Based on advanced statistics, Rodriguez is a much better player, ranking 16th all-time in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) according to Baseball-Reference.com, and 17th according to Fangraphs.com. Rose ranks 64th and 55th, respectively. Rose had all of those base hits but he didn’t hit for much power, was a poor percentage base stealer, and did not impress on defense, other than his positional flexibility.
*The movie “Field of Dreams” focuses on Shoeless Joe Jackson and the idea that he was unfairly included with the others and didn’t do anything to hurt his team in the series. Shoeless Joe hit .375/.394/.563 in the series. Despite this, he was banned from baseball for life because he reportedly knew about the fix and didn’t inform any officials.
(d) BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.
Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.
Three years after his playing career ended, Rose agreed to permanent ineligibility when he was accused of gambling on baseball while playing and managing the Reds. According to Wikipedia: “On August 24, 1989, Rose voluntarily accepted a permanent place on baseball's ineligible list. Rose accepted that there was a factual reason for the ban; in return, Major League Baseball agreed to make no formal finding with regard to the gambling allegations.” Despite agreeing to a permanent ban, Rose continued to deny betting on baseball and verbally attacked the lead investigator, John Dowd, repeatedly.
Despite his flaws, public sentiment appears to favor Pete Rose. He broke one of the sports’ biggest rules, then lied about it for 15 years and criticized the investigators repeatedly. Every year, he sets up shop near the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies to sell items with his signature. It seems like one of the reasons he wants to be reinstated is so that he can take advantage of the Hall of Fame tag to make even more money on the memorabilia he signs, which is not a particularly attractive desire. Still, in an ESPN.com poll of more than 439,000 voters in August of 2014, 81% of respondents said Pate Rose’s lifetime ban from baseball should be reversed. It’s likely that a high percentage of fans feel Rose should be in the Hall of Fame.
Reaching the big leagues at such a young age meant Rodriguez became a free agent prior to his age 25 season. Of course, Mariners’ fans hoped he would re-sign with the team. He did not. He famously signed the most lucrative contract in sports history at the time when he agreed to a 10-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers. Instantly, Rodriguez became public enemy number one in Seattle. He was hated, absolutely HATED there. It’s been fifteen years and I would bet most of Seattle still hates Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez played three seasons with the Yankees before exercising the opt-out clause in his contract so he could become a free agent. His agent at the time, Scott Boras (who may be the only person in baseball more hated than Rodriguez), said that he was “unsure of the future composition” of the team. Of course, fans and writers alike were displeased with Rodriguez and he had once again alienated a fan base. Within a month, though, he re-signed with the Yankees, inking a 10-year, $275 million deal that will last into his 40s.
In 2009, the rumors of Rodriguez’ use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) began with a February article in Sports Illustrated that reported Rodriguez had tested positive for anabolic steroids, testosterone, and Primobolan in 2003 (these names should never have been released; as part of the CBA agreement between baseball and the player’s union it was agreed that the 2003 survey testing results would be kept confidential). At first, Rodriguez did not confirm the allegations but he ultimately admitted to PED use from 2001 until 2003 and said he stopped using after that 2003 season when MLB began officially testing for PEDs in 2004.
As he moved into his mid-30s, Rodriguez began to suffer injuries that reduced his playing time. He played just 99 games in 2011, 122 games in 2012, and 44 games in 2013. While playing for the Yankees in 2013, it was announced that he would be suspended for the entire 2014 season because of his role in the Biogenesis scandal. Even though he had not tested positive after the 2003 survey testing, Rodriguez would be suspended for an entire year.
After sitting out all of last year, Alex Rodriguez is back playing for the Yankees as a 39-year-old and having a very good season. He’s currently hitting .289/.390/.533, with 15 home runs and 44 RBI. Based on just his offense (since he’s a DH this year), Rodriguez has been the 13th-best hitter in baseball according to Fangraphs. By WAR, which includes base running and defense, he’s 35th. During the season, Rodriguez has picked up his 3000th career hit, knocked in his 2000th run, and passed Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. He’s now behind only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth. If it were a different player, all of these accomplishments would have been celebrated around baseball. Because it’s Alex Rodriguez, the recognition of these milestones has been subdued.
So we have Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez; two baseball players who both have their faults but are looked at in much different lights. As mentioned before, in that ESPN survey last August, 81% of respondents would like to see Rose reinstated. Presumably, a similar percentage (or more) would like to see Rose in the Hall of Fame. Alex Rodriguez, though, is likely to be grouped with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in Hall of Fame purgatory.
