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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 17, 2009

Coming clean would be best bet

BY Ferd Lewis

While Major League Baseball squirms, the players union winces and fans shake their officially attired heads at the expanding roster of players tainted by revelations and allegations concerning performance-enhancing drugs, there is at least one person giddily taking it all in.

That would be Pete Rose.

To baseball's disgraced all-time hits king, all this has the juicy look of a pitch down the middle. With each sordid disclosure not to mention publication of the searing book "A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez" Rose's gambling stain upon the game suddenly doesn't look so bad by comparison.

When MLB first sanctioned him 20 years ago, Rose practically had to compare himself to dope dealers and murderers to draw a modicum of sympathy. But in the intervening years baseball's closets have disgorged enough skeletons that misdemeanor-by-comparison illustrations are increasingly being drawn for him. Every headline furnishes more ammunition for reconsideration of the lifetime ban that keeps him from joining the icons at Cooperstown.

Meanwhile, he can be found time to time, hawking autographs elsewhere among its precincts.

Rose has been willing to stump his own message, too. "Charlie Hustle" always knew how to work a situation and this one is as inviting as a third baseman playing too far back at the corner. Witness the public vote of Hall of Fame confidence he issued Rodriguez recently. A-Rod surely grimaced at that one.

Naturally, Rose's sympathy-tinged outpourings have had less to do with boosting A-Rod's stock than reviving his own. The more Rose can do to seek forgiveness of their transgressions by the Hall of Fame voters (something unlikely at this juncture), the more he hopes to enhance his own shot at a pardon.

And, at two decades of banishment now, his straits serve to make a point. Just not the self-serving one he is pushing. Instead, they suggest that had Rose come clean from the start in 1989 rather than waiting 15 years to cash in on publication of his own book before fessing up, he might already be in Cooperstown. For sure he'd be better positioned to leverage his argument now.

By and large, American sports fans are a forgiving, second chance-granting bunch. When our athletic heroes, however disgraced, are up front and contrite in confessing their frailties, rather than evasive and calculating, there is often a sympathetic ear waiting.

There should be a lesson in that for baseball's offenders. Rose missed it. You wonder if Manny Ramirez, et al, will, too.