- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Pete Rose belongs in the baseball Hall of Fame, lies and all.

His initial act of contrition, more than 14 years after the fact, is distinct from his accomplishments as a player.

It always has been so, this conundrum that ever weighs before baseball.

The quality of the apology, deemed lacking so far, is incidental.

No contrived apology tour should be necessary to commemorate what he once was.

The impending public spectacle is in bad taste, even if initiated by the all-time hit leader to pump book sales.

His contribution to America’s landfills is expected to be significant, considering the initial press run of 500,000 books.

America is forever a sucker for a sucker, the title of which in this case is: “My Prison Without Bars.”

O.J. Simpson probably feels the same on those days he is not in hot pursuit of the “real killers.”

His quest could be re-worked into the title of a best-selling tome as well, thusly: “My Search for the Real Killers.”

Rose, as he concedes, died a number of years ago. He just has not had the courtesy to hold a wake.

His lifetime ban from baseball should not be lifted, just re-worked to permit his place in Cooperstown.

That would eliminate most of the sympathy that has been dispensed in his honor over the years.

America is a forgiving place, doubly so with the famous.

Wacko Jacko is Exhibit A in this regard, a middle-aged picture of androgyny who, with a straight, wax museum-like face, insists it is perfectly all right to sleep with little boys above the cheers of his supporters.

Rose comes with an equally icky feel to him, perhaps because of the confluence of mom and apple pie.

Even his lies are not as good as they once were.

“I just never had the opportunity to tell anybody that was going to help me,” he says in an interview with ABC News that will air tomorrow night.

There is a support group for just about everyone in America, Gamblers Anonymous just one of many.

Rose always has tried to bolster his argument by comparing his hard-line lot to the benevolence shown druggies and alcoholics, both of whom undermine the sanctity of their bodies instead of the game. The latter is Rose’s sin, so long as baseball remains unwilling to adopt the form of professional wrestling.

A more apt comparison to Rose would be those home run bashers feasting on performance enhancing cuisines. Seeing is not necessarily believing in both instances.

Rose managed a baseball team as he bet on it.

He now asks that you believe one never influenced the other.

By the time he is done with his mea culpa rounds, his Pinocchio-like nose is likely to stretch as far as a broomstick.

His television interviews should merit the following scrawl at the bottom of the screen: “He could be lying.”

This is the Rose today, a sad remnant of the figure who once embodied the kid-like innocence of the game.

He was a throwback in the establishment-rocking times of the ‘60s, when he broke into the big leagues with his hometown Reds. He was a crew cut-wearing bundle of energy who raced to first base on walks.

He was hardly a prodigious baseball talent, just a hard-working sort who immersed himself in the game’s religion-like culture.

He was the dreamer who beat the steep odds before succumbing to a wicked self-indulgent streak and an overwrought sense of entitlement. He was the quintessential giver who became the quintessential taker, the two extremes especially jarring to those who cling to the game’s illusions.

Rose, as the ultimate winner and loser, is the head on both sides of a coin that has rolled onto the desk of commissioner Bud Selig yet again.

Whatever Selig decides, he is certain to annoy.

The public-splitting issue of Rose might as well come packaged in the blue and red states of the last presidential election.

A bust of Rose’s likeness in the Hall of Fame is the compromise that has the capacity to end this tortuous drama.

He earned his place there, just as he earned his lifetime ban from baseball.

Not to recognize the good would be petty at this point.

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