April 1, 2014 Updated: April 1, 2014 at 12:02 pm
We dwell in a bizarre baseball world. Barry Bonds just completed a cameo appearance as hitting instructor for the Giants. Mark McGwire works as the full-time hitting instructor for the Dodgers.
Bonds and McGwire used performance-enhancing drugs to fuel their collection of home runs. They were key players in a cheating scandal that rocked America's Pastime.
This is not the start of an attack on Bonds and McGwire. This is the start of a request for baseball to return to sanity and consistency.
Pete Rose belongs on the Hall of Fame ballot. Yes, he's a sleazy man who bet $116,000 on baseball during the shameful summer of 1987, but The Hit King also collected 4,256 hits over 24 glorious summers.
Bonds, McGwire and Roger Clemens are on the Hall of Fame ballot. Rose belongs alongside them.
We are, at our core, a forgiving people. Americans react with fury over the sins of the famous, but we later offer mercy. I most fully realized this truth when watching Bill Clinton deliver a speech at the 2012 Democratic Convention. (And, please, before you start shouting about Clinton, remember many of us warmed to the senior-citizen version of Richard Nixon.)
If the powers that be in baseball are willing to accept Bonds and McGwire, why can't they forgive or at least tolerate Rose?
Let's be clear: I don't want Rose working alongside young players, but there's little danger of him returning to the dugout. Rose is too old and cranky to get hired.
I do want him on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Here's one thing to consider about that ballot:
Rose might not be voted into the Hall.
Baseball writers have shown an impressive ability to bring morals into the discussion. Bonds, McGwire and other juicers may never enter baseball's ultimate shrine, and the door might remain closed to Rose, even if his name is placed on the ballot.
But if baseball justice finally arrives and Rose is placed on the ballot, I believe he will take his rightful place in Cooperstown.
He deserves for his plaque to be placed alongside Babe Ruth's and Ty Cobb's and Jackie Robinson's. And baseball fans deserve the chance to read a plaque that tells the tale of Rose's amazing and depressing career. He was the Cincinnati kid who grew up to star for his hometown team. He was the singles hitter who earned a mountain of money. And he was the reckless betting maniac who forever tarnished his legacy. His betting must be included on his plaque.
But that betting, though sordid, did nothing to boost Rose's on-field exploits. Juicing offered a massive boost for Bonds' and McGwire's inflated home-run totals.
On Friday, baseball announced increased punishment for PED cheaters. This is good news. Baseball wants to place a scare in the hearts of those who are tempted to take the wide, easy path to stardom.
But these tougher rules come at the same time McGwire works for the Dodgers. Youthful players can hear stern warnings about the perils of PEDs, and then look across the field and see McGwire working with youthful players.
That's more than a little confusing.
Rose paid for his sins, which were many. In the summer of 2008 I traveled to Cooperstown to see Goose Gossage, Colorado Springs' native son, inducted into the Hall.
I took a walk from the Hall to a small baseball memorabilia shop. There sat Rose, all alone. He was selling his autograph for $75, and no one was buying. The banished man in exile, sitting only a few hundred yards from where he yearned, and deserved, to dwell.
Yes, Rose tarnished the game. So did Bonds and McGwire.
It's time to open the doors of the Hall of Fame to The Hit King.
It's past time.