Pete Rose Should(n’t) Be in the Hall of Fame

By Bob Hiller

Philadelphia Phillies

Given what I have written before in the name of Pete Rose, I am fully aware of how hypocritcal this post will be. But, I’m short on ideas this week, so what are you going to do? (And, to be fair, that blog was an attempt at satire…it wasn’t actually about Pete Rose…).

Since 1989, Pete Rose has been banned from baseball after he was found to have bet on games while manager of the Cincinnati Reds. More recently it was discovered that Rose bet while playing as well. It is also known that the resident of Las Vegas continues to gamble, though legally. Thus, despite Rose’s appeal for reinstatement, Rob Manfred, the new commissioner of Major League Baseball, decided not to lift the lifetime ban. This means, among other things, the Rose will not be eligible for the Hall of Fame, which formally voted in 1991 to exclude any player who had been banned from the game. So, Rose is out.

But should he be banned from the Hall? Some argue that, because of his incredible statistics, he should be eligible. However, the counter argument is pretty strong: betting on games is baseball’s cardinal sin! Of course he should be banned! There are a lot of immoral things you can do in baseball and still be eligible for the Hall of Fame (drug users like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are still eligible). But, there is no wiggle room with betting. Every player on every team before every season is given a long lecture on the dangers and consequences of betting on games. I don’t know if they had the same pre-season chats in the 1970’s, but the so called Black Sox scandal of 1919, when eight players from the Chicago White Sox were paid to throw the World Series and were subsequently banned from the game for life, ought to have been deterrent enough to anyone planning on making a little cash on the side. If you gamble, you are out. Period.

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But, Pete Rose presents an interesting case. After all, he is one of the best ever. To answer the question, “Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?” the answer based on his career is an absolute “Yes.” No question. Just look at the numbers (thanks Wikipedia!): Rose, a switch hitter, is the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs (10,328)  He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player Award, two Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year Award, and also made 17 All-Star appearances at an unequaled five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B, and 1B). That is one of the greatest Major League resumes of all time. Period. No debate. Based on his performance, old “Charlie Hustle” (Rose’s nickname) should be in the Hall of Fame.

But, because he cheated, he won’t be in the Hall of Fame. Nor should he be. Because he broke the rules. He did the very thing he was told would keep him out of the Hall. He did it as a coach and a player. The latter is far more damning, as for years he denied ever gambling as a player. What is more, he continues to gamble to this day. He gambled, lied, and continues to do both. Pete Rose should not be in the Hall of Fame.

His accomplishments should get him in. But, his sins will keep him out. If we could look at Pete Rose apart from his cheating, we could see a man who deserves to be rewarded for his good play. But, his gambling is not something you can extricate from his career. His deeds are soiled with sin, you could say. There is no Pete Rose that is not a gambler. You cannot hate the sin and love the sinner on this one. The rules of baseball just won’t allow for it. He cheated. He’s guilty. He’s out.

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For those of you who read my blog, at this point I’m sure you can see where I am going. Yep, I’m going to draw an analogy to the Law! See, I’m convinced that the world of sports offers us some remarkable analogies of what a life without the Gospel looks like. Just like life under the Law, there is grace and every blessing for those who succeed, but threats and punishments for those who transgress what is demanded.

Commissioner Manfred is a perfect picture of the Law. Though Rose appeals for mercy from the Law, the Law knows no mercy. The Law only knows threat and reward. The Law only knows what should and should not be done. The Law will not allow rewards to be given out to the most deserving of cheaters, because, the Law does not see anyone apart from their sin. For the sinner, the Law can always find something to accuse, something to expose, something to attack. It is bound to prevent the sinner from finding ultimate rewards. Sinners are not rewarded as sinners.

Life under the Law offers no hope to those bound to their sins. Pete Rose has no hope for reinstatement. That is, unless someone outside the commissioner’s office comes along and says that, though Rose is banned from baseball, the Hall of Fame will show mercy and offer eligibility to the exiles. But, this would have to be a move made apart from the ruling of Major League Baseball. This would be a decision made apart from Law altogether. Someone would have to decide to show mercy to the banned and the guilty. This is highly unlikely as life in the wide world of sports is nothing if it isn’t proudly judgmental.

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But, in the world of our Lord, that mercy has been shown, apart from Law (Romans 3:21). And it has been shown to gamblers like Pete Rose and to sinners like you and me. The Law does not see us apart from our sin and, thus, rightly condemns us for it. Kills us, even. But, the word of mercy, the word of life, the Word made flesh, Jesus, hears our appeal, the cry of dead repentance, and says, “I forgive you. You are in.” Because of that blood-bought forgiveness, that bloody absolution forgives you and lets you in! In Christ, God only and always sees you apart from your sin. He sees you in Christ to the point that, on the last day, at the great judgment seat of Christ, your Jesus only has a list of your accomplishments and doesn’t even bring up the transgressions that should keep you out. The Word is simply a gracious and surprising “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23, 33-40) (It is worth noting that in Matthew 25, Jesus doesn’t once mention the sins of those blessed to inherit the Kingdom…he must have left the list nailed to the cross! Col. 2:14).

You see, you should not get into the Kingdom. Your list of sins should keep you banned for eternity. But, wouldn’t you know it, Jesus left that list nailed to the cross! And, He’s not going back for it, you blessed sheep! We shouldn’t be in the Kingdom, but Jesus wouldn’t have us anywhere else!

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