There was a controversial guest on HBO’s Costas Now town hall meeting on the state of baseball in 2008. He’s one of the most notorious players in the history of the game—no, it wasn’t Barry Bonds, but all-time hits leader Pete Rose. Major League Baseball wants nothing to do with Rose, an incredibly flawed man whose gambling habit—he bet on games when he managed the Cincinnati Reds back in eighties—earned him a lifetime ban from the game. Rose, interestingly enough, appeared on a segment called “The Hall of Fame: What Gets You In?” This is a pretty darn good question these days, with steroids-era sluggers like Mark McGwire up for eligibility, and a profusion of newfangled stats that, if anything, has made judging a player’s performance harder, not easier.
Alluding to the scandal plagued McGwire, Rose, and Bonds, Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt observed there is no player in the Hall without sin. It was a politic comment, but not a disingenuous one, I think. Even if Hall voters are asked to weigh a player’s integrity, the Hall isn’t about virtue. There’s a sliding scale when it comes to integrity, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. Rose broke an explicit rule—no gambling—but is this worse than taking performance enhancing drugs? Rose’s betting habit didn’t help his players hit the ball harder. It’s a tough call, but Charlie Hustle deserves reinstatement, and a place in the Hall of Fame.