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Pete Rose: Why He Should Be in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Pete Rose is the all-time leader in hits, games played, plate appearances and at-bats. He is the only baseball player to play 500 or more games at five different positions (1B, 2B, 3B, RF, LF) and he was an all-star 17 times at those positions. It was Rose's versatility that allowed the Reds' "Great Eight" to play together, when he shifted to third base to make room in the outfield for George Foster. Rose also won two Gold Gloves despite playing musical chairs, position-wise. And while he is not usually thought of as a slugger, Rose has the most extra-base hits and total bases by a switch hitter, and he also holds the NL record for doubles. He also has more total bases than immortal sluggers like Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott and Jimmy Foxx. Hell, Rose has more than a thousand total bases more than Rogers Hornsby, Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Mickey Mantle and Mike Schmidt! Rose was also highly durable, holding the record of 17 seasons appearing in 150 or more games. And he was remarkably consistent, holding the record of 10 seasons with 200 or more hits. He was the NL rookie of the year in 1963, the NL MVP in 1973, and the World Series MVP in 1975. He finished in the NL's top 25 in batting 17 times, and in the top 25 in OBP a remarkable 20 times. At age 44, he was on base nearly 200 times, with 86 walks, a .395 OBP and eight steals while only being caught once. That year, his walks and OBP both ranked fourth in the NL. That's insane! It is absolutely ridiculous to keep Rose out of the Baseball Hall of Fame, considering some of the people currently enshrined (more on this later), so let him in too!

How Did Pete Rose Finish with Nearly as Many Total Bases as Babe Ruth?

Mickey Mantle once mocked Pete Rose for hitting so many singles. But Rose laughed last, finishing with 1,241 more total bases than the Mick. Amazingly, Rose finished with more than 1,000 more total bases than immortal sluggers like Rogers Hornsby, Al Simmons, Joe DiMaggio, Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell and Harmon Killebrew. Hell, Rose finished with nearly as many total bases as the Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth! How did he do it? Well, first Rose didn't just hit singles. He holds the NL record for doubles (746) and the MLB record for total bases by a switch-hitter (5,752), easily besting Mantle. Rose had 11 seasons with 270 or more total bases; Mantle had 10 such seasons. But while Mantle had his last superior season at age 32, the highly durable Rose excelled for another decade. Inconceivably, at age 44 he was on base nearly 200 times, with the fourth-best OBP in the NL (.395) and eight steals while only being thrown out once! That's crazy! From age 35 to 45, when most players are over the hill or out to farm, Rose had 1,712 hits and 2,202 total bases. Either or both of those numbers exceed the entire careers of celebrated players like Hank Greenberg, Bob Meusel, Mickey Cochrane, Lefty O'Doul, Jackie Robinson, Joe Gordon, Bobby Richardson, Elston Howard, Pepper Martin, Johnny Pesky, Gravvy Cravath, Marty Marion, Hack Wilson, Charlie Keller, Ralph Kiner, Red Rolfe, Riggs Stephenson, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Pedro Guerrero, Kirk Gibson, Bob Horner, Lou Pinella, Rico Carty, Ralph Garr, Davey Lopes, Kevin Mitchell, Thurman Munson and Hall-of-Famers Tommy McCarthy, Ross Youngs, Hughie Jennings, Ned Hanlon, Billy Southworth, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance, Phil Rizzuto, Leo Durocher, George Wright, Roy Campanella, Monte Irvin, Ray Schalk, Rick Ferrell, Al Lopez and Charlie Comiskey. Want to hear a truly crazy stat? Rose nearly out-hit the famous Hall of Fame double-play combination of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance by himself! Give the man his due: in the most competitive of games, stats-wise, Rose is the all-time leader in games, at-bats, plate appearances, hits, times on base, singles and (most importantly) wins. He was the leader of the greatest team of all time: the 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds. He then led the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series victory. He really was "Charlie Hustle" and he was still a dynamo at age 44, as the stats prove. And who the hell cares if he gambled, as long as he bet on himself and his team?

Perhaps this comment by Joe Morgan explains the mystery of Pete Rose's outlandish production: "Pete played the game, always, for keeps. Every game was the seventh game of the World Series. He had this unbelievable capacity to roar through 162 games as if they were each that one single game."

