Edgar Martinez

Shoeless Joe, Charlie Hustle and Rule 21

*This post is a result of the news that a video tape of the 1919 World Series has recently been found in a swimming pool in Canada. Check out that story here. I’d love to hear want you think about this debate of Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose belonging in the Hall of Fame or not.*

The debate over who should and shouldn’t be put in baseball’s Hall of Fame is forever on going and never ending.

mattingly1Is Don Mattingly a HOF-er? Some say yes, some say no (I tend to lean “yes”). How about Jack Morris, Edgar Martinez or anyone tied to PED’s (Clemens, Bonds, Palmeiro, etc.)? Morris and Edgar…eh, I’d have to say probably not. You can make a very good argument for Morris, but all Edgar could do was swing the bat and I think there should be more to a player’s inclusion into the Hall than just what he could do with a bat.

As far as the PEDs guys, you can read a bit more about what I think here. But when it comes to two of the most infamous names in the game – “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose – there’s no doubt they are Hall of Famers…or are they?

Numbers-wise, Jackson and Rose are two of the best to have ever played the game; to that end, there is no debate. But there is more to being a Hall of Famer than just numbers.

There are two parts of Rule 21 that have kept these two shoe-in HOF-ers out of Cooperstown. This is the part keeping Jackson out – it’s Section a:

“Any player or person connected with a Club who shall promise or agree to lose, or to attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which he is or may be in any way concerned, or who shall intentionally lose or attempt to lose, or intentionally fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any such baseball game … shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

And this – section d, subset 2 – is what is keeping Rose out:

“Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

Now, technically, being declared “permanently ineligible” doesn’t, in and of itself, keep a player from the Hall. The Hall has its own rule that if a player is on said list he is also ineligible for enshrinement into baseball’s holy of holies.

I found that tidbit of info interesting, but the fact remains if a player finds himself on that list he will not find his way to the Hall.

Chances are if you’re reading this you probably already know why Jackson and Rose are on the banned list. But it in the off chance you don’t know here’s a real quick summary.

“Shoeless” Joe Jacksonshoeles2

Jackson was part of the “Black Sox” scandal of 1919 when eight players on the Chicago White Sox supposedly took money from big time gamblers to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds won in eight games (it was best of nine back then).

There were certain players, particularly ace pitcher Eddie Cicotte, whose play during the series was indicative of someone not playing on the level. As the story goes, each player was to be given 10 grand to do what they could to throw the series. For someone like Cicotte, that was double  his yearly salary.

Jackson allegedly took the money, but if you look at his numbers from the series, it’d be hard to believe he was throwing anything but his best effort out on the field. Now, I’ve never watched video of Jackson playing in the outfield during the series (as there isn’t much out there available to watch), but from what I’ve read it didn’t seem like any of the reporters thought Jackson wasn’t playing on the up and up.

He hit .375 in those eight games in the Series. He also laced three doubles and the Series’ only home run. He also didn’t commit one error during the Series either. Buck Weaver, who also was banned for life as part of the scandal and was vehement about his innocence, also had a very solid Series batting .324 with four doubles, a triple and no fielding errors.

Jackson holds the third highest lifetime batting average at .356 behind the likes of Ty Cobb (.366) and Rogers Hornsby (.359). He batted .408 in 1911, led the league in hits twice, triples three times and finished in the top five in the MVP vote three times.

Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest player ever, even said Jackson’s swing was so good that he modeled his own swing after Jackson’s. Couple all of these offensive numbers with the fact that he was supposedly a great fielder and you have a no-doubt Hall of Famer.

Pete Rose a.k.a. Charlie Hustle

Statistically, there has never been a more sure-fire Hall of Famer than Pete Rose. He is the all-time leader in games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), plate appearances (15,890) and hits (4,256). He paced the league in runs scored four times, hits seven times, doubles five times and batting average thrice. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1963, won the MVP Award in 1973 and was an All Star 17 times. He was also an integral part of three World Championship teams. There is no legitimate statistical argument against Rose being a Hall of Famer, and he was well on his way to enshrinement until he began coaching.

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Rose became the last player-manager in 1984 when he rejoined the Reds halfway through the season. He served in that position until 1986 and then only managed through 1989. Rose was found to have bet on Reds games that he managed and the Commissioner of Baseball, Bart Giamatti, put Rose on baseball’s ineligible list based on the aforementioned article of Rule 21.

Rose willfully agreed to the ban as long as the Commissioner’s findings of his investigation were not made public. From that time all the way up to 2004, he continuously denied ever betting on games. He finally copped to the betting in ’04.

To me, admitting his mistakes was probably a good tactic to try to get reinstated. Do I think he should get a pass for what he did…yes, but only to a point and only because ever single bet he made was for his team to win; he never placed a bet on his team to lose. I don’t think he should ever be allowed back in baseball to manage or in any other capacity. I do think, however, he should have a plaque in Cooperstown.

I do think what he did hurts the integrity of the game, but to me, the simple fact he put money on his team to win and not lose would let me sleep well at night if he was ever enshrined. I feel confident that Rose put his best team on the field as a manager and because of that I forgive him enough to allow him into the Hall.

Shoeless Joe’s situation isn’t quite as clear cut. It’s full of hearsay and he-said-he-said. Did he take the money? Did he not? Did he not hustle quite as hard to that fly ball in the gap as he normally would or did he? Most of us alive today will never really know. For my money, I think Jackson should have a plaque in Cooperstown. He has the numbers and legend to be enshrined, but he also has the affiliation with a few bad apples that his legend may never be able to wipe clean.

This is what Smitty Sayeth…

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