Historical Baseball Questions (Ken Burns)

This is a good point - and the only possible reason for treating it as less serious than Rose, besides the one-off nature, might be that it happened before gambling and game-fixing was established as a cardinal sin in 1920. Rose had no cultural excuse; within a liveball-era baseball context what he did was quite literally worse than killing someone.

Well, a lot of people did bad things. I have stated why I believe that’s no defense for Rose, who did the worst thing you can possibly do in baseball, but the Hall refusing to acknowledge any distinctions and deferring to the MLB restricted list wasn’t a great move. Right now we have a situation where every sportswriter makes up his own mind about whether candidates whose on-field merits make them automatic HOFers like Bonds and Clemens should or should not be kept out for steroid use. The central problem that any deep analysis of the Hall of Fame keeps running into is that it has no meaningful criteria instructing the writers on how to make selections.

The gambling scandal overshadowed some other legitimate criticism of Rose i.e. that he was totally washed up as a player by 1982 but hung on embarrassingly long to get the hits record by abusing his position as player-manager and his status in the Reds organization. Part of the sense of betrayal people felt was that he had cashed in on a lot of goodwill to make that happen and it turned out he was behaving like a complete asshole the whole time.

He lost his power by age 30, he was never a real threat on the basepaths despite the “Charlie Hustle” reputation, and the reason he could boast of playing significant time at five different positions is that he was a defensive liability at all of them and was constantly being moved around to make room for better fielders. Yet, I actually had some crazy person argue with me last year that he contributed more to the Phillies in his age 38 through 42 seasons than Bryce Harper (who signed at age 26) will - that’s how effective Rose’s reality distortion field is. On performance alone and ignoring the scandal, he’s still most likely a deserving Hall of Famer based solely on his ability to grind out singles and walks over such a long period of time, but there is much to criticize about Rose the player. There is also something to be said for the fact that his HOF case is extremely dependent on his image as a “hustling, play the game the old school way” guy and transcends his shortcomings to some extent - just like Nolan Ryan being a larger than life figure means he needed to go in the HOF even if his control problems and their effect on his advanced metrics were pointed out - but that works both ways. If your HOF candidacy is based on Pete Rose the holistic, larger than the sum of his statistical parts guy then Rose’s character flaws are part of that calculus just as much as Ryan’s famously clean and hardworking lifestyle were for him…

Yes, being in the Hall of Fame is about being good or bad. You don’t give great honors to a piece of shit scumbag.

His accomplishments are in the record books. He doesn’t deserve more than that.

There’s also an obvious reason that the record for “most professional hits counting both Japan and MLB” was created on behalf of Ichiro, when no one would think of counting Japanese league stats towards any other record. Now you have a much better, well-liked guy you can talk about if you want to honor record-holders and leave Rose out of it.

That is actually a good thing for a manager to have-roster flexibility. He was also moved to get extra bats in the lineup, most notably George Foster. By contrast Manny Ramirez is either going to play LF, or he’s going to DH.

Well, Rose had a negative dWAR in 22 out of his 24 seasons. In the other two he was at less than 1.0. Those were one season in LF and one season at 3B. It’s not really accurate to imply that Rose was minimally competent anywhere on the field and provided “flexibility” - he made the team worse on defense no matter where he played and was put where he would do the least damage in order to keep his bat. if you’re going to do that I’d certainly much rather have Manny Ramirez, who was superbly better than Rose at every aspect of hitting and did in fact play on teams with a DH spot available for most of his career.

But that isn’t why he was thrown out of baseball. He was not thrown out for doing bad things. Half the Hall of Fame did bad things. He was thrown out for being in a conflict of interest.

If you want to argue he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame for doing bad things, well, I guess that’s an argument. That does not, however, really explain why the Hall of Fame should have a RULE saying he shouldn’t be in; the voters seem capable of excluding players for doing bad things all on their own. They didn’t induct Shoeless Joe Jackson despite the fact that they had a chance to, and they’re refusing to induct Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens now.

Rose won two Gold Gloves in the outfield. He was a good outfielder, and he was a decent third baseman.

Idon’t agree with the notion he was moved around because he was a defensive liability; he was moved around because he was a GOOD defensive player - specifically, he was the kind of player capable of playing competently at many positions and willing to do so despite his star status. His moving from second to the outfield in 1967 was because the Reds had more infielders than outfielders, and he hadn’t been a bad second baseman. He moved to third in 1975 because the Reds had four outfielders and needed to get Dan Driessen off third. He played first for the Phillies because the Phillies already had the greatest third baseman who ever lived. There is value in being able to do that.

Baseball Reference gives him five such seasons and a lot of the negative seasons are at positions where that’s normal. Fangraphs feels he made a positive defensive contribution in five seasons as well.

This is just more evidence to the well-established notion that Gold Gloves are a popularity contest with no criteria. They go to well-known, popular players who are not good on defense or in some cases barely played at the position at all that year. Statistically, Rose was a worse fielder than replacement level; he certainly was never the best in the league at his position.

That’s not what I’m seeing on bref and please be aware that the WAR calculation already incorporates an adjustment for position - it’s statistically true, just as it is intuitively true, that finding a “replacement level” shortstop is much more difficult than finding a replacement level left fielder, and the formulas quantity exactly what the difference is and incorporate it.