Credentials

One way to judge the value of a player is by how many times he makes an all-star team, how many Gold Gloves he wins, and how many times he places in the MVP voting. In the following table I "add up" such awards to determine each of the Great Eight's "star rating," giving two points for each all-star selection and each finish in the top 25 in the MVP voting. I have awarded ten extra points for winning the MVP and five for finishing in the top ten. To balance offense and defense, I have given two points for each Golden Glove (GG) and one point for every superior offensive season (SOS) with either a 100+ OPS or more than 162 total bases (an average of a base per game). On this scale, 0 is average, 1-25 is above average, 26-50 is a star, 50-100 is a superstar, and anything over 100 is a baseball immortal. 

(#1) Pete Rose: 1 MVP award, 15 MVP nominations with seven top tens, 17 all-star games, 2 GG, 21 SOS = 134 (immortal)
(#2) Johnny Bench: 2 MVP awards, 10 MVP nominations with five top tens, 14 all-star games, 10 GG, 15 SOS = 128 (immortal)
(#3) Joe Morgan: 2 MVP awards, 7 MVP nominations with five top tens, 10 all-star games, 5 GG, 19 SOS = 108 (immortal)
(#4a) Tony Pérez: 7 MVP nominations finishing as high as third with three top tens, 7 all-star games, 17 SOS = 60 (superstar)
(#4b) George Foster: 1 MVP award, 5 MVP nominations finishing 1-2-3-6-12, 5 all-star games, 13 SOS = 58 (superstar)
(#4c) Dave Concepción: 3 MVP nominations finishing as high as fourth with two top tens, 9 all-star games, 5 GG, 13 SOS = 57 (superstar)
(#7) Ken Griffey: 2 MVP nominations finishing as high as eighth, 3 all-star games, 16 SOS = 31 (star)
(#8) Cesar Gerónimo: 1 MVP nomination finishing 25th, 4 GG, 6 SOS = 16 (well above average)

Pete Rose leads all HOF third basemen in games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, singles, doubles, runs, times on base and total bases, and ranks fifth in WAR (79.1) and JAWS (69.1). If we put him in left field or right field, he still leads the pack in games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, singles and times on base, and ranks in the top ten in the other categories.

Pete Rose: Why he should be in the Hall of Fame

Pete Rose should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame! Here's a poem I wrote in the spirit of the 2015 Christmas Season:

Christmas is coming,
Pete Rose is getting old ...
if you're far from perfect
why be a friggin' scold?
'Cause if you ever gambled
and seldom got a hit,
why damn the all-time leader?
Don't be a hypocrite!
 — Michael R. Burch

