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Rose wants more than a foot in the door at baseball's Hall of Fame

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2003

Dracula must be Pete Rose's press agent. How else to explain a cause that was laid to rest a half-dozen times since 1989 climbing out of the grave yet one more time at the start of this week?

Scarier still, Rose used this latest ''exclusive'' interview not just to lobby for reinstatement to baseball and a spot on the Hall of Fame ballot. It turns out he's got grander plans. He wants his old job back.

''I love baseball. I love to teach baseball. I love young players. I love veteran players,'' Rose told ESPN. ''I'd like to rebuild something. I think I proved that I can handle people and I learned some things in those 4 1/2 years (as the Reds manager in the late 1980s) that would help me become a better manager if I ever had the chance again.''

We'll get to the reason why Rose should never, ever be given the chance again, but first a note about timing.

In what's become an all-too-familiar pattern, no sooner do rumors begin floating that Rose and major league baseball have struck a behind-the-scenes deal than his mug is plastered all over the screen peddling vague memories and a series of half-truths calculated to blur the facts.

This time, at least, MLB went out of its way to set the record straight.

''Totally unfounded, totally unsubstantiated'' and ''journalistically irresponsible'' were just a few of the phrases chief operating officer, Bob DuzPuy applied to a Web site report that Rose has already signed an agreement to be reinstated in 2004 and free to manage, or take any other job in baseball without restrictions, starting in 2005.

Though Baseball Prospectus (which provides content for ESPN) said it was standing by its report, DuPuy insisted there was ''no decision, no agreement, no nothing.''

Let's hope so.

Rose didn't mention any deals, but it wouldn't be the first salient fact he's ever left out. He admits to a gambling problem when he wants sympathy and denies it when victimhood makes it easier to sell souvenirs.

In the past, Rose set up a booth down the block from the Hall of Fame during the week of induction ceremonies and held pity parties, slipping out of his sackcloth and ashes just long enough to ring up customers' purchases. And he rarely failed to tell people heading over to the Hall that, ''if I were a dope addict, my name would already be on a plaque down the street there.''

Of course, that conveniently left out his own felony conviction and continuing tax problems, his gambling habit and the confession that got him bounced from baseball in the first place.

The only time he referred to any of those in his latest interview, it was under the collective heading ''some mistakes.''

As in: ''I think I can be an asset to baseball because, there again, we know we made some mistakes ... ''

Though more people seem inclined to demand that Rose admit those mistakes including that he bet on baseball that's almost beside the point as it relates to managing. No matter how many things he admits to, every bad decision Rose ever made from the bench would invite the kind of doubts he'll never shed.

Consider: In each of his four full seasons on the job, from 1985 to 1988, he led Cincinnati to four consecutive second-place finishes. Not bad, by any measure. But what to make of the fact that the first full season after Rose's departure, with Lou Piniella in charge, the Reds led the division wire-to-wire and swept the Oakland A's in the World Series?

Not much, if you listen to Pete.

''Is there an owner that would give me an opportunity? I have to think so,'' he said. ''I don't want to sound cocky or brash or anything, but there's two things I'm going to bring to the table I'm going to win, and I'm going to put people in the seats. If you're not interested in doing any of those things, don't call my number.''

At least one owner probably has.

Late last year, there were reports of meetings between Rose and commissioner Bud Selig about rescinding the lifetime ban put in place by Bart Giamatti, one of Selig's predecessors. Those talks bogged down quickly after Rose was spotted at all his familiar haunts the racetracks, and casinos and sports books in Las Vegas.

Rose has often said the reason he hangs out in such places and takes so many questionable outside employment opportunities as a greeter, shill and spokesman is because he's banned from making a living inside baseball. Funny how that never kept him away from those places during his playing and managing career.

None of that, apparently, has discouraged Cincinnati owner Carl Lindner from pushing for Rose's reinstatement, mainly so the Reds can rehire him soon after.

Some people never learn.

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke@ap.org.



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