Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pete Rose Forever, Or Stuff No One Wants To Say Out Loud

And to bet on it as well
> While he was great as a player, he wasn't nearly as good as his supporters think.

The reason why Rose is known to this day is simple; he has more hits than anyone in MLB history. But the actual positive impact that he had for his team was a lot less useful. When you take in the ridiculously long decline phase where he was one of the worst everyday hitters in MLB, you wind up with literally hundreds of guys who did more damage with the wood... and even Rose's most ardent supporters don't make the claim that he was helping teams with the leather. He's got the most hits in MLB history, but he's also made the most outs.

> He was bad for a fantastically long time.

By WAR, the last great Rose year was 1976, and the last adequate one was 1979, at age 38. He played until he was 45, with some 3K ABs where he hit 5 home runs -- yes, five -- while playing first base. The man played the better part of a decade while hitting for less power than Ben Revere, while playing first base. Seriously. The maniacal chasing of Ty Cobb dragged his WAR down to 64th all time, and as he was the manager for a lot of that death march, he bears an even higher amount of responsibility for it.

> He has the most double plays (247) in MLB history, and again, it's not close.

By combining marginal power (Rose hits 160 HRs in his nearly 16K ABs, and didn't get past a career high of 16 in his age 25 season) with low strikeouts and walk totals, and by playing his entire life in plus offensive parks and conditions, he took his team out of a phenomenal number of innings.

> Short of murder or rape, he did the only thing that can keep you out of the Hall.

I get that Rose was railroaded by MLB, and signed a deal that no competent lawyer would have let him sign. I also get that he's spent the past two decades trying to figure out the exact words to say to get over, and into Cooperstown, before he kicks. (Rose is 73 now, by the way. Life moves fast.)

But gambling nearly *ended* baseball after 1919, and it remains the game that's the easiest to throw, because fielding errors, grooved pitches and poor lines on fly balls (or "losing" things in the sun) is just something that can happen whenever anyone on the field feels like it. Heavy favorites lose to heavy underdogs roughly 1 out of every 3 games, and everyone in baseball knows this, as well as the absolute intolerance of gambling.

And there's no excuse in the misbegotten idea that Rose, like the biggest homer goober on the planet, only ever bet on the Reds... because the games that he didn't became de facto less important, and polluted the others. It meant that he managed his bullpen differently, was more or less aggressive with his subs, more or less willing to extend a starting pitcher or rest a regular. It just can't happen, and Rose did it anyway. I get that this is a nation of forgiveness, but honestly, maybe there are some things we shouldn't forget, just to make sure that no one ever makes this mistake again.

> Rose's supporters are never, ever, going to give this up. And neither is Rose.

From mocking commercials to periodic books and signings and PR moments, and maybe just the plain old He's Going To Die At Some Point, So Just Induct Him Already moment... well, Rose represents the childhood of any number of people. And the idea that Charlie Hustle isn't in the Hall is, like Shoeless Joe Jackson before him, the cause celebre of a generation, and the proof that the Hall of Fame is just filled with big old meanies. (At least Jackson had decades in disgrace to avoid the HOF issue, as it didn't exist back in 1919.)

I can see why people want to just say bygones, induct Rose, and get on with their lives. On the playing merits, he deserves it, though the counting stats overrate him by a lot, and screwing over Dan Driessen, Nick Essasky, Kal Daniels and Paul O'Neill on playing time, while still dirty, didn't keep anyone out of Cooperstown on their own. The public mood and MLB's tolerance of gambling has softened dramatically in my lifetime, with nerd nit betting (AKA fantasy) doing most of the heavy lifting.

But the plain and simple is that Rose gave up any shot at the Hall by breaking the only real rule that was more or less guaranteed to keep him out of it. He only admitted it when he was caught. His apologies have been conditional, his redemption tied entirely to whatever helps him sell books or merch or his continued candidacy.

If he never enters Cooperstown, that's OK to me, as a baseball fan.

And if he does?

Well, it's not as if he'd be the worst guy in there.

And honestly, if someone wants to go down the path of blowing the damn thing up and starting over?

Works for me as well.

Just so long as we say yes or no on Rose once and for all, rather than spend another 30 years saying the same stuff...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As someone who watched a whole lot of Phillies games in '79 and '80, I have to say that Pete Rose was ridiculously fun to watch. (Slogan of the '79 Phils: "For Pete's Sake")

With his compact strike zone, he could foul off pitches all day long, wearing down pitchers, while stepping out of the box to casually smack his bubblegum. My mother -- who could not be described as a baseball fan -- would stop what she was doing and come watch his at-bat.

Of course, there was his famous hustle and head-first dives. Some things don't show up on stat sheets. Pete Rose was good for baseball until he made the poor decision to bet on it.

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