REVENGE OF THE BEAN COUNTERS: Baseball's "morality" bean counters would have us believe that of all the men who ever played in the majors and excelled, Pete Rose is among the absolute worst. But the Cooperstown Hall of Fame is no hall of angels! Ty Cobb described himself as "sadistic" and has been called a sociopath by other players; he beat his son with a whip for flunking out of Princeton, got into bloody fights with umpires, honed his spikes to intimidate opponents, once leaped into the stands to beat up a handless heckler, and told sportswriter Al Stump: "In 1912—and you can write this down—I killed a man in Detroit." As the author of Baseball Hall of Fame—or Hall of Shame? asks: "Once you've already let in Ty Cobb, how can you exclude anyone else?" Is gambling baseball's unforgiveable sin? Well, Rogers Hornsby was sued by his bookie and was eventually traded because of his heavy betting; he was also accused of womanizing, abusing three wives, and multiple cases of reckless driving, including running over an elderly man! Dizzy Dean was a heavy gambler who ended up as an unindicted co-conspirator in a Detroit mob gambling case. Cap Anson has been described as a "relentless" racist who refused to take the field against black players and helped perpetuate the color barrier. Anson, Cobb, Hornsby and Tris Speaker have been accused of belonging to the KKK. Charles Comiskey once "outed" a black player, Charlie Grant, who had been posing as a Cherokee. Ted Williams has been described as a "quasi-misanthrope" who refused to tip his cap to fans or answer curtain calls, and would even spit at the stands! Juan Marichal clubbed John Roseboro over the head with a bat, opening a gash that required 14 stitches. Early Wynn, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson and Pedro Martinez were notorious and feared headhunters. Wynn confessed that he would throw at his own grandmother, while Drysdale said that he would throw a second knockdown pitch to make sure the batter knew the first one was not accidental. Babe Ruth was a notorious drinker, as was Mickey Mantle. To make matters worse, Paul Waner, Hack Wilson and Grover Cleveland Alexander were even accused of playing under the influence of alcohol! Casey Stengel called Waner "graceful" because he could slide without breaking the bottle in his hip pocket! Paul Molitor admitted using recreational drugs. Tim "Rock" Raines lived up to his nickname by stashing a cocaine rock in his uniform; he would slide headfirst to avoid breaking it. Ferguson Jenkins was arrested by customs officials for having cocaine in his luggage. Orlando Cepeda served ten months for smuggling 150 pounds of marijuana. Gaylord Perry doctored baseballs with spit, Vaseline and other substances, which he later admitted in his autobiography Me and the Spitter. George Brett famously cheated with pine tar, then had a tantrum when he was caught. Jim Palmer modeled underwear, for Chrissakes! Wade Boggs admitted being a sex addict to Barbara Walters, on national television. Kirby Puckett and Roberto Alomar were accused of domestic abuse. How many steroid users will eventually be enshrined in the Hall of Fame? How many amphetamine users are already in, since Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mike Schmidt have been linked to "greenies"? And what about slaveowners whose images have appeared on American currency and/or stamps: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Jackson? What did Pete Rose do to warrant eternal damnation, really? He bet on his own team, is that so terrible? Why not let him be where he belongs, with the other non-angelic all-time greats who were judged strictly by their performance on the field!

Let me also point out that in addition to starring on two World Series winning teams with the Red in 1975-1976, Pete Rose changed positions yet again, to first base, then led the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies to the team's first-ever World Series victory, after a century of futility. Playing at age 39, the indestructible, indefatigable Rose led the Phillies in games (162), plate appearances (739) and hits (185). He also led the NL in doubles (42) and HBPs (6), scored 95 runs, and made the all-star team. In 1981, at age 40, he batted .325, led the NL in hits, won a silver slugger award, made the all-star team and finished tenth in the MVP voting. In 1982, at age 42, he again played every game (162), scored 80 runs, stole 8 bases, and made the all-star team. In 1984 at age 43, rejuvenated by his return to the Reds as a player-manager, in 26 games he hit .365 with an OPS of .888. In 1985, at freaking age 44, he had 107 hits and 86 walks for an OBP of .395, stole 8 bases while only being caught once, and made the all-star team. In 1986 at you-gotta-be-kidding-me age 45, he was still good for better than a base per game, with 52 hits and 30 walks in 72 games, and stole three bases without being caught. Hank Aaron got 262 hits in his forties. Rose had 806 hits in his forties. Hell, Rose scored more runs, 366, in his forties than Aaron had hits. Double hell, Rose even had more RBIs, 271, than Aaron had hits!

Come on folks, Pete Rose was a baseball freak, a hitting machine, a human dynamo―"Charlie Hustle!" We have all gambled and done silly and stupid things, but none of us ever got 806 hits in our forties against the best pitchers in the world! Bean counters and moralists should have no say in who is eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and especially not when Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Cap Anson, Mickey Mantle and other rouges are enshrined there.

And just in case you're not yet convinced, please consider these facts:

