With the ever-controversial Pete Rose’s induction into the Reds Hall of Fame last weekend, I wanted to write a hot take on the young fan’s perspective of Charlie Hustle. It would be captivating, uncompromising, and maybe a bit risque, but then…I came up with nothing. Everything vitriolic that fans and writers have wanted to say about Rose has already been said. At this point, Pete Rose hot takes have been thawed and reheated so many times that only the older generation can still bear to stomach the mush.

To me, born six years after Rose retired for good, the former great is at best a petty annoyance; at worst an eyesore on the organization. He’s a bit like the dad who will flirt with a young waitress in front of his wife. There’s a mild distaste that follows Rose, a certain grime that crawls up my skin every time I hear his name. None of which is intended to be a mark on Pete Rose’s character: A lifetime ban from your career choice does speak for itself after all.

But all of my twice-removed judgement seems a bit unfair: I don’t know Pete Rose and likely never will. That’s why I believe Jason Linden put it best the other day on Twitter, both refusing to pass judgment on Rose and reminding me, and hopefully others, that celebrities are still people and we’re only armchair judges.

Yet, I’m not going to write a piece just to say: “Pete Rose is a human being who has made his fair share of mistakes but so have we all and maybe we should let good, ole Charlie ride off into the sunset?” That piece is boring. Also, blatantly wrong.

Yes, Pete is human and has made his fair share of mistakes, but normal human beings are still held accountable for those mistakes. His legacy cannot be untarnished with a wave of the hand and a “boys will be boys” utterance.

And that’s where the impetus for this rambling, contradictory diatribe lies: Can Rose be legendary? Is it possible for him to embody the near mythic status that Reds’ fans have attached to him? Do young fans even want him to be legendary?

Yes, no, and just look at Ronaldo.

Surprisingly, Rose and the Portuguese soccer savant have far more in common than any red-blooded, Skyline chili eating American Reds fan would dare admit.

Both excel at being irrelevant to American audiences–Pete as a retiree, Ronaldo as a soccer player.

Both excel (or excelled) at what they do best.

Both think themselves to be the most important person in the world, throw the occasional tantrum, and revel in their own vanity time and again.

Both have been undeniably surpassed by a quieter, more “respectable” peer, and both are only loved by those who are forced to put up with them.

So, do young fans want Pete Rose to be legendary? I would say no. We have our Ichiro, who–despite what Twitter eggs and internet trolls may say–has had one of the most impressive Major League Baseball careers in the live ball era. I won’t enter the debate on who is or isn’t the Hit King, but remember that Ichiro has consistently faced harder-throwing, better pitchers during his American career than Rose did in the 80s.

Young fans don’t need Rose to be legendary and, at least in my case, would prefer him not to be. This whole Rose situation has diverted attention from nearly a full generation of Reds stars just by lingering in the background.

Ronaldo may be the best European-born player in the world, but all his fame does is overshadow and belittle the more interesting, albeit less talented players around him. Pete Rose may be the best Reds player in the club’s history, but right now, he just needs to go away.

35 Responses

  1. kmartin

    Wes, thanks for your perspective on Rose. You say: “I don’t know Pete Rose and likely never will.” I have always maintained that you cannot truly appreciate Pete unless you grew up in a Cincinnati working class neighborhood during his era. He was one of us who through grit and determination made it big. For us he will never go away.

  2. geolandman

    Rose didn’t face as good of pitching as Ichiro? I guess HOFers like Koufax, Gibson, Seaver, Marichal, Ryan, etc weren’t good pitchers.

    • Patrick Jeter

      On average, pitchers are throwing harder, and relievers are becoming more specialized.

      It is pretty much a fact that it is more difficult to hit now than it was previously…its like the time value of money.

      If Babe Ruth were to be plopped down today to face the current pitching, he’d be one of the worst hitters in the league. However, if he were to be born today with the same training and nutrition available today, he’d likely still develop into the guy he was.

      So, the fact that pitching is harder to hit isn’t all that relevant because guys have better training and equipment to deal with the pitchers.

      That’s why era-adjusted stats, like wRC+ and OPS+ are the best at comparing players from different eras. These tell us that Ruth, for example, was better when compared to his peers than just about anyone else. But if Votto were to be transported back to 1920, he’d hit .450 with 80 homers every year. It’s just a completely different game.

