Despite the brief buzz about it Friday, Pete Rose will not be managing the Cincinnati Reds next season.
No way. No how.
Know why? Because he can not manage himself.
Baseball's banished hit king continues to wax belligerent about reinstatement. Says he might just make that application next week. Says baseball "better have a good reason" if they turn him down.
He talks real tough. What he does, however, is nothing.
Pete Rose will not be reinstated anytime soon for several compelling reasons, chiefly because he has never refuted the overwhelming evidence that he bet on baseball, and adamantly refuses to admit it. Until he can overcome his continuing lack of credibility - how about a pay-per-view polygraph test? - Rose's chances for reinstatement are remote. His chances of working for the Reds, therefore, are moot.
Reds General Manager Jim Bowden made the issue seem more immediate Thursday when he said he would "absolutely be interested" in hiring Rose during an interview with CBS Sportsline. Bowden was speaking hypothetically, of course, but the headlines suggested big news. For the record, Bowden would also "absolutely be interested" if Connie Mack should apply for the job.
"He deserves to be reinstated," Bowden said of Rose. "And once he is, I believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame and he should manage again. He's one of the greatest players of all time. I hope he's reinstated sooner than later because Pete Rose belongs in baseball and baseball needs Pete Rose."
Not the best candidate
Bowden stood by his statements Friday, but qualified his interest in hiring Rose "along with other qualified candidates," as being predicated on Rose gaining parole from baseball. This last hurdle is the size of the Himalayas.
There is sympathy for Rose within the sport, and growing outrage over his exclusion from the Hall of Fame, but baseball is nowhere close to buying Rose's novel - the fictional account of his framing by John Dowd.
Acting Commissioner Bud Selig believes Rose bet on baseball, disputes Rose's claim he was suspended for betting on pro football, and would be foolish to reinstate him without confronting the root of his problems.
"Baseball," Bowden said Friday, "would not reinstate Pete Rose unless they were completely satisfied. Once they have made that decision, that would be good enough for the Reds."
Reaching that decision absent an admission of guilt from Rose and - or a cure for his compulsive gambling would be akin to hiring Willie Sutton as a bank teller. Beyond the risk of ridicule, baseball would be placing Rose in a position to repeat his mistakes. They could do him a lot more harm than good.
What he needs is tough love. What he always wants is the easy way out.
"Yeah, I'd like to manage (the Reds) again," Rose told CBS Sportsline. "I'm not trying to take anybody's job, but I went through this before in Cincinnati. I went back there when they were drawing just a million people a year. You have to change the attitude. Not only the team's attitude, but the city."
Just a fantasy
It costs Jim Bowden nothing to indulge Rose's fantasy, and it surely plays well in Cincinnati. So long as the Reds can not actually hire Rose, it makes perfect sense to campaign for him. A shrewd executive should always play to his audience when he can't be held accountable.
Whether Bowden would consider Rose if he were actually available is another question; one the Reds GM may never be obliged to answer. Until Rose comes clean, he's no more likely to come off the permanently ineligible list than Shoeless Joe Jackson.
"From everything I know, I think he's stayed on the right path," Bowden said. "But as far as the gambling part, I don't have evidence either way."
Baseball's evidence is exhaustive. Dowd compiled thousands of pages of direct testimony and damning documents. Everything but DNA.
Pete Rose denies all of it. He would have us think he was persecuted, and accepted a lifetime ban for what amounts to a misdemeanor.
He has no one convinced but himself.
ROSE SHOULD CUT HIS LOSSES AND CONFESS Tim Sullivan column, June 21, 1997