No vote of confidence for Rose

Updated: December 1, 2004, 5:11 PM ET
By Ray Ratto | Special to ESPN.com

The group of names on the new Hall of Fame ballot is typically eclectic -- long on relievers, longer still on players whose principal claim to fame was lasting a long time, and cult figures who strike the fancies of some voters just out of sheer weirdness.

But the odd thing about this ballot is that there is not only no Pete Rose, but there is no longer any discernible hue and cry for his inclusion on it.

Oh, it may happen in time. Someone will say that Darryl Strawberry's years of pharmaceutical recreatives should disqualify him if Rose can't be on the ballot, or someone may stretch even further and claim that Rose cannot be excluded while Wade Boggs, the noted womanizer and chicken fiend, is eligible.

But they will be silly arguments, especially the Boggs one. Strawberry won't be a Hall of Famer anyway, because his career was more a cautionary tale of what happens when cocaine wins than of exceptional ability and achievement. Boggs might not either, certainly not on the first ballot, because the bias against batting average has taken on almost religious overtones

But what is interesting is not the Boggs or Strawberry debates, such as they are, but the complete lack of interest in fighting the Rose argument any more. It's as if his self-immolative book and PR tour last year finally wore down his final defenders, convincing them that he is no longer worthy of their time or effort on his behalf.

In other words, the Rose lobby is disbanding, not because of the weight of Bud Selig's practiced inertia or the Jesuitical argumentative skills of his detractors, but because of Rose's capacity for limitless misunderstanding of his immunity.

True, this isn't the way anyone thought his candle would go out. His was the classic old argument of athletic skill versus moral bankruptcy, and most of the time athletic skill not only wins the argument but covers the spread easily.

And it should be that way, because when it comes to determining the moral compass of the nation, a sportswriter is only slightly better at it than a defrocked Catholic priest.

In the Rose case, though, the bungled debut last year of his book in which he finally admitted that he bet on baseball (and therefore that he was a serial liar) the week of the Hall of Fame ceremonies eliminated him without ever settling the argument.

So now we're talking about Wade Boggs and Darryl Strawberry and Willie McGee (a personal favorite, since a five-minute chat on baseball with him would convince anyone that he could be a very good major league manager) and Chili Davis (another bright managerial type if ever given a shot) and the holdovers who haven't gotten a sufficient push from the electorate yet, like Jim Rice and Lee Smith and Bruce Sutter and Ryne Sandberg and Rich Gossage and Andre Dawson.

And we are not talking about Pete Rose, in a field he would easily dwarf had he not given himself over to the only two vices baseball holds to be unacceptable.

One, betting on the sport while you're involved with it.

And two, upstaging a big baseball event for your own petty needs.

Rose did both, cynically and even cheerfully, and now he is finally done, though he technically has one more shot at it next year. He is the eternal outsider, banned finally from his one last link to the game -- the Hall of Fame argument.

So now he can envy Terry Steinbach and Otis Nixon and Jeff Montgomery and Jim Abbott. They're on the ballot, and Rose isn't, and the worst they can do is get as many countable votes as he will.

None.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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