In 2008, Fall Out Boy released the album “Folie à Deux” following the success of 2007’s Infinity on High. One of the hit singles from the 2008 record, was released in June of the following year. The hit was entitled “Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet.” I don’t need to keep a calendar to always know that the song lyrics have very little, if anything at all, to do with its title. The title of the song is a clear shot at one of the most polarizing figures in sports: Pete Rose.
Aptly nicknamed Charlie Hustle, there arguably isn’t a player across all of sports that played harder. Pete Rose was a baseball purist’s dream. The old adage is that if you look up “hustle” in the dictionary, there is a picture of Pete Rose right next to the term. For good reasons, as the image of Pete Rose sliding in headfirst as he ran around the bases is as iconic as it gets. Pete Rose wasn’t the fastest runner in the game, but his baserunning instincts were second to nobody during the era in which he played. Pete Rose also holds a pristine benchmark in baseball lore, as certain numbers are that legendary. Cal Ripken Jr. isn’t known for his 19 All-Star selections, 3184 base hits, 431 homeruns or his two MVPs as an elite shortstop, but rather his 2632 consecutive games played. Rickey Henderson isn’t known for his 81 leadoff homeruns in 25 years across nine ballclubs, but for his 1406 stolen base record. Pete Rose is of the same variety: 4256. The amount of hits collected by Pete Rose over the course of his Major League tenure. That is the highest total in the history of baseball.
Alas, the most overrated player in the history of baseball was born. Aside from the all-time hit record, Pete Rose really didn’t do that much. One could easily argue that his team made him but and that never once was he the best hitter on his team. When I think of great hitting, I think of getting on base and hitting for power. A player such as Albert Pujols comes to mind. There is something to be celebrated about great hand-eye coordination that players such as Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn or Rod Carew possesses, and even they did it much better than Pete Rose ever could just without the longevity. Pete Rose, in 24 seasons, posted a slightly above league average .784 OPS with 160 homeruns. His counterparts? Hall of Famers. On the Reds alone, he had Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench. Not to mention, another player on the team, George Foster, won an MVP. Johnny Bench had a lifetime .817 OPS, while playing a far more difficult position on the diamond, drove in more runs in seven less seasons, hit 389 homeruns, won MVPs than Rose, was a 17 time All-Star and waltzed into Cooperstown on his first ballot. Another player who waltzed into Cooperstown on his first ballot was Joe Morgan. In a piece I published in January throwing out one incredible statistic for each Hall of Famer, I note that Joe Morgan had at least fifty extra base hits, fifty stole bases and 100 walks in four different seasons, no other player in MLB history has at least one. Joe Morgan got on base at an exceptionally high rate, always worked the count, hit for power and had incredible baserunning. Joe Morgan was everything and more that you wanted in a hitter and inarguably better at his job on a rate basis than Pete Rose could ever dream of being. As for Tony Perez, he’s probably the closest and right at Rose’s level, but an entirely different kind of hitter. Tony Perez had the most power in the Reds lineup, which meant that they often pitched around him because the homerun ball is going to hurt you far more than a Pete Rose bloop single. Fear is a key component to a dynasty and nobody added more dimension to that lineup than Perez did. When he had his short stint north of the border, he hit .259 with zero homeruns and a .629 OPS. In Philly, he couldn’t touch Mike Schmidt. Schmidt got on base at an astonishing .380 clip and hit 548 homeruns. But, much more than that, up until Nolan Arenado hit baseball, Schmidt was by far the greatest defensive third baseman in MLB history. That is a position that Pete Rose failed to play adequately, much like he did on other parts of the diamond. He switched positions constantly because he sucked at every single one of them. Defense is a key part of a player being serviceable.
So, where does the argument derive that he should be in the discussion for greatest hitter of all-time? The all-time hits record. Unfortunately, all of its compiled and the argument is extremely contrived. Pete Rose played 25 seasons at the Major League level, outstanding longevity and something that should absolutely be commended and celebrated as its entirely unheard of. For hitters, he’s the Nolan Ryan. But much like Nolan Ryan, who is rightfully in the Hall of Fame, he isn’t in the discussion for greatest ever solely because they padded their statistics by playing forever. Personally, I feel Nolan is far higher on the greatest pitchers list than Pete Rose is greatest hitter, but I can think of a number of better pitchers (Seaver, Maddux, Martinez, Gibson, Johnson, among others). The all-time base hit record is far less impressive when you realize that Pete Rose has far more at bats than any hitter in MLB history. His 3,562 games is an MLB record and so is his 14,053 at bats. Any half-way competent player would have the record with that many at bats. Number three on the all-time hit list is 485 hits behind him in over 1600 less at bats. Rose had 1,949 more plate appearances than number three on the list. Number three’s slashline was .305/.374/.555 to Rose’s .303/.375/.409. They have ideally the same number when it comes to lifetime batting average and on-base percentage. Why is the other’s OPS around 150 points higher? He hit 595 more homeruns than Pete Rose. You can get the same production in batting average but far more in run production and power, so much so that there is nobody who can justify taking Pete Rose over this specific hitter. If Pete Rose were even in the discussion for greatest hitter of all-time, he’d be at the top of the list of players you’d take on your team first overall to start a team, but he isn’t close to being on that echelon. That other hitter is Henry Aaron, one of many examples of far better rate performers. Was Rose even a great hitter for 25 years? His peak was incredible if you’re savvy in batting average, but from age 40-45 he posted a .672 OPS, judging how much he gets on base and how much he slugs by combining his OBP with his SLG%. For comparison, the last full season that MLB has gotten through, the average OPS was .758. If Pete Rose put up a .672 OPS over a five year span in MLB today, he wouldn’t have a job. According to a lot of the most ardent Rose defenders, hitters aren’t as good nowadays and he still couldn’t perform up to par of a current MLB hitter. That isn’t even getting into the weeds of how bullpen specialization, pitchers throwing 100, etc making hitting far more complicated now than when Rose was playing.