I’m probably not in agreement with the average fan. I don’t think Pete Rose should be reinstated, meaning I don’t think he should be allowed back in baseball as a manager or coach, except perhaps as a spring training instructor. I think he should be allowed to be an announcer or an analyst or something in that area, but nothing on the field or in the dugout during the season where he could influence the outcome of the game. The rule against gambling on baseball is important and he has to pay the consequences of breaking that rule. Betting on games involving your team results in a lifetime ban. That’s it.
As for the Hall of Fame, I would put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame. I think his plaque should include not only his accomplishments on the field but also his transgressions off the filed. Both are part of his story. He should be commended for his 17 All-Star Games, his Rookie of the Year and MVP awards, and his three batting titles, but it should also be mentioned that he gambled on baseball as a player and manager and lied about it for many years after. The baseball Hall of Fame should include the player who played in more games and had more hits than any other player.
Along those same lines, I think Alex Rodriguez (and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, among others) belongs in the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds is in the conversation for the greatest player of all-time and Roger Clemens is in that conversation for pitchers. Rodriguez isn’t as good as Bonds, but he’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game. I don’t think you can have a legitimate Hall of Fame without these guys. Others may disagree, of course, and I think many people probably don’t want any of those guys in the Hall. For me, it comes down to a few things.
1. Until 2003, MLB did nothing to combat PED use in baseball. After the work stoppage in 1994, attendance fell and didn’t recover back to previous levels until the 1998 season, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both surpassed the single-season mark for home runs. Owners benefited from the high-offense era and they (and the commissioner’s office) turned a blind eye to it because money was being made. All of baseball was complicit in what was happening at this time, so I don’t feel it’s fair to single out a few players and make them the scapegoats for an entire era of baseball. Managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre have entered the Hall of Fame over the last two years and they all managed players who were/are suspected PED users. Why do they get a pass? Did they not know what was happening in their clubhouses? Even if you believe they didn’t know what was going on, is their ignorance a valid excuse? I don’t think it’s fair to keep certain players out while letting managers and executives from this same time period in. I think they knew what was going on and did nothing.
2. It’s difficult to know how much PED use affected the game in the 1990s and early 2000s because there are other factors, such as expansion, new ballparks, introduction of maple bats, a shrinking strike zone and, potentially, changes to the baseball. I believe it’s likely that many factors other than PEDs also contributed to the high offense era in baseball. Along the lines of number one above, I think the owners wanted more offense in baseball because it brought fans back to the game. The biggest factors were likely the shrinking strike zone and the composition of the ball. I know it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but the regulations for Major League Baseball are vague enough that slight differences in the ball can produce major differences in offensive performance. The official specifications for balls allow for much leeway. Balls must measure 9 to 9.25 inches in circumference across two seams and weigh from 5 to 5.25 ounces. Once they arrive at a central warehouse, approximately 28 out of every 10,000 balls are tested. In this test, balls must have a coefficient of restitution between .514 and .578. With this range, baseballs must rebound at between 43.7 and 49.1 feet per second to meet standards. The ranges for Major League baseballs are such that offensive performance can fluctuate greatly without anyone breaking any rules. See this article for more on the baseball. As a final note, if the era of high offense was due to PED use, shouldn’t Roger Clemens be allowed in the Hall of Fame because he put up such great numbers during a time that was dominated by hitting? Along those lines, if we question the hitting totals of the great hitters of this time period, then shouldn’t the great pitchers actually get MORE credit for their success during an era of inflated offense? I don’t see how you can have it both ways.
3. We don’t know how widespread PED use was. I’m under the impression that PED use was rampant during this time so I’m not one to try to decide who did and who didn’t use them. Over the last three years, we’ve seen Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas enter the Hall of Fame. Supposedly, all of these guys were “clean.” Unfortunately, we don’t really know if they were. It’s quite possible that there are players currently in the Hall of Fame who used PEDs. We know for sure that there are players in the Hall who used amphetamines, which are now banned, but no one seems to care about that PED use.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Pete Rose. New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said he would consider looking into Rose’s case for reinstatement again. As for Alex Rodriguez, he’s having a great year and hasn’t done anything yet to embarrass himself, so he’s at least on the right path. He still has two more years left on his contract and won’t be eligible for the Hall of Fame until five years after he retires. If he retires after the 2017 season, he would become eligible in 2022 and sentiments against PED users may have changed by that time. That’s his best hope.