      • MrRed

        It’s always an interesting debate, Patrick. I tend to think that if hitters in the past were to face the pitching of today….they’d adjust. Throwing harder does it make it more challenging to hit. But there’s more to it than that. Hitters of the past had the eye hand coordination. They would just need to adjust their timing. That’s something that can be fixed. Quite easily.

        But, as you mentioned, there’s a lot of factors to be considered when extrapolating what players of today and yesterday might be able to do against each other. It’d be amazing to Kershaw pitching to Ruth. Or Feller squaring off against Trout.

      • doofus

        Many ‘ifs’ in your argument PJ.

      • Patrick Jeter

        That’s how you make an argument. If (zing) it were fact, it wouldn’t be called an argument.

        Either way, all the evidence suggests exactly what I said. There is zero evidence to suggest pitchers were as good (or better) in the past as a group. Yes, every era has great pitchers. As an aggregate, they get better and better because of technology, training, nutrition, etc.

      • geolandman

        There were less teams then so you faced their aces more often also. How hard did guys throw then (pre radar gun)?

  3. Bill

    As someone older but too young to have remembered Pete play,I disagree. Pete does not need to go away. He is part of the history on not only the Reds but the city of Cincinnati. We can all agree he has done a lot of stupid things and is his own worst enemy, but that doesn’t take away from what he did on the field.

  4. Patrick Jeter

    Good opinion piece, Wes.

    I think Rose belongs in the Reds HOF, but his lifetime ban is likely correct at the MLB level. With that said, I’d like to see more consistency in punishments across the board. You can assault someone (Rougned Odor) and get a few games suspension. But make some wagers? Lifetime ban.

    • Gaffer

      One of those things happens on the field and does not affect the outcome, thermakes us not trust the outcomes of the games. It’s a pretty fair double standard.

  5. FreePizza

    Well stated, Wesley, and those of us who were sickened by the events of last weekend appreciate your bravery in posting this. I WAS alive when Rose played and I still don’t want his immortalized face anywhere near Larkin, Big Klu, or Lombardi. The point is not that Pete Rose was not a great baseball player. The point is not that he “made mistakes” or “isn’t perfect.” That’s a weak argument, as no one who doesn’t want him in expects that. If, for example, he were guilty of just the tax evasion and not the gambling, I’d have no problem with him in the HOF. (And no, I don’t think steriod users should be in either.)
    The point is that he broke a very basic rule over and over and over again, practically daily, for YEARS if not decades– as a player and as a manager. And then lied about it for years more to the very fan base that worshipped him. He lied to me and everyone else who cares about the Reds and even baseball. The fact that the fan base just overlooks this is pathetic and enabling. I’m not just embarrassed by Rose, but by my fellow Reds fans over this.
    It’s not like he accidentally ate a grass brownie the night before a drug test without knowing what was in it. It was deliberate, it was willful, and it was constant.
    And his plaque doesn’t even mention the ban. Oh, you broke baseball’s cardinal rule for decades at a time? No problem. You’re excused as you’re just good at it. It’s a horrible message and I cancelled my HOF membership because of it despite being a big time supporter until then. I’m sure they made a ton of money last weekend, though, to make up for it.
    The ban is the direct result of repeated decisions Pete Rose made, by himself and for himself. No one grabbed number 14 out of a cosmic hopper and said “Sorry, no HOF for you.” I’m grateful for his on-field contributions but it’s not like he would ever vanish from the memory of baseball. Plenty of worthy players aren’t in for various reasons.
    Pete once complained that there were statues of Morgan and Bench outside GABP, but not him. Well, there was a reason for that, up until now, and it was because of his own behavior. So those of you who are currently complaining to RN just for publishing this piece–I’m sure you can look forward to going through this circus all over again in a few years when the inevitable statue shows up. Just wait for the next bad current Reds team.

    • MrRed

      Actually, you won’t have to wait too long. They are planning on adding his statue next year. Got to have a reason for Reds fans to show up amidst another long losing season, right?

      I agree with your main point though. He wasn’t a great human being and he broke the cardinal rule many times over and lied about it even more. The Reds HOF induction is the great compromise. It’s as far as he’ll go. And hopefully, this is the gateway to moving on for him and for everyone.

  6. vegastypo

    I don’t think anybody is trying to “untarnish” Pete Rose’s career. Or his reputation. He deserves every bit of praise for his playing career, and every bit of scorn for his actions after that. … What’s unfortunate is that the younger generation was around only to see what came later for Rose without getting to experience what made him so great from 1963 on.

