Pete Rose reaches the Hail Mary moment in Hall of Fame quest


Pete Rose reaches the Hail Mary moment in Hall of Fame quest

So Pete Rose has written a letter to the Hall of Fame asking to have his name placed on the ballot for potential inclusion into Cooperstown, which tells me one thing.

Rose believes that the old line about insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result from the previous ones – is wrong.

It tells me another, though. Rose has reached the Hail Mary moment in his hope of being inducted before his death, if ever. His fear that he would be lost to the public’s waning interest in history is being realized.

In going to the Hall of Fame directors, according to a letter obtained by Yahoo’s Tim Brown, Rose has decided that the powers in Major League Baseball proper, as in Commissioner Rob Manfred, et. al., are no longer interested in him in that way, and see almost no overwhelming financial considerations that would cause them to change their minds. We know this because he already appealed to Manfred nine months ago and was, as they like to say when the phrase “told to choke himself” seems impolite, rebuffed.

In other words, the people who run Major League Baseball don't want there to be any way that Rose can become a Hall of Famer, have said so pretty clearly, and fully expect the Hall of Fame to understand those wishes.

The Hall of Fame understands those wishes. Trust me, they are crystal clear on them.

Rose, of course, has nothing more to lose at this point than to appeal to the Hall of Fame. That is the nature of the hail mary – “We’ve tried everything else, so what the hell.” It’s a perfectly valid late-game strategy that almost never works, but it is also a valid late-game strategy dictated by the absolute lack of alternatives.

These are raucous times in sports, as in America itself, and players are speaking out on all manner of causes, wrestling at least tentatively with the great issues of the day. Pete Rose, though, is none of those issues. He is an item of interest for a decreasing number of old seamheads in a culture whose interest in the game is increasingly defined by their local rooting interests and fantasy teams. Rose is a topic of discussion only when he makes himself one, as he is doing here, and though he is not to be faulted for making his case, he is making it to the militantly unconvertible, and there is no natural constituency upon which he can appeal with any hope of relief.

Old voters? They long ago accepted, if grudgingly, the Hall of Fame’s right to determine the contents of its ballots. Old Reds and Phillies fans? Rose hasn’t played in 30 years. Old baseball executives? They’re the ones who kicked Rose out to begin with.

And young voters, fans or executives? Frankly, there is no evidence that his is a cause that any of them seem interested in taking up.

Should Rose be on the ballot? Yes, because denying history only means that you approve of lying. The Hall of Fame may fancy itself of a temple fit only for the worthy, and enough voters who have refused to accept Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, but it is not that. It is the history of baseball with rooms and a lease, and it should include all its history.

This would mean, of course, that all deeds from all miscreants throughout that history be recounted along with their triumphs, from the color line on down. The Hall of Fame, however, isn’t interested in selling ignominy. It’s fine with Rose being out, its members are fine with him being out, its voters largely don’t care either way, and the public skews younger and less interested with every passing year.

In other words, this is probably Pete Rose’s last chance, he is willing to take it because he has run out of other ideas and is rapidly losing the time to think of anything else, and based on the people to whom he is appealing, it is no real chance at all. Rose has always tried to transcend the politics of baseball from his very beginnings as a player, and has failed at this last thing because everything is politics in the end. His history, the thing he has to cling to the most to endorse his candidacy, is the very thing that crushes him in the end.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”

Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too


Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too

Will Clark won his first and only Gold Glove at first base for the Giants at age 27 in 1991. It was Clark's sixth year in the major leagues. 

Steven Duggar won't have to wait that long to win the biggest hardware for his defense in Clark's eyes. 

"He can play Gold Glove center field right now in the big leagues. He can flat out go get it in center field," Clark said on the Giants' prospect Tuesday on KNBR. "He can definitely, definitely play a Gold Glove center field." 

Clark, who now serves a role in the Giants' front office after playing in five straight All-Star Games for his former team from 1988-92, has watched Duggar closely for more than just this spring training. When asked about his feelings on the 24-year-old, Clark made them clear right away. 

"I've seen Steve parts of the last two seasons in the minor leagues and I am definitely a Steven Duggar fan," Clark said. 

The question with Duggar has always been his bat. He has elite speed, gets great jumps in center field and everyone from Bruce Bochy to Buster Posey has praised his ability to track down fly balls. 

"His thing is, how quick is he going to make the adjustment in the big leagues with the pitching. I know there's a lot of people that are asking that question right now," Clark. 

Count The Thrill as one of the leaders in Camp Duggar. He joined many others in complimenting his glove left and right. But what he has to say about the Clemson product's bat is what puts him over the top. 

"He's succeeded at each level he's been at," Clark pointed out. "He will do it at the major league level and I'm kind of staking my reputation on that."

This is confidence -- to say the least -- coming from someone who was a .303 lifetime hitter and bashed 284 home runs in 15 seasons. 

Over three years in the minor leagues, Duggar is a .292 career hitter with a .384 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage. Duggar started off scorching hot this spring with the Giants, but has cooled down with the Cactus League soon coming to a close. In 16 games, Duggar is slashing .250/.353/.545 and has shown more pop with four home runs.