Gene Wojciechowski recently issued a call for MLB to quit its hypocrisy in re-admitting Mark McGwire to the game while at the same time denying Pete Rose his re-entry. Note that Mr. McGwire was not banned from the game.
I don't know why writers so frequently fulminate on moral issues in the sports world. No doubt that sports is full of moral failures, but the writing about it so often obscures the real issues.
For example, Gene's article attempts to point out a hypocrisy in MLB's policy towards its transgressors. In this case, in his haste to take up Mr. Rose's case, he's ignored the real moral problem: MLB's nebulous and uncertain position regarding the steroid scandal of the last fifteen years or so.
Gene's article is full of the usual problems, including:
They both compromised the game and they both suffered irreparable harm to their reputations. But somehow Rose's baseball sins are mortal and McGwire's are venial. Doesn't make any sense.
Gene, in this case, has ignored the fact that a lot of other men have been accused, have admitted, or have been proven to have used steroids. Major League baseball has a big problem with all the steroid issues, including current players still under suspicion. Heck, it's only been six months since one of the biggest sluggers in the game was suspended.
No doubt Rose's sins were mortal, and a clear precedent was established for that. This precedent runs from the 1910s, acheived a marked peak in 1919, and through a notable suspension in 1970. McGwire's sins may indeed be mortal - but no precedent has been set, and MLB would have to establish some clear standards for an already-sticky subject.
Gene, it's just not that easy.
...misuse of rhetoric...
To McGwire's credit, at least he admitted the obvious and apologized. Still, how come Rose's gambling admission in 2004 makes no difference to MLB, but McGwire's recent admission of steroid use (nearly six years after his embarrassing congressional appearance) results in a welcome-back hug from the league office?
Well, everyone knew he had done it anyways, and Rose sure waited fourteen years for his own halfhearted admission. But Gene's main question in this paragraph is intended as a rhetorical question-slam... except that it isn't rhetorical. The league didn't have any qualms welcoming him back because... it had never kicked him out.
I bought a copy of My Prison Without Bars at the local H.E.B. grocery store for one dollar last fall. It was an entertaining read, even if the title is a bit dramatic. Still, I was pleased that the story wasn't an overt plea for sympathy.
...abuse of statistics and metaphors...
Not Rose. The all-time hits leader (his career .303 batting average is 40 points higher than McGwire's) is in a permanent holding pattern. Selig sits in MLB's control tower and refuses to let Rose land.
Rose was a good player here, but comparitive batting averages has absolutely nothing to do with this article, or the morality of the situation. Nor does the metaphor of the control tower have much luster; besides the "control" version, I don't see any particular reason to compare Pete Rose to an airplane.
...more radical oversimplifications...
This isn't about the Hall of Fame. The moment Rose made a bet on baseball is the moment he forever forfeited his bronze plaque. McGwire should be held to an identical standard. The moment he began defrauding the game, the fans and the record book with his PED-aided dingers is the moment he became persona non Cooperstown.
The trouble with this situation is - we don't know that moment, and we don't know the moment for the rest of the sluggers of the 1995-2005 era. I completely agree with Gene that such players should be treated differently with regards to involvement with the game and the HOF - but Gene can't write this article as if Mark McGwire is the only player this applies to.
and some illogical foolishness.
Rose made his major league debut in 1963, the same year McGwire was born. McGwire made his major league debut in 1986, the same year Rose played his final game. So they are linked by years, by scandals and by confessions.
This has nothing to do with their respective cases. Their respective cases have notable differences, and the odd coincedence of years doesn't link them any more than if they both publicly announce a love for cannoli or a belief in Shamanism.
No doubt that moral inconsistency exists in baseball's steroid policy, but this article skirts that issue while prattling about another. Gene's not the only one who's noting some hollowness in McGwire's return, but that doesn't have a lot to do with Pete Rose. One sinner coming clean doesn't demand a sermon for the rest of us.