I am aware of the dubious validity of many Gold Gloves, but I’m sorry, I don’t happen to believe Pete Rose was a bad outfielder.

The entire case against him is that his dWAR is poor in some sources - well, I guess, because I’m looking at them now and Baseball Reference believes he was a poor right fielder but a REALLY good left fielder, while Fangraphs thinks he was a decent right fielder and an excellent left fielder, so I dunno what your sources are. All interesting, but I would suggest to you that when you go back that far, to before zone ratings can be entirely trusted, dWAR isn’t a whole lot more accurate than Gold Gloves.

In any case though, how bad was he? According to Fangraphs, his career runs above or below average at all the positions he played:

1B: -44 (939 games)
2B: -21 (628 games)
3B: -35 (634 games)
LF: +51 (673 games)
CF: -8 (73 games)
RF: +1 (590 games)
Total: -56 (3562 games total)

I mean, I’d rather my guy not be 56 runs below average, but that’s 56 runs below average over the course of 22 seasons, or about one run every three months. It’s just not a significant negative. It is noteworthy though that, as was the case with his hitting, much of that is packed into his final, pointless years. He would have been a GREATER player, overall, had he retired three or four years earlier.

When the Hall of Fame was established, it created the rule that people banished for life from baseball for violating this specific conflict of interest rule would be barred from the Hall of Fame. It didn’t set a precedent for other kinds of bad things.

No, it did not. There was no such rule until after the Rose incident.

To me it’s hard to say Speaker and Cobb were fixing a game when Speaker, who was supposed to lose, had three hits and Cobb, who was supposed to win, had one. As far as both of them being let go as managers, Cobb managed the Tigers for 6 years and finished as high as second once, finishing 6th his last year. Speaker did finish second that year but after two seasons below .500. His World Series win was back in 1920.
But there was a lot of hanky panky before Landis became commissioner and he may have decided to deal with the most flagrant in the past and come down hard on any in his watch (Shuffling Phil Douglas in 1922 and Cozy Dolan-Jimmy O’Connell in 1924).

True, but to be fair, except for Shoeless Joe Jackson, are any of the other banned for life players good enough to be considered for the HoF? It wasn’t a concern until Pete Rose came along so it’s not surprising that they didn’t formalize the rule.

Wikipedia, of course, has a list of every player who’s been banned from MLB – in the article, the names of those whose bans are still in place are in bold. Of the other Black Sox, Eddie Cicotte and Buck Weaver were probably the best players, but I’m not sure that either of them really approached HOF caliber. The only other perma-banned players I see on the list who seem to have been star players are Hal Chase and Heinie Zimmerman – but, again, from what I can see, I don’t think that their careers rose to Hall levels.

Other than Rose, there have only been three other permanent (and still active) bans issued by the commissioner since 1943 – all of them by Rob Manfred, and all front-office guys.

Also, this is an interesting side note, from that article (and I’d forgotten that it had happened):

From the link I posted about the game in question: “Speaker banged out three hits, all of them well after the Tigers had control of the game and the outcome was clear.”

Anyway, it’s not easy to demonstrate that a player wasn’t involved in a fix based on individual performance. Shoeless Joe Jackson hit .375 in the 1919 World Series (a fact some supporters claim shows he wasn’t really in on the conspiracy). Yet his batting record was mixed in important situations, and it’s arguable that he didn’t really start to hit until the White Sox were already facing elimination.

Eddie Cicotte would have an outside chance, even if his career had still stopped in 1920. There are certainly worse pitchers in the Hall.

Buck Weaver was an outstanding third baseman for the White Sox, whose career was halted in its prime. He might have had a shot at the Hall of Fame.

Weaver was banned for life for having knowledge of the fix, though he didn’t participate in it.

It’s a niggling point in the context of this thread but, “the game isn’t over till the last man is out” aside, if a player managed three hits ‘well after the outcome was clear’, it must have been a hell of a blowout. I don’t think a 9-5 final qualifies.

I think it’s worth pointing out that the evidence Cobb and Speaker actually did this is very, very slim. It’s not impossible, but it’s basically just Dutch Leonard saying it happened.

It was a bit more than that.

Even if you completely dismiss the letters from Cobb and Smoky Joe Wood that Dutch Leonard exposed (and was paid $20,000 to suppress) as being completely innocent, you’d have to wonder why both Cobb and Tris Speaker abruptly retired (for awhile, anyway) after the 1926 season, unless they had good reason to fear what would happen if the scandal broke. More on the case (including texts of the letters) here:

As mentioned earlier, I don’t think this case compares to the long term large-scale gambling that Pete Rose was involved in, nor does it blacken Cobb’s career in baseball to any major extent.

Cobb was a great player with notable personal flaws* and I’d leave it at that.

*which also applies to Tris Speaker, who apparently was at one time a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but later in life (according to Bill James) was a strong supporter of Larry Doby’s breaking the AL color barrier and worked with him on developing second base skills. People do change.

The opposite; the Indians originally wanted to play Larry Doby at second base, and Speaker took one look at Doby and demanded to know why the hell they were wasting their best outfielder like that. Doby had played sparingly and poorly in 1947, but Speaker was convinced Doby would be great and helped him learn center. They were close friends the rest of their lives. People are funny.