Pete Rose has more than a thousand total bases more than great sluggers like Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Mantle, Sammy Sosa, Cap Anson, Al Simmons, and teammates Tony Pérez and Mike Schmidt
Pete Rose had more than a thousand runs more than Steve Garvey, Ron Santo, Keith Hernandez, Kirby Puckett, Orlando Cepeda, Bill Terry, Johnny Mize, and teammates Johnny Bench and Ken Griffey Sr.
Pete Rose has more than a thousand hits more than George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew, Paul Waner, Nap Lajoie, Rogers Hornsby, Al Simmons, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams
In fact, Pete Rose has more than a thousand hits more than all but twelve players in baseball history!
Pete Rose had more than two thousand hits more than hall-of-famers Joe DiMaggio, Bill Terry, Duke Snider, Chuck Klein, and many others
In fact, Pete Rose had nearly two thousand more hits than the average hall-of-famer (4,256 to 2,402)
Pete Rose nearly outhit the celebrated hall-of-fame infield trio of Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance by himself (4,256 to 4,623)
Pete Rose has more than two thousand more plate appearances than all but two players in baseball history
Pete Rose more than doubled the career hits of great hitters like Mike Piazza, Duke Snider, Dale Murphy, Felipe Alou and Johnny Mize; they would have to clone themselves and play another career to catch him!
Pete Rose nearly doubled the doubles of the average hall-of-famer (746 to 411)
Pete Rose out-doubled Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance by himself (746 to 679)
Pete Rose doubled the doubles of Jim Rice, Bill Terry, Pie Traynor, Nellie Fox, and many other hall-of-famers
Pete Rose hit more home runs than hall-of-famers Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Paul Waner, Bill Terry, George Sisler, Lou Brock, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs
Most hall-of-famers are sissies compared to Pete Rose: he had nearly seven thousand more plate appearances than the average inductee (15,890 to 9,026)!
Pete Rose played in nearly as many winning games as the average hall-of-famer played total games (1,972 to 2,140)!
Pete Rose is the all-time leader in games played, winning games played, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, singles, and total times on base.
Pete Rose, while often called a "singles hitter," is also the all-time leader in extra-base hits (1,041) and total bases (5,752) by a switch hitter: more than Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray and Chipper Jones.
Pete Rose was an all-star seventeen times at five different positions. He is the only player to log 500 games at five different positions. Most players do well to master one position.
Pete Rose played seven different positions altogether: 1B, 2B, 3B, RF, CF, LF and playing-manager with the Reds at the end of his career.
Pete Rose was the NL rookie of the year, once an all-star starter, and twice a top-ten MVP candidate at second base (1963-1966).
Pete Rose was an all-star and a top-ten MVP candidate at left field (1967).
Pete Rose was twice a gold glove winner twice and four times an all-star as a right fielder, although at the time (1968-1971) he also played some center field.
Pete Rose was three times an all-star and won the NL MVP award as a left fielder (1972-1974).
Pete Rose was four times an all-star and a top MVP candidate as a third baseman (1975-1978).
Pete Rose was four times an all-star and an MVP candidate as a first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies (1979-1983).
Pete Rose alternated between first base and left field for the Montreal Expos (1984).
Pete Rose acquired a new position (playing manager) for the Reds, and played in his seventeenth and final all-star game as a first baseman (1984-1986).

There are currently 172 position players in the HOF, not including players who were elected as managers. Pete Rose has a higher career WAR (79.1) than all but 34 other position players. So he has higher career WAR than 80% of the greatest hitters ever to play the game. And of course he leads them ALL in games, plate appearances, at-bats and hits. Rose has higher career WAR than legends of the game like Joe DiMaggio, Brooks Robinson, Robin Yount, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, Tony Gwynn, Al Simmons, Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, et al. It is absolutely insane for beancounters to keep Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame. Let him in!


The Great Leadoff Debate

Few baseball fans would argue that Johnny Bench was one of the greatest catchers of all time. Few would contest that Joe Morgan was one of the best second basemen of all time. And it's hard to argue with Tony Pérez's 1,652 RBI, Concepción gold gloves and superior offensive stats for a shortstop of his era, or the reason that George Foster was called the "Destroyer." But for some odd reason, many baseball fans are all-too-ready to radically undervalue Pete Rose. Was he one of the two best leadoff men of all time, or does he belong further down the list? I think it is child's play to prove that Rose is either the best or second-best leadoff man of all time. First, let's ask: "What is the main goal of hitting leadoff?" Isn't the goal to get on base and score or help create runs? Yes, stealing bases is a factor, but would you rather have a leadoff hitter who steals bases, or one who scores runs in bunches? I think any baseball coach or manager would chose getting on base and producing runs over steals. So let's examine the evidence from those angles:

