Pete Rose is doing that publicity stunt managerial gig tonight, and since it’s about the publicity he’s doing interviews. And, since he’s doing interviews, he’s waxing optimistic about his chances to get back in the game:
Really, where I belong is back in baseball. I still believe it can happen.”
Yes, he’s talking within seven months, before Commissioner Bud Selig leaves office Jan. 24, 2015.
“To be honest with you,” Rose says, “I really haven’t given up on Bud giving me a second chance.”
I used to laugh at this sort of thing, as baseball has never shown any intention of reinstating Rose. But part of me is starting to wonder if Selig won’t issue a pardon as he leaves office. For a couple of reasons. First, to keep the Rose issue from being one that bothers his successor every couple of years. Second, and more importantly, for legacy reasons.
I never would’ve thought that Selig would have pursued the Biogenesis case in the aggressive and arguably extra-legal manner in which he did. But Selig was a motivated man. Motivated to make A-Rod, and not himself, the face of steroids in baseball. That’s a man who is conscious of his legacy. Rose is obviously a different case — he was his predecessors’ issue — but he is still an immensely popular figure among fans. Imagine what the stories would look like if Rose were reinstated as Selig leaves baseball. He enters amid labor turmoil, fan indifference and drug abuse. He leaves with baseball riding high, the druggies cast out and as the man who brought Pete Rose back. And hell, maybe Shoeless Joe. It’s feel-good stuff for people who either don’t know or don’t care about the history of gambling in baseball. It’s a huge boon to the Hall of Fame too.
Is it likely? I don’t know. I’m assuming Major League Baseball would say it’s preposterous and that Rose is delusional. But I can’t shake the idea that someone close to Selig is at least suggesting how the politics of reinstating Rose and/or Jackson might look as a career-capper. While some of us would be turned off by it, I bet way more people would eat it up.
Not a major league team, of course, because he’s banned. Or an affiliated minor league team for the same reason. But an independent team is fair game, and the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League announced yesterday that Rose will serve as their manager on June 16 against the Lancaster Barnstormers.
The best part of all of this is the statement from Ken Shepard, the Bluefish general manager, who said that this will be “one of the biggest and [most] influential announcements in not only franchise history, but in professional baseball in the last 25 years.” I’d suggest that perhaps Shepard should look up the definition of the word “influential,” but he’s on a roll so we’ll just let him go with it.
In any event, I’m sure this will be a totally dignified affair and Rose will not be encouraged to come out onto the field to argue and otherwise draw attention to himself or anything.
One of the fun things about Pete Rose is that when he was the player/manager for the Reds he put himself in the lineup and at first base so that he could break Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record. Which, to be fair, is what the Reds brass and, I assume, most Reds fans wanted.
Rose wasn’t terrible in 1985 — he got on base at a good clip, but had no power whatsoever — but sabermetrician Craig Wright made a compelling case in a book several years ago that Rose was hurting the Reds by playing himself. I can’t remember the book — if someone does, please chime in — but the upshot was that there were younger players like Nick Esasky either buying buried or who were playing out of position and that the team would have been better off with him or a platoon or something.
No matter which way that actually comes out upon rigorous analytical scrutiny, however, I do think it’s fair to say that Rose’s entire reason for playing in 1985 and 1986 — and more generally, after 1981, really — was to break Ty Cobb’s record. It was his clear goal. Maybe it was a noble goal, but there can be no question that a huge part of Rose’s being was about chasing a record. Which makes his criticism of Jimmy Rollins on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philly today fairly hilarious:
Yes, there has been a lot of talk about Rollins not being willing to waive his no-trade clause until he can set the all-time Phillies hit record this season. But if anyone has a right to call Rollins out for that, it sure as heck ain’t Pete Rose.