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Well, it’s that time of year again, when Pete Rose gets in our face and dredges up the best case for his reinstatement to baseball that he can possibly muster.

Actually, Pete’s early this time around. Usually he waits until the All-Star break or Hall of Fame weekend to tell us what a wonderful “ambassador for the game of baseball” he is, and how everyone in “America gets a second chance” except for him. I don’t know why he says that. After all, like other criminals, Pete went to prison, and was released. Sounds like a second chance to me.

Look, Pete Rose is the biggest piece of bleep in baseball history. He’s Barry Bonds squared, OK? He just is. And yes, I know I’m not changing any minds here. The Pete Rose debate will go on as long as there is something to debate, with few converts, just like with arguments for and against abortion or gun control. You either believe or you don’t.

But indulge me, please. Forget for a second that Rose has shown zero remorse for his crimes (actual and figurative – but mostly actual) and is as much a compulsive liar as a compulsive gambler. Forget that he’s shown no interest in healing of any kind, for him or the game, and that it’s the world against Pete Rose, and that his story changes yearly, and that he put his signature on the document which banned him from the game, waiving his customary autograph fee to boot. Forget that Rose wants baseball to say it’s sorry to him.

Forget all that. Pete Rose bet on baseball, period. He was caught Red-handed, exclamation point. Unlike the players implicated in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Rose had the best legal advice his gambling winnings could buy, and he was given due process of law. No small thing. Rose damaged baseball almost beyond repair in 1989, dragging his team and the country through the mud, refusing to step down or accept responsibility until he was busted into submission. That was as dark a year in baseball as 1994, when the World Series was canceled. People who selfishly hurt their sport to such a degree deserve to be banned from it.

“18 years is enough punishment,” you say? Bite me, pal. Not by a long-shot. Joe Jackson has been waiting for 87 years. 87! And he’s been dead half a century.

But forget all that, Rose supporters. Just answer this: Pete Rose is the man most recently placed on baseball’s list of suspended players. If you were to undo what you believe to be an unjust banning process, why in the world would you start in reverse chronological order?

Oh, I know. Let’s have baseball take up the wisdom of reinstating banned players, just generally. Say they go for it. Now, you start meticulously reviewing the cases of the Chicago Eight, and the rest of the pre and post-Depression lot, with someone like Senator George Mitchell brought in special to referee the whole thing. When that’s all done, in about, oh, 87 years, revisit the Pete Rose debate anew. Fine, time served. Make it 69 years. Meanwhile, I’ll try to get an open mind. Look me up in 2076.

Remember, glove conquers all.

— HOWARD COLE

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