Ball's in Bud's court

No issue looms larger this offseason than Pete Rose's future in the game.

Originally Published: November 19, 2003
By Tim Kurkjian | ESPN The Magazine

The Pete Rose file is on the desk of commissioner Bud Selig. It is not a priority item at this time, Selig will get to it eventually, though certainly not in the next week. There are indications that the all-time hit leader will be reinstated to baseball, but it is not a certainty.

Pete Rose
Pete Rose's wish is to manage again, possibly in Cincinnati.

If Rose is reinstated, a probationary period of roughly one year will follow, but Rose essentially has been on probation since this issue surfaced a year ago. One Major League Baseball official said that since then, Rose has acted "admirably,'' meaning he has not hurt his chances.

If Rose is reinstated, any employment he receives within baseball would have to be approved by Selig, who is the judge in this case. Rose wants to manage again, but at this point, the chances of that appear, at best, minimal. Selig has the power to rule that Rose would not be allowed to manage as long as he is commissioner; Rose likely would not sign an agreement that includes such a clause. It's possible that, after a probationary period, Rose would be allowed to manage if a team hired him. Again, that appears highly unlikely.

There will be, however, flashing lights everywhere in Cincinnati if Rose is reinstated, and, someday, will be allowed to manage. A recent Internet poll in Cincinnati showed that, by a two-to-one count, fans said they would attend more games if Rose was the manager. He has been forgiven in most pockets of that town. The Reds are 60 games under .500 the last three years. Next season doesn't look to get significantly better. Attendance in 2003 should have been better in the first year in a new ballpark. Cincinnati has one of the richest baseball traditions in baseball history, and that town is tired of losing.

The Reds haven't settled on a manager for 2004. Dave Miley, who was named on an interim basis after Bob Boone was fired last year, is still the interim manager. There is no guarantee that he will be back next year. There are people in Cincinnati, and perhaps some within the Reds, who believe that Rose would be the perfect guy to invigorate the Reds as he's done in the past. In 1984, late in the season, Rose (as a player-manager) took over a team that was 21 games out of first place, was coming off consecutive last-place finishes, had a young pitching staff and an aging lineup. From 1985-88, Rose guided the Reds to four straight second-place finishes (then the second team in modern history to do that), but no trips to the playoffs.

As unsettled as the situation in Cincinnati may be, the club is not operating under the assumption that the manager in 2004 will be looking over his shoulder wondering when it will be Rose's turn again. Too much has to happen before it reaches that point. But who knows, someday, maybe it will. If it does, maybe Rose, without the itch to play himself instead of a younger man, and without the lure of gambling, will become an excellent manager.

But it's getting late. Rose is 62 years old. He has been out of the game for 15 years. He still has a chance to get back in it, though at least as much on Selig's terms as on his. The first step would be reinstatement, which for Rose, who spent his whole career trying to score runs, would be the equivalent of hitting a single. He might not get to circle the bases this time, but he hit 3,215 singles in his great career -- one more at least would be a start.

Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a regular contributor to Baseball Tonight. E-mail tim.kurkjian@espnmag.com.

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