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The time has come for MLB to finally forgive Pete Rose

Pete Rose

(Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Let’s make this clear from the start. There should be no Baseball Hall of Fame if Harold Baines is enshrined and Pete Rose isn’t.

What’s the point. Where’s the credibility. How long must the double-standard that exists to keep the game’s all-time hit leader out be allowed to exist?

The case of Rose vs. the Hall of Fame came front and center again on Wednesday when Rose asked MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to take his name off the sport’s ineligible list so that he finally can be considered for election.

In past petitions for clemency, Rose and his attorneys have focused on the passage of time and depended on Manfred to conclude Rose has already paid a stiff enough penalty for betting on MLB games in the 1980s.

This time around, the tactics are much different. Rose wants MLB to explain why he should be singled out when those found guilty of using steroids or cheating by using technology are allowed access to the game and its Hall of Fame ballot.

According to ESPN, which obtained a copy of the request Rose’s lawyers submitted to the Hall of Fame, the main argument being made is Rose’s lifetime ban, which has been in effect since 1989, is “vastly disproportionate” to the punishment the game has rendered on performance-enhancing drug abusers and those involved in the 2017 sign-stealing scandal in the Houston Astros organization.

Think about it. Rose is right. Aside from being socially ostracized, MLB did not prevent players like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmiero and others from pursing employment in the game or being on the Hall of Fame ballot.

And last month, MLB penalties to the Astros involved only one-year suspensions to manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, a $5 million fine and loss of four draft picks.

“There cannot be one set of rules for Mr. Rose and another for everyone else,” Rose’s 20-page petition said. “No objective standard or categorization of the rules violations committed by Mr. Rose can distinguish his violations from those that have incurred substantially less severe penalties from Major League Baseball.”

While Rose finally admitted in 2004 that he bet on the Cincinnati Reds to win while he managed them, there is no evidence those wagers directly impacted the performance of any players or the outcome of any games.

Meanwhile, there is substantial evidence taking performance-enhancing drugs, and electronic sign-stealing, had direct effect on performance and outcome.

So now, 30 years after Rose’s banishment, how can MLB continue to justify his exclusion while all these other cheaters are basically free to come and go within the game.

“It has never been suggested, let alone established, that any of Mr. Rose’s actions influenced the outcome of any game or the performance of any player,” the petition reads. “Yet for the thirty-first year and counting, he continues to suffer a punishment vastly disproportionate to those who have done just that. Given the manner in which Major League Baseball has treated and continues to treat other egregious assaults on the integrity of the game, Mr. Rose’s ongoing punishment is no longer justifiable as a proportional response to his transgressions.”

Pete Rose

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Along with the submission of the petition, Rose has asked for a meeting with Manfred. MLB told ESPN the commissioner’s office has received the document and is studying it.

By now you know Rose’s story. Commissioner Bartlett Giamatti suspended him for life after an investigation – the Dowd Report – proved Rose illegally wagered with bookmakers. On Aug. 24, 1989, Rose agreed to accept indefinite suspension while never admitting he violated the rule prohibiting players and others involved with the game from betting on it.

In 2004, Rose wrote a book in which he admitted he did bet on MLB games. This admission, combined with his consent to indefinite suspension, have been used against him in terms of readmission as recently as 2015 when Manfred rejected a proposal from Rose.

In that 2015 decision, Manfred said Rose was not totally reformed because he had continued to bet on MLB games in Las Vegas, where he now lives. Two years later, the Hall of Fame again refused to put him on its ballot. In February 1991, the Hall of Fame ruled any player on MLB’s ineligible list would not appear.

In an ESPN interview for the Backstory episode called “Banned for Life”  Rose apologized for what he did.

“People should know that I’m very sorry that I made the mistake that I did. … If you want to look back, which you can, I should have admitted to [Giamatti] the first time he called me in the office in January of ’89, but I didn’t,” Rose said.

A lawyer representing Rose told ESPN it’s time for MLB to right the wrong that’s been allowed to perpetuate.

“It’s in the best interests of baseball to not have as its legacy that Pete Rose is being treated grossly differently than every other player in its history, with the exception of ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson and the Chicago Black Sox,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a Los Angeles-based civil rights lawyer. “I don’t think there has been an athlete in any sport in history who has fallen more steeply and more of a distance for a longer period of time than Pete Rose has.”

Times have changed. And so should MLB’s point of view about on its all-time greats. Put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame.