Tug McGraw died yesterday. He was one of those players to which baseball owes a debt of gratitude far deeper than someone who just puts up great numbers. This was put into sharp contrast yesterday, as Pete Rose changed his story and admitted that he bet on baseball games while a manager. (Sean Lahman has an excellent FAQ about the Rose case up until now, for those 2 or 3 baseball fans that have been living under a rock the last 14 years.)
There is no doubt whatsoever that Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame, if you go by numbers alone. In fact, if you put on blinders and divide his playing career from his managing days, there is nothing to separate “Charlie Hustle” from any of the other aggressive (i.e., mean and nasty) players like the former all-time hits leader, Ty Cobb.
So, why doesn’t it feel right? Now that he’s flip-flopped to sell his new book, it seems even more wrong.
I’ve been one to do that–let Rose slide for his indiscretions and say he belongs in the Hall. But while I’m sitting and looking at raw numbers saying, “That’s one of the players that best represents baseball,” players who did just as much (or more) to increase my enjoyment of the game are looking over my shoulder. These guys will never make the Hall, but I miss the way Tug McGraw, Mark Fidrych, Bill Lee, Al Hrabosky, Dan Quisenberry, Minnie Minoso and Tony Pena made baseball fun. If it becomes all about numbers, baseball is nothing more than just a game on paper. As fun as I find baseball stats and sims, if you reduce it to that, why should I bother with anything but the computerized version at all?
I think Rose can wait until after players like Dale Murphy, Jim Rice, Ryne Sandberg, Harold Baines, Dave Concepcion, Don Mattingly, Goose Gossage and Steve Garvey are in.
But I’ll bet you a dollar he won’t.