If Rose was so unproductive during his tenure in the ’80s, why would he continue to play? It’s simple: he was team manager. He got to decide who played and who did not. In baseball, every player knew in the ’80s that betting on the sport warranted a lifetime ban and Pete Rose consistently betted on games he was involved in. Not only that, there is no way to verify whether he bet on his team to win or lose, thus with him as manager, he can make decisions to tank ballgames. MLB Commissioner Pete Ueberroth opened an investigation on Rose’s gambling, which Rose publicly denied over and over. Ueberroth was already on his way out and the next commissioner overtook the investigation. New commissioner Bart Giammati and future commissioner Fay Vincent wrote up an agreement and Pete Rose signed off that he will be banned for life. Pete Rose agreed to a lifetime ban and happily did so with how damning the evidence was against him. Giammati passed from a heart attack just over a week after the deal went into effect.
There are currently only two living players on baseball’s ineligible list, that being Rose and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. However, Alomar had long been enshrined into Cooperstown when he was placed on the list. Meanwhile, surefire Hall of Famers Joe Jackson and Ed Cicotte still haven’t been elected or even re-instated for their role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, setting a precedent that a lifetime ban is for the duration of the league’s lifespan, not the players. Pete Rose, who was so arrogant that it wouldn’t be proven, agreed to a lifetime ban if they were able to prove it sufficiently, which they did. Since, he has admitted that he did so, saying that he’s guilty for doing so, yet is still betting on the sport, only this time as a fan. If he were truly sorry, he’d try to make amends, yet he only apologizes when he tries to get re-instated so that he can go into the Hall of Fame, a right he himself waived.
There’s a dated ideology that players need to be role models. Personally, I think the entire idea behind that is bogus because it’s nobody else’s job other than your own to raise your children. Yet, the dated cliché is from more of an older generation mindset and usually, there’s a correlation with the age of the mindset. It’s a more baseball-traditionalist mindset. Those same people are the same people who love Pete Rose, who cite “he played hard which is what I want my kids to see. He played the game the right way.” He did not play the game the right way as he bet on it as a manager and jeopardized the integrity of it. Yet, how much of a role model is Pete Rose? He’s on the lifetime ineligible list for commiting a crime and including the sport in it. He committed a crime when he evaded his taxes. He committed a crime when he raped underaged girls throughout the ’70s and ’80s, something he did while he was still playing baseball. There are legitimate court documents now in the public domain of Pete Rose admitting in a sworn affidavit that he had an affair with an underaged “Jane Doe” in the 1970s. Not to mention, traditionalists tore apart Chipper Jones for his extra-marital affair leading to a child, but the same thing happened to Pete Rose during his first marriage. Pete Rose is a garbage human being and one of the worst role models you could find across sports. Pete Rose is a conceited narcissist who still thinks that his actions should not have consequences. Teammate Johnny Bench went on the Dan Patrick Show not too long ago and was asked whether or not Pete Rose should be in Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame catcher was rather candid:
His own teammates elected, such as Bench and the now-deceased Joe Morgan, don’t think he should be in the Hall of Fame. These are players who know the man behind the player, who saw the player firsthand more than anybody else and who had strong relationships with the players. Frankly, Pete Rose’s own teammates do not want him in.
When Philadelphia teammate Michael Schmidt, also in the Hall of Fame, was asked about whether Rose should be included his response was “Pete Rose will never be in the Hall of Fame. We can talk all we want about whether he’s deserving of the Hall of Fame, but there are certain rules and regulations that makes talking about it ridiculous. We all know about his personal life of being banned from the game and living a lie for a lot of years and fessing up to it and the questions about how contrite he was after that. I’m just giving a realistic opinion because of the commissioner’s position on it, the current Hall of Famers’ position on it, guys with votes position on it.”
So, why has this topic come up again? It’s been written about ad-nauseum and most probably won’t change their mind from their already-decided stance. MLB has recently made deals with a number of sports betting sites, MGM being the largest, as a way to bring in more revenue and allowing fans to bet on the games. That said, players and managers are still barred from participating to protect the integrity of baseball. This means that the rule that Pete Rose broke is still in tact. There’s a rightful outrage of Rob Manfred changing the rules of baseball, yet a lot of the people outraged want to change one of the biggest rules solely so Pete Rose can receive what he himself was so arrogant to agree to not receive. There’s a movement of people wanting to celebrate a mediocre ballplayer and scumbag human being solely because of their own nostalgia, while not holding the man accountable for his own actions. They’d also be willing to sacrifice the integrity of the game to do so. His own teammates that worked hard to follow the rules of the game don’t think he should be included and for good reason. Character clause is a real thing and why players such as Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Rafael Palmeiro are still on the outside looking in.
Follow me on Twitter: @TheJameus.
Like me on Facebook here.