Under The Bleachers: Pete Rose, Alex Rodriguez And The Baseball Hall Of Fame

Above: Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez

Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez will probably never end up being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the former as a result of having gambled on games when he was both a player and a manager, the latter for his admitted use of steroids and because he’s pretty much universally disliked.

Rose is baseball’s all-time hits leader.

Rodriguez is one of three men with 3,000-plus hits and 600-plus home runs; the other two are Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Two of the most accomplished players in the history of the sport. Two men that hold incredible records compiled on the field of play. Two men that will forever see a “No Vacancy” sign hanging on the door to the Hall of Fame.

Until this week, people seemed to have cooled on the idea of keeping Rose out. It had been years since he was barred from baseball for gambling during his days as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds. After years of denying any wrongdoing, he had admitted his guilt and most people started to lean towards allowing the man who broke Ty Cobb’s record for the most hits with a single to left-center off Eric Show, feeling like “Charlie Hustle” had served his time.

But then an ESPN Outside the Lines story detailed that Rose had gambled on games during his playing days too and the response swift, stern and nearly unanimous. His shot at enshrinement was gone.

“A-Rod” became the youngest player to collect 600 home runs by launching a bomb of the Blue Jays’ Shaun Marcum in August 2010. Just a couple weeks ago, he joined “The Say Hey Kid” and “Hammerin’ Hank” as only the third player to notch 600 home runs and 3,000 career hits, reaching the milestone in style with a home run off Detroit’s Justin Verlander.

Statistically, Rodriguez would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer – 667 home runs, 2,000+ RBI, 3,000 hits, a career average right around .300 – but candidacy isn’t measured purely on stats these days and because the current New York Yankees slugger is one of the most disliked players in recent memory and another of the myriad players who has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during Major League Baseball’s hazy, home-run-heavy Steroid Era, Rodriguez probably isn’t getting voted in any time soon.

That means the all-time hits leader (Rose), the all-time home runs leader (Barry Bonds) and one of the most accomplished offensive talents to play the game (Rodriguez) will all be kept out of baseball’s hallowed hall. There is a strong likelihood that the man with the most Cy Young Awards ever (Roger Clemens) and the first guy to break the single-season home run record (Mark McGwire) won’t ever make it in either.

That’s five of the most influential and significant players in the history of the game that aren’t going to be enshrined in Cooperstown and it’s absolutely ridiculous.

Every last one of them should be in the Hall of Fame.

Whether you have to put an asterisk on their plaque or add a sentence or two about their transgressions, as ESPN’s Jayson Stark suggested in regards to Rose, they should all gain entrance because they’re the owners of some of the most impressive records in baseball history.

The fact that Rose gambled doesn’t take away from the fact that he has more hits than anyone else and will never relinquish that title. The fact that Rodriguez et al used steroids is an indelible scuff mark on the history of the game, but it’s also one that Major League Baseball and then-commissioner Bud Selig didn’t start to care about until after McGwire and Sammy Sosa went bomb-for-bomb chasing Roger Maris in 1998, Bonds got buff and started crushing balls into McCovey Cove and “The Rocket” had already reached his many milestones.

This is baseball’s history and to deny it now because it’s unpleasant, casts the game in a bad light or rewards cheaters and scoundrals feels like MLB wanting to wash its hands of the issues because they’re too ugly to actually deal with like grown ups.

“Let’s leave all the bad people outside and just keep everything in here nice and clean and pretty and neat,” as if no one currently in the Hall of Fame every tried to get a competitive advantage or did something unseemly.

Major League Baseball needs to recognize its history, warts and all. Rose, Rodriguez and the rest of the exiled players that have noteworthy accomplishments on the diamond that are barred from being enshrined need to be inducted in the near future. You don’t have to accept or excuse what they did to get put on the naughty list, but you can’t just ignore what they did on the field either.

This is your history, Major League Baseball. Deal with it like grown ups.

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