CINCINNATI — At Tuesday’s big announcement, Pete Rose was classic Rose.
He was funny, irreverent, passionate and delightfully entertaining. You could tell Rose was happy with what he was getting — a spot in the Reds Hall of Fame, his number retired and a statue — but you could just as easily tell that Rose was more than a little bit down about what he’s not getting: Rose is still banned from official contact with players.
I think it’s time that Commissioner Rob Manfred relent on that as well. I’m not talking about a paid position here. I’m talking about being a guest instructor at spring training. I’m talking about being allowed to stand around the batting cage and talk baseball. I’m talking about allowing Rose to speak to groups of minor leaguers.
I can see why Manfred ruled how he did in December. Rose’s admission that he is still betting on baseball, even legally, is troubling. Rose obviously hasn’t totally “re-configured” his life.
But I think allowing limited, unpaid involvement with players should be allowed for several reasons:
Rose is great for the game. His passion when talking baseball is palpable. His knowledge of the history of the game is unparalleled.
The move does no harm. Rose isn’t going to tell players that it’s cool to bet on the game. He’s not going to say: “Boys, what you need to do is to start hanging with some lowlifes and put a couple of dimes on the Phillies-Mets. Look how it worked out for me.”
Rose has paid the price. He’s been kept out of baseball since 1989. That’s a long time. While he’d love a limited role like I’m suggesting, he’d rather be managing the Reds or some other team.
Rose remains his worst enemy. When asked about the statue, he said:
“I sure as hell don’t want it to be me standing at Turfway in the $2 window. I can say that now. There ain’t nobody looking over my shoulder.”
It was funny. But, to Manfred, it probably says Rose still isn’t taking what he did seriously enough.
But I think it’s time Rose be allowed to have contact with players, even on a probationary basis.
This may happen eventually. I got the impression Tuesday that the Reds are working on that. But it’s one step at a time in the process. They lost on full reinstatement. They won on getting him into the team Hall of Fame and retiring his number. They’ll probably wait a while and then try to get it to where Rose can have contact with the players.
The window is limited by Rose’s age. He’s 74. When owner Bob Castellini said no date had been set on the statue Tuesday, Rose blurted: “Hurry!”
Castellini would clearly like Rose in a more prominent rule. Castellini is big on attitude and enthusiasm. Rose spoke enthusiastically about changing the attitude in the franchise.
If he were allowed to manage the Reds, I have no doubt he would jump at the chance.
Right after the video about him getting in the Hall was shown, Rose quipped: “That’s why we’re here? I thought I was being named manager.”
That’s not going to happen.
But keeping him away from the players seems petty and needless at this point.
John Fay is freelance sports columnist. This column represents his opinion.