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.