Did Rob Manfred give the Hall of Fame the go-ahead to put Pete Rose on the ballot?

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While it’s not a good day for Pete Rose and while Rob Manfred blasted him to the stone age in his decision declining reinstatement, part of me wonders if Manfred also didn’t give Rose a glimmer of hope, at least as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned, today.

The glimmer: Manfred made great pains in his decision to make a distinction between Pete Rose as a threat to baseball due to his gambling and Pete Rose’s legacy as a great player. Specifically, he said this:

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It is often forgotten that Rose is not being punished simply to punish him. He is banned to that he cannot be near the game and cannot, through his actions and motivations as a gambler, influence the outcome of games. In the legal theory business, which the lawyer Rob Manfred knows well, they call this “incapacitation.” The other basis for punishment are still present — “retribution” (i.e. pure punishment) and “deterrence” (i.e. serving as a warning to others) — but Manfred here is clearly talking about Rose’s ban being driven by the practicality of keeping him from violating Rule 21 again.

In this — and in allowing him to broadcast for Fox and show up at the All-Star Game — he is avoiding doing what many have done over the past 26 years in painting Rose as some sort of shamed, pariah-like figure. He is simply saying that Rose can’t work on the side of the game where outcomes can be influenced. He is also, in his reference to “that organization,” making a clear distinction between MLB and the Hall of Fame, which determines who can be and who can’t be on the ballot.

Practically speaking MLB and the Hall of Fame are close, with Manfred, Bud Selig and many others in the game serving on its board. It is also thought that the Hall’s 1990s rule-change to keep banned players off the ballot was done as a favor to MLB so that it would not be embarrassed by Rose being inducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America. But here — and in some past interviews — Manfred seems to allow for a separation. Maybe it’s just a buck-passing, maybe it’s something more.

His words are, however, quite consistent with (a) wanting to appear strict with Rose; while (b) allowing for him to be put on the Hall of Fame ballot without that strictness being undercut.

Maybe I’m just imagining that and maybe the Hall does nothing. But if they do something, it won’t be seen as an insult to MLB. Manfred’s own words ensure that.