    The ‘he just needs to go away’ comes off as a little harsh, but OK, a generational thing, I suppose.

    By the way, I wrote my thoughts on Rose and Ichiro and this ‘hit king’ stuff several days ago at vegastypo.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/pete-rose-the-hit-queen/

  7. sultanofswaff

    Read “The Machine”. It will tell you everything you need to know about Rose the man. He was the heart of that team, the guy would take rookies under his wing and keep the veterans on their toes. Exactly the kind of guy I’d want to play with and for. I also believe that he was predisposed to addictive behaviors as evidenced by his womanizing and gambling. If his gambling came to light in 2016 instead of 30 years ago, he would receive far different treatment imo. Societal attitudes about addiction issues are far different now and proper diagnosis/treatment could’ve minimized the fallout both personally and professionally.

  8. Joey

    As a lifelong, passionate baseball fan, and fanatic of the Reds; I completely agree. I’m nearly thirty years old and remember being a two and three year old telling my parents Pete was my favorite “teamer.” Pete has a lore for me that is heavily tainted with, as you put it: grime. Yes, to me, he was the quintessential Red/Cincinnatian, and on top of that; one of the greatest hitters of all time. I just cannot get around the off the field issues that has encompassed his time since his ban. As with most fans, his suspension has nothing to do with how I choose to feel about Pete; I just happen sit on the other side of the fence as the populous in Cincinnati does. To your point, Pete isn’t going to ever be the legend he could have been with the millennial generation because Pete destroyed the trust with anyone who he had not fooled during his playing days.

  9. Nick Kirby

    Great stuff Wes. I always like to say could you imagine how Reds fans would think of Pete Rose if he played the majority of his career with the Cardinals? He’d be burned at the stake.

  10. Patrick Butler

    good read, thought farcical to suggest Rose faced lesser pitching. Expansion has so diluted the talent pool in MLB, really not a fair comparison to make. specialty guys, set up, relievers a different wrinkle, to be sure, but Pete faced best of best during what is considered by most to be golden era of baseball.

  11. Chuck Schick

    I often wonder what would’ve occurred had he told the truth in 1989….resigned, agreed to counseling and committed to staying away from dirtbags. Would he be in the HOF? Perhaps. Would his legacy be different? Absolutely.

    He was a great player….who also benefitted from being in the right place at the right time. When Morgan, Bench, Pinson, Robinson, Foster, Perez, Tolan, May are batting behind you ….and you have limited home run power…you’re going to see a lot of fastballs. To his credit, he capitalized…and his physical endurance was tremendous.

    He is the Hit King….he’s also the Out King. He played in more winning games than anyone. He also played in the 4th most losing games. He is the beloved, native son….who left for more money. He was a scrappy winner…who took up a roster spot in 1986 that should’ve gone to someone else. He always bet on his team to win…but chose not to bet if the pitching match up was bad.

  12. Earl Nash

    From what I have gathered, there are more than a few Philly fans of a certain age that really like Pete too, so I don’t think it is quite all just Cincy.

    As great as Pete’s and the Machine’s accomplishments were, they are only one of many in baseball over the past half century. There are alot of legendary stars including his team mate Johnny Bench that are pretty iconic, I think Rose’s transgressions and banishment from baseball and perhaps more importantly TV is why he might not be considered as trancendant.

  13. IndyRedMan

    I tell you one thing! I don’t condone Pete’s actions BUT

    If someone forced Votto to bet $100k on the Reds that night then he probably wouldn’t be Mr. Chuckles over there at 1B when we’re down 13-1 in the 3rd inning?

    • Matt WI

      I’m not sure I understand your point here. Are you suggesting that Joey wasn’t serious enough or mad enough about losing last night? The same Joey Votto who is frequently criticized for cursing, being uptight and no fun, being too serious, and who stated he’d rather retire than stink at the game he works tirelessly at?

      • MrRed

        Yeah, I got to agree with Matt here. Indy, I’d pick a different player to try and make your point. Votto is as intense as they come. And he didn’t need any greenies to get that way.

        Also, I’ve always wondered this: is your keyboard out of whack? You have ? where periods should be.

  14. daytonnati

    I have friends who have never been to France, never want to go to France, don’t understand why you go to France, aren’t interested in hearing about what you think of France, but will tell you everything that is wrong with France. This opinion piece reminded me of those people.

