Off Base
Pete Rose - Hit King

August 31, 2009, 5:45 p.m. That’s how old Charlie Hustle signs an autograph these days. “Pete Rose” on line one, with the words “Hit King” below, where a player of his age and stature usually writes “HOF,” followed by the year of induction. And the career hit total, "4256," on line three.

How do I know this to be true? Well, it’s certainly not because I asked Rose for an autograph. But the Main Squeeze did, upon lunching at a nearby table last week at Sicily in Sherman Oaks. So I’ve got this Pete Rose, Hit King, 4256 autograph on a printout of my wife’s office, that I don’t know what to do with. It’s not going in a frame, I can tell you that much right now.

But with the Dodgers in Cincinnati over the weekend, and the obligatory Rose Hall of Fame controversy front and center on each broadcast, let me see if I can take one last crack at it.

I’ve been commenting on the topic for a solid ten years in this space, maybe changing an opinion or two along the way, with among many, one particular argument, or question, that no one ever seems to have an answer for.

First let me say, that whatever criticism you may have read here about the Base Ball Writers Association of America (and the recently-started IBWAA group tells you a little), I trust them with the vote generally, and especially on matters like this.

Hall of Fame voting is a democratic process – a less than perfect one, yes – but a democratic one to be sure. And since it’s been good enough for the country for 230 years, why not Cooperstown?

But that’s not the question that never gets answered, much less discussed at all. This is.

No banned-for-life player has ever been reinstated into baseball, nor elected to the Hall of Fame. If for whatever good reason – remorse, forgiveness, a player’s public image, statistics, or whatever – why in the world would you start in reverse chronological order?

Why would baseball consider the disposition of Pete Rose first, ahead of the Chicago eight of 1919, or any other permanently-banned player?

While you can make an argument that the sport instituted the rule making banned players ineligible for the Hall specifically for Rose, there’ll be just as good an argument on the other side to refute it, starting with the notion that while an unwritten rule worked well enough for decades, a written one was welcome, and a long time coming.

Either way, again, why start with Rose?

As I said, I believe in the democratic process and I trust the writers. If they vote him in, I can live with it, absolutely. But what do you say we take up the issue of Joe Jackson first. Let’s debate the banning of eight men, by all accounts deprived of due process of law, till we’re good and tired, and see how that goes.

If the vote confirms their worth, we open the museum doors high and wide for old Shoeless Joe, and perhaps one or two of his mates. Ninety years is a sufficient waiting period.

With Rose’s crimes ending in 1989, his day of reckoning can be scheduled for 2079. Fine, with time off for good behavior (and there’s a debatable concept for you), and the wisdom that only comes with time, perhaps there’s a way to give Pete his shrine. In 2049, or 2059, or 2069…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Dodgers Doings: Props to Ned Colletti for bringing in Ron Belliard. He’s a guy, much like Mark Loretta, who would’ve made a really good Dodger two or three years ago, but better late than never. I promise you Belliard will contribute big hits to the cause, and be a very handy presence come October.

It looks like it’s time to give those Chad Billingsley-ace questions a rest for awhile. Clearly, the young man is not benefitting from them. I still have confidence in him long-term, and perhaps down the stretch this year, but the ace thing is over and done with for now.

Bills in not the Dodgers ace. Period. Randy Wolf is the ace, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Not a thing. It would take some balls on management’s part, but if Billingsley were to pitch in September the way he has in August, he’s the fifth starter in a postseason rotation that only needs four.

Billingsley lacks the bulldog approach that Orel Hershiser, with Tommy Lasorda’s help, developed early in career. I have no idea how to instill it in him, but I’m sure the Dodgers are considering something. For Billingsley to be truly successful, he needs to lose the frightened look he carries around sometimes.

Remember Burt Hooton semi-crying on the Veteran’s stadium mound in the 1977 NLCS? Happy got over it, and wound up having a great Dodger career, with some huge outings in the fall. The same is possible for Billingsley.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are where they need to be. It’s not a huge surprise that Colorado crept to within two games, only to fall back to six, and it wouldn’t be a particularly big deal if they turned it around and made another run. They’re streaky, this year and as a matter of course. But it’s the Giants, not the Dodgers, who have to worry about the Rockies.

A Penny for Your Pitcher: Which is about all it's worth. Tell me this isn’t just great. Brad Penny to the San Francisco Giants. An absolutely perfect fit. And just fantastic…for the Dodgers. Yet again, we hear the he-still-throws-mid-90s line of thinking, and it's good enough for one more signing.

Well, Frisco followers, we hope you enjoy the big lug for his charming personality and five-inning performances, more likely than not with another trip to the disabled list. I know I will…

September Call-Ups: The Pacific Coast League playoffs notwithstanding, here’s the list of minor leaguers I predict the Dodgers will promote for September: Blake DeWitt, Mitch Jones, Jason Repko, Scott Strickland, Eric Stults and Cory Wade…

Media Savvy: Take a listen to the “World Baseball Network” show with John Kentera and Bob Scanlan, XX 1090 AM, 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturdays.

Last week’s show featured an interesting interview with former Dodger shortstop and current Special Assistant to the GM Jose Vizcaino. A knowledgeable, likable ball player head-to-head with a knowledgeable, likable sports talk host, in the Coach. A great matchup.

Not the kind of radio you get everyday, and appreciated here. And a shout-out to Scanlan, who sounds more like a seasoned broadcaster than just a former player, with a microphone in front of his face.

Speaking of actual broadcasters, it’s time to lay off Eric Collins already. He’s a major market rookie, who makes mistakes that he’ll learn from, who probably says “this is gonna get down” a bit too much. BFD.

Collins has a well-trained voice, along with a Syracuse Master’s degree in broadcasting (same as Bob Costas), and an ESPN television baseball background. He’s thoroughly more qualified than were his top competitors for the job, and I can see why the McCourts hired him. Patience, please. Let’s give the man a chance.

On the other hand, I find veteran Reds and Fox announcer Thom Brennaman nearly impossible to listen to. I swear, if I hear one more player or at bat or inning described as “OUT-standing,” I’m going to hurl.

I couldn’t handle keeping track for the entire broadcast, so allow me to go with a smaller sample size, OK? Brennaman used the term “outstanding” seven times in the second and third innings alone Saturday afternoon.

Do the math and you get 31.5 outstandings in a regulation game. It’s just not possible for that many things to be outstanding. Good thing the teams didn’t go extras until Sunday…

Anniversary Time: Yep, the Main Squeeze and I celebrate one year of marital bliss today. As you no doubt recall, August 31, 2008 was the day the Dodgers defeated Dan Haren in Arizona, on their way to eight straight wins, a completely turned-around season, and a trip to the National League Championship Series. Coincidence? I think not…

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….






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