2004-01-09 / Sports

Inside Pitch

By Bryan Hoch
Inside Pitch By Bryan Hoch

Pete Rose (AP)Pete Rose (AP)

Pete Rose’s dirty little secret is out in the open. Now what?

One wonders exactly what kinds of filler Rose and co-writer Rick Hill had to glue together to fill 322 pages of the disgraced Hit King’s newly-released autobiography, Pete Rose: My Prison Without Bars, because the true point of importance could only be Rose’s admission that, of course, the 1989 paper trail of incrimination to his gambling on baseball wasn’t pure hooey.

To see Rose finally admitting to baseball’s one big no-no is a relief of sorts, if only for the fact that it will finally give the game’s braintrust the opportunity to weigh Rose’s plea for induction into the Hall of Fame.

Without a confession (even if it did come in the form of a mass-produced journalistic cash-grabber), there was about as much chance of Rose entering Cooperstown as our old ‘Family Feud’ friend Louie Anderson completing a 40-yard dash in under three centuries.

Led by the all-powerful Bud Selig, baseball will go over the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb searching for any signs of Rose’s remorse, but we could save them the trouble. It’s hard to believe that Rose is, all of a sudden, repenting out of the goodness of his heart – a point exacerbated by the fact that he and publisher Rodale Press timed the release of the book to coincide with the naming of 2004’s Hall of Fame class. (Congratulations, Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor, by the way. You know, since no one seemed to notice.)

More likely, Rose has finally realized that his window of opportunity is growing ever-tighter by the day, and he realistically has only one more crack at enshrinement left: the voting class of 2005.

If Rose isn’t lifted from the ineligibility list by then, then if and when he is, his pleas get turned over to the Veterans Committee, a panel of Hall of Fame players who are given the authority to let any worthy old chums into the museum, and crack the bad seeds out with a swing of their aging Louisville Sluggers.

Not surprisingly, Rose has few friends among the members of that committee – probably even less admirers than he holds among the voting journalists, who would control his fate in 2005. Ex-hurlers Jim Palmer and Bob Feller are among the Geritol jocks who are foaming at the mouth, ready to crack Rose’s dreams across the lips.

It’s trite to repeat this game plan once again, as it’s hardly an original concept, but for these eyes, it makes the most sense. Rose probably could have used the mountains of losing betting slips to wallpaper his office at old Riverfront Stadium, but that can’t – and shouldn’t – erase the great accomplishments he compiled during the part of his career in which he laced up spikes.

A 17-time All-Star who racked up 4,256 hits and led the National League in batting three times, there aren’t many better ballplayers deserving of a trip to Otsego County. Better humans? Oh, yes – for the good of mankind, we’d better hope so. But nobody ever said being a decent person was a prerequisite for making consistent contact with a baseball.

However, there’s the sticky matter of Rose hoping to regain employment in the baseball fraternity – perhaps first as a coach or instructor, then maybe even (gasp!) as the next manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

To this, the vote must be a resounding negative. Rose smiling on a podium in Cooperstown? No problem – enjoy that day in the sun, Charlie Hustle. But an ex-Vegas disciple wielding all control of pitching changes and lineup shuffles in a highly visible – not to mention highly wagerable – professional sport?

Sorry, Pete. The rules changed while you were away. It’s one strike and you’re out, and unfortunately, Rose has already gone down looking.

• For the Knicks, there’s absolutely no downside to Isiah Thomas’ first big deal at the helm, swindling hometown boy Stephon Mar­bury from the Phoe­­nix Suns in an eight-player swap that brought the closure of the An­tonio Mc­Dyess era at the Garden.

Sure, McDyess could have probably rounded back into form and become a competitive piece of the Knicks fabric, and Howard Eisley holds a lot of promise, but this was about as close to a no-brainer as you can get in the modern sports world.

Marbury is young (he turns 27 in February), under contract through the 2009-10 season, and among the elite performers in the NBA right now.

Indeed, it’s always a risky move when you so drastically shake up a roster, but it’s not as though the Knicks were world-beaters before the move. They were a subpar team in need of some juice, and all of a sudden, the buzz has returned to the hard court around the orange and blue – finally, a reason to watch the Knicks other than as a cure for insomnia.

• From the conspiracy theory de­partment: Red Sox brass reportedly asked that Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez – the two prime pieces of a potential trade for Alex Rodriguez – be removed from the masthead atop their MLB-controlled official Web site. The new masthead features Curt Schilling, along with veterans like Tim Wakefield and David Ortiz.

E-Mail Bryan Hoch: bryanhoch@ yahoo.com.

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