If ever there was a time when the Major League Baseball ban of hit king Pete Rose was going to be lifted, it is now.
It’s not surprising at all that Commissioner Bud Selig has supposedly been contemplating the removal of the most notorious cheater’s name from the blacklist.
After all, it’s the Steroid Era! In the past 20 years, record-setting sluggers have captivated fans—right up until the discovery that those sluggers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Their numbers atop the books of baseball history remain.
Now, the nation can admit that two of the most famous, most prolific current players have taken forms of illegal substances. These people are not banned from the game. They are applauded within the baseball community to this day.
Hank Aaron and other veteran Hall-of-Famers have come to the attention of Selig in support of Rose, one of the game’s all-time great hitters. Maybe Selig and MLB are simply showing respect to the Hall of Fame greats by respecting their opinions.
Or maybe everyone has unanimously agreed, in theory, that known cheating cannot take away from career statistical numbers.
Many feel that Selig needs to come to his senses for even letting this become a story. The wide majority believes that Rose's betting on and potentially throwing games is more of a crime than a player's injecting steroids into his buttocks. After all, PEDs and HGH affect the individual’s contribution to the team and sport, while fixing games affects the entire sport.
However, the counter-argument is that cheating is cheating. If two actions are illegal within a sport, how come the punishment for one action is a suspension for a third of the season, and the punishment for the other action is a lifetime ban from the league?
It is very interesting but, as previously mentioned, not surprising that Selig appears to be budging on the firm stance he has taken on Rose.
The predictability is partly due to the fact that some of the greater stars of the steroid era are either eligible or approaching eligibility for the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds highlight a list of players that dominated their era and were eventually caught cheating.
Pete Rose certainly could have warned these superstars of the unfortunate consequences that come with breaking MLB rules. Rose was the best hitter of his time, but once exposed, his gambling addiction promptly destroyed his career.
Then again, Pete Rose was caught doing something no other player had ever been caught doing. It’s always worse when fans, officials, and members of the league are not previously desensitized to a player’s crime.
Think about if no player had ever abused steroids, and suddenly word got out that Ichiro, possibly the best hitter of this generation, tested positive for steroids. He might have been deported.
Be the one to break ground on an issue, an offense, a drug, or a crime, and the people following in your footsteps will walk over your image’s grave.
That is, unless you stay consistent with the punishments at hand. At least with gambling, Selig has stayed consistent to this point. He has stood by Rose’s ban and therefore maintained that betting on the game will not be tolerated.
If the Commissioner had treated the initial wave of steroid abusers like the MLB has treated Rose, would we be referring to the past 20 years as the “Steroid Era”?
Selig should have taken a similar zero-tolerance policy with steroids as he has with Rose’s gambling. One of the Commissioner’s tragic inconsistencies is the fact that he never seemed to know how to approach non-gambling rule-breaking until such problems spiraled out of control.
Of course, there was the cocaine (well, that started during Rose’s era). Then there were the corked bats. Then there was the juice.
Remember McGwire’s post-slugfest interviews, with PEDs sitting in the locker behind him? He was on the juice, but Selig didn’t pay much attention because MLB ratings were consequently juiced.
One factor to the demise of Selig’s image has been his tired and inevitably failed assertions of the drug testing policy’s accuracy and efficiency. Another is the fact that he continuously assured fans that steroids were not a part of MLB, and when allegations came out and steroids became publicly unacceptable, he tried to act proactive.
If the Commish lets Rose back into the MLB world, his image could potentially be tarnished even more. Certainly, there will be questions. Most will be looking for him to conjure up what little shred of consistency he will have left after reversing such a firm stance.
For one, if Rose is off the blacklist, it has to undoubtedly mean he is allowed on the Hall of Fame ballot, or at least eligible. Even though votes would surely be few and far between among the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee and Baseball Writers Association of America, his reinstatement to the MLB would have to mean subsequent ballot eligibility.
This has to in turn mean that everyone who has ever played is eligible for voting. Allow Hall of Fame eligibility to one player that was caught gambling, and you must allow eligibility to any player ever linked to steroids as well.
If that means that the Hall should put asterisks next to the names of any known cheaters, then so be it. Regardless, any future generation will already know of the infamous Steroid Era. They will know the story of Pete Rose. Punctuation symbols are not necessary.
So Selig can bring Rose back, after years of the fallen star lying, complaining, and joking about his crime and punishment.
But before making that decision, the Commissioner should consider one imperative probability: The Rose fans will forever praise him for it, but the fans just looking for consistency will unquestionably resent him more than ever.