction, that he had gambled as a player.
Second, the commenter implicitly raises a different counter-factual: Suppose there were no Rule 3E (actually, the Rule did not exist until 1991, enacted specifically to ensure that Rose and the rehabilitating Shoeless Joe Jackson did not make it in). Now we squarely have the situation the commenter suggests: Baseball-related, post-playing, against-the-rules conduct, subject to the integrity/sportsmanship/character clause.
I say he still should not get in. First, I would not divide his baseball conduct between playing and non-playing conduct; it is all what he did as part of baseball and whether he violated specific rules of the game. And he did. Note that this makes his tax evasion conviction/prison term irrelevant, because that was non-baseball.
More prominently, Rose violated a specific rule of MLB through acts that go to the basic integrity of the game in a way that steroid use does not. The game's integrity demands that every player go all out to win every game to the best of his ability and effort, for the sake of winning (and the intrinsic values associated with winning), within the established rules of the game. A player who uses steroids or other PEDs is trying to maximize his performance and his success--that is the basic argument in the Zev Chafets piece that I originally linked to. Gambling on games involving one's own team (even if always to win) runs contrary to that understanding of the game's integrity.