'Rose Rule' likely to pass, but without input by the baseball writers


February 03, 1991|By PETER SCHMUCK

'TC The Hall of Fame Board of Directors will make it official tomorrow. Barring an unexpected attack of common sense, it will vote to rubber-stamp a rules committee recommendation that any player banned from baseball also should be kept off the Hall of Fame ballot.

This will henceforth be called the "Pete Rose Rule," since it was formulated to prevent Pete Rose's appearance on next year's ballot. The rules committee met in early January with the expressed purpose of making a general review the Hall of Fame's eligibility requirements, but neither the focus nor the outcome of that meeting ever was in doubt. There is no reason to think the mind-set of the full board will be any different.

That would be regrettable, since the pre-emptive removal of Rose's name from the ballot ends the debate over his eligibility and deservedness without any meaningful input from the 450 or so Baseball Writers Association of America members who are responsible for electing players to the Hall.

The debate began as soon as the late commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti banned Rose from baseball for his involvement in illegal sports betting. It ended, for all practical purposes, when the rules committee voted to keep banned players off the ballot. There is room to wonder whether Rose would have been elected under the old system, since players must be named on 75 percent of the ballots for admission, but the committee apparently didn't want to leave anything to chance.

The rules for election give the board of directors every right to adopt the committee's recommendation, though such a decision may force the BBWAA to rethink its participation in the selection process.

BBWAA president Kit Stier has begun to poll the membership to determine what would be an appropriate response to the rules change, but no action will be undertaken until after the association's annual meeting at the All-Star break.

"There have been suggestions from some people that we disassociate ourselves from the selection process," Stier said, "but the majority of the people I've talked to so far are not in favor of giving up the vote. It's hard to really say anything until the entire membership has been heard."

The Rose flap has caused some writers to question whether the BBWAA should have been involved in the balloting to begin with. By voting in the Hall of Fame election, the members are taking part in a news event that many of them also are called on to report. It is a minor conflict of interest, but one that becomes more unpalatable when the independence of the voting body comes into question.

Should Rose be admitted to the Hall of Fame? There are solid arguments both pro and con. Better, it seems, to have that decision made by the many instead of railroaded by a like-minded few.


Is-it-baseball-season-yet dept.: When former Federal Communications Commission chairman Newton Minow called television a vast wasteland, he didn't know the half of it. The proliferation of television trash sports has made the prospect of a year-round baseball season seem almost appealing.

Which would you rather watch, a Major League Baseball-affiliated winter baseball league or another rerun of the ESPN Team Lumberjack Championships? There's just something about a speed-sawing competition that makes me pine (no pun intended) for the temporarily defunct Senior Professional Baseball Association. No doubt, the lumbermen who traveled to Kissimmee, Fla., for the competition are able professionals, but the locals probably will be glad to see the Houston Astros arrive in a few weeks.


The Astros passed up some interesting offers to send Glenn Davis to the Orioles for Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling and Steve Finley. The California Angels were involved to the end with a package that included first baseman Wally Joyner, but it is less widely known that the Chicago Cubs came close to a deal last season that would have sent first baseman Mark Grace, 1989 NL Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton and pitcher Shawn Boskie to Houston for Davis and infielder Bill Doran.


The acquisition of new-look free agent Chili Davis appears to have been a retaliatory gesture by the Minnesota Twins, who recently were outbid by the Angels for third baseman Gary Gaetti.

Agent Tom Reich seems to have orchestrated the situation in such a way that it benefits not only Davis -- who got $1.9 million for the 1991 season -- but also Brian Downing, another Reich client who appeared to be the odd man out in the Angels lineup until Davis departed. Reich admitted that he contacted the Twins as the new-look signing deadline approached.


Free-agent right-hander Jack Morris turned down a recent attempt by the Detroit Tigers to sign him to a three-year, $9.3 million contract, prompting the Toronto Blue Jays to enter the picture. But Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick didn't hold out a lot of hope that Morris would agree to fill out the Toronto rotation.

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