In the 25 years since Pete Rose was banned from baseball, our national pastime has been torn apart by a number of different scandals. These such scandals include collusion, the Chicago Cubs' pantsless "Pedobear" mascot, and of course, the steroid era. Nothing has divided players and fans as viciously as controversy surrounding the games all-time hits king.
On August 24, 1989, after being investigated and taken to court by the commissioners office after allegations of illegal gambling, along with reports that he had bet on the game of baseball, Rose, who at the time was managing the team which he used to play for, the Cincinnati Reds, signed a deal accepting a permanent spot on major league baseball's ineligible list. This signified that there was factual reasoning for Rose's ban. Major League Baseball later agreed to stop its investigation into the gambling allegations.
A year and a half later, Rose, who was a sure-fire Hall of Famer, was shut out of Cooperstown when the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted to exclude individuals who were on the ineligible list from appearing on a Hall of Fame Ballot.
25-years later, he is still not a Hall of Famer. Rose, however is not alone. He may very well end up on a list that includes Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark McGwire in a group of legendary players that also may get shut out of Cooperstown, but the question is why?
Is it fair to deny players?
Why does Major League Baseball continue to shut out some of the games greatest players from achieving a status they deserve? The question may never have a true answer and will always be an extremely opinionated topic. Rose gambled on the game of baseball, therefore he may never be a Hall of Famer. Bonds, Rodriguez, and McGwire are alleged to have using steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, and these names are classified with the "steroid era" in major league baseball, these players may never get into the Hall of Fame.
It may be true that what these former greats did is frowned upon and simply not right, but is it right for major league baseball and its voting committee to not allow them into Cooperstown?
For anyone who has done the slightest bit of research into the lives and careers of Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Rube Waddell, etc. it is certainly not the Hall of Saints at Cooperstown. All of which can be viewed as boozers, dopers, cheaters, womanizers, and wife-beaters, yet they were the best players of their respective eras, all, are also Hall of Famers. Yet, Rose and Bonds, certainly the greatest players of their eras, and holders of two of the most incredible records in baseball, may never get in.
Rose, the all-time hits leader, may never get in because of his infractions as a manager, despite what he did as a player. While Bonds, the all-time home run king, may never get in because of an era that occurred 10 years after he'd been in the league, 10 years where he put up superb numbers.
The Hall of Fame vote
Some changes have been made in the way that the BBWAA and the Hall of Fame committee votes. Both have put themselves into the mess by making just two critical changes since 1985, by banning players on the ineligible list from being included on a ballot, and a recent announcement stating that a player's maximum length of stay on the ballot will be reduced from 15 years to 10.
Both changes were simply to send a message. The 1991 change was obviously directed at Rose, and the most recent was to hurry the steroid-era players off the ballot to try and keep the Hall of Fame from being "tainted" by all of the PED business.
Sure, the "character clause" in the BBWAA election rules encourages the voters to consider the players "integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played", but based upon some of the backgrounds of several players who have already been inducted, it is a rather confusing clause. The Hall of Fame is and should forever be a museum, not a monument to morality.
Rose, just like Bonds, Rodriguez, and McGwire all belong in the Hall of Fame. Go ahead put on the plaque that Rose was a compulsive gambler who was banned from the game, and admitted to betting on baseball. But also put on the plaque that Rose had 4,256 career hits, more than any other player and played in more games than any other player. Be sure to mention that he logged more than 500 games at five different positions (first base, second, third, right and left field) and became an All-Star at all five of them. Don't forget to include six National League Pennant winners, won three World Series rings.
Major League Baseball should not punish these great players for wrongdoings, but more importantly, reward such players for everything great that they were able to achieve during their illustrious major league careers.