Twenty-five years ago this August, Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life. While millions of people believe he should nevertheless be in the Hall of Fame, there are just as many millions – if not more – who believe he shouldn’t.
Rose, however, doesn’t worry about it. He won’t allow himself to, even at 73.
Perhaps especially at 73.
“I’m the one that screwed it up,” Rose said on The Morning Show. “I’m not going to deny that. Everybody that plays a sport wants to go to the Hall of Fame. That’s the ultimate goal. I know what kind of player I was. If I’m ever given a second chance, I’ll be the happiest guy in the world. But I’m the one who screwed it up. They’ll probably wait until I’m gone – like they did for (Ron) Santo and some other guys, which you really don’t understand. The Hall of Fame is more for your fans, more for your family – things like that.”
“I know what kind of player I was.”
Rose finished his career with a .303 average and 4,256 hits. He was a 17-time All-Star, a three-time World Series champion, a World Series MVP, the NL MVP and the NL Rookie of the Year.
But he committed the cardinal sin of baseball: He bet on games.
At the time, Rose didn’t think what he was doing was wrong, nor did he think it would ever come back to bite him.
“No, you didn’t think it was wrong,” he said. “I saw the (signs in the clubhouse that prohibited gambling). It wasn’t one of those deals where I was calling a bookmaker every night. I just told the guy before the season started, ‘I want my team every night.’ And I said, ‘I’ll settle up with you at the end of the year.’ Because I knew I was going to win a hell of a lot more games than I was going to lose – and I did.
“But I was wrong.”
Rose, who appeared in studio, shared his thoughts on numerous baseball topics. He believes that Barry Bonds – and not Hank Aaron – is the all-time home runs leader.
“Well, I played against both of them, (and Bonds) has more home runs,” Rose said simply. “It’s just like (Roger) Clemens. He’s got seven Cy Youngs. You’re not going to vote for Clemens for the Hall of Fame? I don’t know if (Clemens) took steroids. This guy went to two courts and won, and he’s never flunked a test. And to this day, he says he didn’t take steroids. Now, who in the hell am I to sit here and call him a liar?”
“If you had to guess one way or the other, you’d probably say he did. But if he says he didn’t, I’m not going to call him a liar. He’s a friend of mine, too. He’s a great guy.”
Rose admits his opinions might be different if he were Aaron or Babe Ruth or Roger Maris. After all, Bonds assaulted their records; he didn’t assault Rose’s.
Either way, Rose knows that steroid use in the so-called Steroid Era was a problem, but he’s not sure if it was as rampant as it’s made out to be. He also thinks equating steroids to greenies is questionable.
“A greenie’s a diet pill,” he said. “A greenie’s not going to make you stronger. It’s not gong to make you faster. It’s not going to make you produce any more or any less. It’s just going to (give you more energy). It’s like drinking three cups of coffee.”
“That’s what you hear about the ’70s and ‘80s: ‘Well, guys took greenies.’ Well, it’s a diet pill prescribed by a doctor. It’s a little different than something that’s going to make you stronger.”
So, which is worse: betting on baseball or taking performance-enhancing drugs?
“What I did is bad, and PEDs are bad,” Rose said. “What’s worse? They’re both bad, but what I did had nothing to do with altering the statistics of baseball – and the statistics of baseball are sacred.”
As for today’s stars, Rose said, “(Mike) Trout plays like me, but he’s got more power. (Andrew) McCutchen plays like me, but he’s got more speed.”
Bryce Harper, meanwhile, “plays hard, but he plays reckless.”
Rose also thinks that hitting has become a lost art. Just as there’s a difference between a boxer and a puncher, there’s a difference between a hitter and a swinger.
“They all have the same swing 2-0 as they have 0-2,” Rose said. “They make no adjustments. But it’s okay in the eyes of the owners to hit 30 home runs and strike out 150 times. (They’ll) give you $10 million.”