Hits: Pete Rose #1, Craig Biggio #22, Rickey Henderson #23, Ichiro Suzuki #25, Lou Brock #26, Omar Vizquel #42, Johnny Damon #54, Max Carey #71, Tim Raines #80, Kenny Lofton #120, Billy Hamilton #198

Times on Base: Pete Rose #1, Rickey Henderson #4, Craig Biggio #19, Tim Raines #48, Omar Vizquel #50, Lou Brock #60, Johnny Damon #62, Max Carey #69, Ichiro Suzuki #76, Billy Hamilton #111, Kenny Lofton #120

Total Bases: Pete Rose #8 (just 41 less than Babe Ruth!), Craig Biggio #36, Rickey Henderson #45, Johnny Damon #72, Lou Brock #69, Ichiro Suzuki #100, Tim Raines #121, Omar Vizquel #129, Max Carey #151

Runs: Rickey Henderson #1, Pete Rose #6, Craig Biggio #15, Billy Hamilton #27, Johnny Damon #32, Lou Brock #47, Tim Raines #54, Max Carey #57, Kenny Lofton #63, Omar Vizquel #81, Ichiro Suzuki #96

Runs Created: Pete Rose #10, Rickey Henderson #11, Craig Biggio #34, Tim Raines #61, Johnny Damon #73, Lou Brock #85, Ichiro Suzuki #91, Kenny Lofton #116, Max Carey #136, Omar Vizquel #144, Billy Hamilton #192

WAR: Rickey Henderson 110.8, Pete Rose 79.1, Lou Brock 45.2, Tim Raines 69.1, Kenny Lofton 68.2, Craig Biggio 65.1, Billy Hamilton 63.3, Ichiro Suzuki 59.0, Johnny Damon 56.0, Max Carey 54.2, Omar Vizquel 45.3, Lou Brock 45.2

Other leadoff hitters I considered, but who didn't break the top 100 in runs, include Brady Anderson, Luis Aparicio, Richie Ashburn, Bobby Bonds, Brett Butler, Bert Campaneris, Vince Coleman, Earle Combs, Dom DiMaggio, Stan Hack, Harry Hooper, Chuck Knoblauch, Davey Lopes, Pee Wee Reese, Lloyd Waner, Devon White, Maury Wills, Willie Wilson and Eddie Yost. I also didn't consider players who spent a lot of time hitting in other positions, such as Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor and Lou Whitaker. Pete Rose had nearly 3,000 hits batting leadoff, so I am comparing him to other players who were primarily leadoff hitters.

What these numbers tell us is that there is a considerable gap among leadoff hitters, after Pete Rose and Rickey Henderson. Rose leads all leadoff hitters in four categories. Henderson leads in runs and WAR. If you want to claim that Henderson was the best leadoff man of all time, you have a decent argument, although Rose leads Henderson by wide margins in hits and total bases. But I don't think there is much of an argument to choose anyone other than Rose for the other top slot.

The "eye test" gives me the following ranking: Rose #1, Henderson #2, Biggio #3, Brock #4, Damon #5, Raines #6, Suzuki #7, Carey #8, Vizquel #9, Lofton #10, Hamilton #11 (BTW, this tends to support Bill James, who has ranked Biggio much higher than many other baseball gurus)

If we included Boggs and Molitor, they would both be in the top five, but I don't think they would jump over Rose and Henderson.

I think the 1976 Reds were remarkable because in my opinion they had the best leadoff hitter of all time playing third, the best catcher of all time, and the best second baseman of all time. If they were not the best, they were certainly among the very best. And that is more remarkable than having power hitters at power positions like first base and the outfield. Toss in Pérez and Concepción and you easily have the best infield of all time. Then look at the stats of the outfielders, who were easily the best outfield in all MLB in 1976. This is just more evidence that the 1976 Reds stand alone as the best team of position players, from top to bottom, in the history of baseball.

Related Pages: All-Time Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team, The Greatest Baseball Infields of All Time, Cincinnati Reds Trivia, Is Mike Trout the GOAT?, Best Baseball Nicknames, Weird Baseball Facts and Trivia, Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates, Why Pete Rose Should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame


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