    I ran out of sympathy for Pete years ago. I agree with Chuck Shick that had he sincerely “reconfigured his life” as Bart Giamatti recommended, he would have been allowed back in the game at some point. Pete did not listen, perhaps did not even understand what Giamatti meant. I dropped in and out of the coverage of Pete this past weekend. I think the whole was as much of a marketing ploy as anything else. The Reds have done a good job of milking every last drop of revenue out of the Big Red Machine and, to a lessor extent, The Nasty Boys as they could. It doesn’t hurt anyone. And, it was fun and sad to see all my heroes together. We know how much we have aged looking at them. One thing we have that you younger fans do not – for almost a decade, WE WERE THE YANKEES.

    Finally, had Pete never gambled, and retired with honor, the four legends introduced at the All Star game last year, would probably have included two Reds.

    Oh, and France is beautiful.

    • MrRed

      I’ve spent quite a bit of time in France. I think it’s beautiful too.

      I also watched Rose play quite a bit. Thought he was a great player too.

      But Wes still makes valid points. So where does that leave us?

      He’s not telling you that you can’t enjoy what Rose represented on the diamond or what he meant to fans that watched him play. But this is also the same man that made many terrible decisions. Addiction or not. Some choose to get help. Others do not. In that case, you can only have so much sympathy for him.

  15. TR

    I appreciate the article by a young man born six years after Pete left the playing field. For those of us who saw Pete Rose play, the saga of his gambling and banishment from the HOF seems to never end. I paid little attention to last weekends Reds HOF ceremonies because, to me, it was a forgone conclusion. I don’t think Pete Rose is the greatest Reds player ever, but no one I ever saw played the game with more intensity.

  16. Gaffer

    The real person who is hurt by Rose is Johnny Bench. He was the superior player, a player who stayed in Cincinnati his whole career, and other than having a few (or more than a few) beers was a better overall guy. How many articles about Bench in the last 10 years have we read?

    • TR

      But, overall, Bench is regarded as the best catcher to ever play the game.

  17. redsfan06

    First off, I will say it is difficult to compare players of a different era. And I will agree in general that Ichiro has faced harder throwing pitchers across the board. But Rose played from 1963 – 1968 when the pitching mound was 15″ high. After 1968, dubbed the “Year of the Pitcher”, MLB lowered the mound to 10″.

    In 1968, MLB average ERA was 2.98. Bob Gibson led the NL with a 1.12 ERA. MLB batting average was .237. Rose hit .335 that year, leading all of baseball. That was 98 points higher than the MLB average. In none of Ichiros’ seasons has the ERA or batting average been that low. And I do not believe he had any seasons where he hit almost 100 points higher than the average hitter.

    Based upon actual statistics, it is questionable to claim Ichiro played in an era where it was more difficult to hit.

  18. doofus

    My grandfather told me a story years ago of how he met Pete’s father in the gambling joints across the river in KY. Pete grew up in that environment.

  19. doofus

    For me Pete Rose lead off for the Big Red Machine. He did it very well. Watching the BRM (Little Joe, my grandfather called him Flipper because he flipped his left arm when he was at bat, Dawgie, Johnny, Davey, Sparky, et al) was entertainment, it was a release, it was fun, it was a game. It’s a shame that some of today’s fans are so judgmental, invoking their politically correct views upon people and their character flaws to totally detract from what players did on the field.

    • Wesley Jenkins

      See I would argue you have it backwards: so many people use a player’s accomplishments in a meaningless game to justify character flaws and illegal actions

  20. Chuck Schick

    Pete Rose’s failings are often blamed on his environment. Yet, Burfict and Pac Man are just thugs.

  21. wyoRedsfan

    2 observations of millennials:
    1. what have you done for me lately
    2. history is bunk

    • Wesley Jenkins

      1: Uber, Facebook, Twitter, blogging (cough cough), Netflix, and I’ll go ahead and claim Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Jose Fernandez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Clayton Kershaw

  22. Steve Schoenbaechler

    It’s only because you didn’t grow up watching him play.

    Hey, compared to Trump, Pete acts like an angel.

    As for his gambling, I could understand what he did. The dude is a competitor. When his body wasn’t allowing him to compete anymore, he needed an outlet. That came in gambling. How to be most successful at that? Bet on what he knew the most about. What was that? Baseball. Just remember, anything he’s done isn’t considered illegal by most all other standards.