Ball Rolling Towards Rose Eligibility
And the clues continue to mount.
The teary-eyed communion between Sparky Anderson and Pete Rose at a baseball memorabilia shop here in Cooperstown on Saturday wasn't the only hint over induction weekend that the ice may be breaking around Rose's 20 years in suspended animation - and eligibility for, if not necessarily election to, the Hall, might be in the offing.
The impeccable Bill Madden reports in today's New York Daily News that Hank Aaron held a "seemingly impromptu" gaggle with a handful of reporters on Saturday during which he not only endorsed an asterisk for steroid users who reach Cooperstown, but brought Rose up himself and said "I would like to see Pete in. He belongs there."
On Saturday night I reported that Rose's old Cincinnati manager stunned onlookers in the card shop in which Rose spends most of induction weekend, by bounding through its doors to have a brief conversation with him. Saying he had been convinced of the rightness of the timing by his wife, Anderson told Rose: "You made some mistakes 20 years ago, Pete, but that shouldn't detract from your contributions to the game."
I had the briefest of conversations with Rose yesterday. He confirmed the Anderson visit, said it had been "a long time" since they had last talked (although he wasn't certain it was the full two decades). Pete Rose is never tight-lipped about his prospects for reinstatement, but he was clearly being circumspect. "Sparky was here. Morgan was here. Perez was here. Schmidt was here." He smiled, then answered my question about the ultimate outcome of his saga. "I think it'll be all right."
With the advent of increased Hall of Famer influence on the Hall of Fame itself, Joe Morgan in particular has grown powerful within the Cooperstown infrastructure. A Morgan greeting to Rose wouldn't mean much. A Morgan word to Bud Selig about 'time served' might be - and Madden reports at least one other Hall of Famer is arguing such a line.
I was a steadfast opponent of Rose's reinstatement for all of his first fifteen years of banishment. My belief was, even if he bet only on the Reds to win, this constituted a kind of passive/aggressive form of game-fixing: his use of players, especially his best relief pitchers, might be much more aggressive in games on which he had a wager, than those he did not. But the light bulb has slowly flickered on above Pete's head, he has lowered the volume on his woe-is-me-ism, and most importantly, his crimes have been contextualized by the PED-era. There is no form of game-fixing more subtle nor more insidious than juicing. Not even gambling.
The 20th Anniversary of his banishment is a month away: August 24th. It has served its purpose. Rose will never get a significant job in the game; if necessary he can be statutorily prevented from getting one. Who knows? A reinstated Rose might even be a terrific in-person warning to minor league players and young big leaguers he might serve as a hitting coach, about the consequences of breaking the key rules - the ones about gambling, and the ones about performance-enhancers.