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Nick Cafardo | On baseball

Isn’t it time to forgive Pete Rose and put him in Hall of Fame?

In interviews over the last week, Pete Rose’s mantra has been that he’s “not the same person he was 20, 25 years ago.”
In interviews over the last week, Pete Rose’s mantra has been that he’s “not the same person he was 20, 25 years ago.”(David Mercer/Associated Press)

CINCINNATI — There is no debate in this neck of the woods. Pete Rose should be reinstated. Pete Rose is a Hall of Famer. Pete Rose is “Our Bad Guy.”

Despite revelations by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” last month that Rose also bet on baseball as a player-manager in addition to the Dowd Report saying he bet as a manager, Cincinnati has forgiven him for transgressions that got him banned from baseball 26 years ago.

Until new commissioner Rob Manfred ruled that Rose would be allowed to participate in baseball events and to work as an analyst for Fox Sports on baseball telecasts, Rose had not been at a baseball venue in an official capacity. At least that much has been lifted.

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Rose’s most oft-spoken line during various interviews he’s given the past week, including a Fox conference call last week, is, “I’m not the same person I was 20, 25 years ago.”

He has been appreciative that Manfred will at least listen to his appeal for reinstatement after the All-Star festivities are over, but he probably knows his odds aren’t great that Manfred will say, “OK Pete, you’ve paid the price for 26 years. You’re back in.”

At a Fanfest event Monday in Cincinnati, Manfred, asked by Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman whether the Rose affection is a “Cincinnati or Ohio thing” Manfred responded, “There’s no doubt that the vast majority of the mail that I get is from people who live in Cincinnati or who were from Cincinnati originally, big Pete Rose fans,” Manfred said. “But I get mail from people all around the country on the topic. It’s a topic that’s of interest to people and it’s one that we’ll deal with.”

Rose has had a tough time convincing the powers that be that the 26-year sentence is enough. There are hard-liners who believe Rose committed the most mortal sin of all, and that redemption should never come.

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The high-horsers won’t relent. Deep down, Rose can’t possibly think anything’s going to change. That the mind-boggling 4,256 hits he got in major league baseball will never make him a Hall of Famer.

Shouldn’t the BBWAA, or the Veterans Committee, have the opportunity to decide whether Rose should enter the Hall of Fame as the player with the most hits, the most plate appearances, the most games in the history of the sport?

“He’s paid the price, let him free,” said Steve, a 35-year-old Cincinnatian and father of four, all of whom were dressed in Reds garb in the downtown area Monday morning. “We’ve lived here all of our lives, and nobody is more loved than Pete. I would like to teach my kids this: that Pete Rose did something bad. He broke the rules and he suffered the consequences. But he also did great things in his life and he should be remembered for them.”

It seems like a good lesson. Forgiveness. We talk about it. It sounds great. But when you actually come down to doing it, well, things get in the way.

In a sport that often can have ambiguity in its rules, Rule 21 (d) is clear and concise.

“BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year. Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

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There it is. The only opening is that Rose can apply for reinstatement. That is like granting parole for time served. Rose’s critics will say that he lied about betting on baseball for some 15 of those 26 years.

That he didn’t admit to it until he was about to make a profit on a book he wrote in which he finally came clean.

If that’s part of being the new Pete, then so be it. Everybody changes, evolves, and tries to be a better person. Was gambling a disease for Rose? Should it be perceived like alcoholism or a drug addiction; that he couldn’t stop, an affliction that overtook him during those years? His critics don’t believe gambling is an addiction. A lot of Americans don’t.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system much like drugs such as alcohol can, leading to addiction. If you’re prone to compulsive gambling, you may continually chase bets, hide your behavior, deplete savings, accumulate debt, or even resort to theft or fraud to support your addiction. Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can destroy lives. Although treating compulsive gambling can be challenging, many compulsive gamblers have found help through professional treatment.”

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Or maybe Rose was just a guy who placed a few bets. Who really knows what was happening to him during that time.

“He should be in the Hall of Fame. One hundred percent,” said former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. “If you don’t want to put him in as a manager put him in as a player. He didn’t make mistakes as a player.”

Papelbon apparently had not heard the report that he had bet as a player.

Others, such as Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy, Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and MLB executive Frank Robinson were fence-straddlers, acknowledging Rose’s tremendous feats, but backing MLB’s stand.

Nobody, besides Papelbon, was willing to take a complete stand.

“It’s not for me to say,” said agent Scott Boras, who put the responsibility of Rose’s future in the hands of the Hall of Fame. “It’s one thing the Hall of Fame needs to be clear about. Another is the PED issue. I wonder why the governing body of it can’t do that. I don’t know. These are the exclusionary factors for the Hall of Fame. There are players with statistical merits in the PED issue. Right now it’s just writers saying this is how I vote. It’s subjective. Matters on things other than performance is where we need to get the Hall to take a firm step.”

Stop any person on the streets of downtown Cincy wearing a Reds jersey and all you get is “We love Pete!” A group of five young adult men wearing Reds garb started a “Free Pete!” chant.

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“He’s the greatest hitter who ever lived,” declared a middle-aged gentleman from Cincinnati, who called himself Pudge. “The way he’s been treated is a joke. Maybe when he dies, people will come over to the other side. It’s a shame that he may not be able to enjoy it even if it is lifted.”

When Rose is announced Tuesday before the All-Star Game as one of the Reds’ Franchise Four (along with Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Barry Larkin) the ovation likely will be spine-tingling.

And one wonders whether this might be the last baseball public appearance Rose will ever make.

Isn’t it time to forgive?


Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.