Over the past two decades, the question I've probably heard more than any other is this: Did you vote for Pete Rose for the Hall of Fame?
The answer is simple -- and Rose's case is also instructive for voters who seek some clarity on how to handle the Hall of Fame candidates associated with the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The Rose case provides a precedent.
No, I have never voted for Rose for the Hall of Fame -- and I've never had the opportunity, either. Under the terms of his agreement with then-commissioner Bart Giamatti -- which Rose signed -- the hit king was "declared permanently ineligible in accordance with Major League Rule 21 and placed on the Ineligible List."
This means that Rose is expressly forbidden from working within Major League Baseball. He does not have employment with the Cincinnati Reds, nor has he had his number officially retired by the team. He has applied for reinstatement repeatedly but has never received a formal response. There have been special events for which he has received specific permission from the commissioner to attend, such as when he was honored as a member of the All-Century Team at the 1999 World Series.
Because of Rose's banishment, he has never been listed on any ballot for the Hall of Fame -- and therefore has never been considered by the writers nor any special veterans committee.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, on the other hand, are eligible. Clemens' name is listed in the Mitchell report, but he has never been deemed permanently ineligible by the commissioner, as Rose was. In fact, Clemens has an employment agreement with the Houston Astros. The fact is that Clemens is a member in good standing, as far as Major League Baseball is concerned -- and this is reflected in the fact that his name is listed on the Hall of Fame's ballot this year, unlike Rose's.
Bonds' name is on the ballot, and he has an employment agreement with the San Francisco Giants. Mark McGwire has been a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in recent years, before taking the same job with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rose bet on baseball, and in the eyes of Major League Baseball, what Rose did was such a deep and dark threat to the soul of the game that not only was he removed as manager of the Reds, but he also was rendered persona non grata. The Hall of Fame has adopted that position as its own.
This is not the case for Bonds or Clemens or Sammy Sosa or any other player who has been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Their offense -- whether it's been acknowledged, admitted or merely alleged -- is not considered by Major League Baseball to be so terrible that it requires their formal expulsion from the sport.
McGwire, like Rose, has fully acknowledged his own malfeasance -- on Major League Baseball's own network, initially, when he sat down with Bob Costas. For this, he was not cast out; after his admission, he was hired by the Cardinals.
It wasn't long ago that the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which provides the voting for the Hall of Fame, sought some guidance from the Hall on how to handle the steroid-era candidates. What it was asking for, in a sense, was a neon sign saying: FEEL FREE TO VOTE FOR THESE GUYS or DON'T VOTE FOR THESE GUYS.
But the sign was already in place when the names of McGwire, then Rafael Palmeiro, then Clemens and Bonds and Sosa became part of the ballot.
That's an enormous distinction, as Rose knows.
Around the league
• Frank McCourt bought a new place.
Moves, deals and decisions
3. Geoff Baker reviews the Mariners' moves moving forward.
- [E]ven pitching coach Jim Hickey admits it is "unreasonable" for the Rays to expect a repeat performance from last season, when the bullpen racked up a major-league-best 2.88 ERA and closer Fernando Rodney set a record for a reliever (0.60).
"So many things have to go exactly right," Hickey said. "If I told you right now, Rodney was going to save 43 out of 49 games and have a 1.89 ERA, and that would be almost a disappointment compared to last year. They really did set the bar high.
"But I expect them to be very good, I expect them to be playoff-caliber good, and if we get into the playoffs, to take us all the way."
The late-inning core returns, with Rodney (a bargain at a $2.5 million option), RHP Joel Peralta and LHP Jake McGee. While RHP Wade Davis is gone to the Royals, RH sinkerballer Roberto Hernandez could step in if he doesn't crack the rotation. With free-agent LHP J.P. Howell and RHP Kyle Farnsworth still in the mix to return, RHP Burke Badenhop (traded to the Brewers) is the only one out of the picture.