Pete Rose: Why He Should Be in the Baseball Hall of Fame
Pete Rose is the all-time leader in hits,
times-on-base, games played, wins, plate appearances
and at-bats. He is the only baseball player to have appeared 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 and unselfishness 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 had won two Gold Gloves in the outfield and may
have sacrificed around 20 career WAR or more, by playing out of position (more
on this later). 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 has more total bases than immortal sluggers like Lou
Gehrig, Mel Ott and Jimmy Foxx. 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 with ten 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. Hell, 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! And it is absolutely ridiculous
to keep Rose out of the Baseball Hall of Fame, considering some of the people
currently enshrined (more on this below).
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. As a matter of fact, 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. 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, Elston Howard, Gravvy Cravath, Marty Marion, Hack Wilson, Charlie Keller, Ralph Kiner,
Red Rolfe, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Pedro Guerrero, Kirk Gibson, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. 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!
So please give the
man his due: in the most competitive of games stats-wise, Rose is the all-time
leader in seven major categories. He was the leader of the arguably greatest team of all time: the
1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds. He then led the Philadelphia Phillies to their first
World Series title at age 39. 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 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."
Pete Rose's Consistent Greatness
Pete Rose was consistently great for more than 20 years. For evidence, let's
consider how many times he finished in the top ten in the following categories:
Plate Appearances (19 seasons), #1 all-time
Times on Base (18 seasons), #1 all-time
At-Bats (18 seasons), #1 all-time
Hits (17 seasons), #1 all-time
Singles (17 seasons), #1 all-time
Doubles (15 seasons), #3 all-time
Runs (15 seasons), #4 all-time
Batting Average (13 seasons), #8 all-time in a tie with baseball immortals Rod
Carew, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Wee Willie Keeler, Nap Lajoie and Ted
Pete Rose's Career WAR is Undervalued
Pete Rose has 79.7 career WAR, which is more than the career WAR of Joe
DiMaggio, Brooks Robinson, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Reggie Jackson, Ozzie
Smith, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Paul Waner, and other baseball immortals. But I
believe Rose's WAR would be much higher if he hadn't been so unselfish about
playing wherever his team needed him most. According to dWAR, his best position
was left field. In 1973-1974 when Rose played left field exclusively, he had 1.4
and 1.5 dWAR, respectively. But when he played other positions, his dWAR
suffered and he ended up with career dWAR of -13.2 (negative). It stands to
reason that if Rose had been able to play his best defensive position for most
of his career, his career WAR would have been around 20 to 30 points higher.
That would make him a top 20 position player, somewhere close to his teammate
Joe Morgan and players like Albert Pujols, Mike Schmidt, Frank Robinson, Nap
Lajoie and Mel Ott.
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?"
Gambling, Oh Really?
baseball's unforgiveable sin? If so, Cobb was accused of conspiring with Tris
Speaker to fix a game in order to get his Tigers performance bonuses. Cobb and
Speaker only avoided being banned for life by baseball commissioner Judge
Kenesaw Mountain Landis after Cobb threatened to expose how prevalent such
"fixes" were at the time.
Rogers Hornsby was
sued by his bookie for not paying
nearly $100,000 in losses, and was traded several times because of his
Dizzy Dean, another heavy
gambler, was an unindicted co-conspirator in a Detroit mob gambling
case involving the notorious game-fixer Donald "Dice" Dawson.
John McGraw was arrested for public gambling in 1904; his bookie was Arnold
Rothstein of Black Sox infamy.
The perpetually broke Rube Waddell was accused of taking a $17,000 bribe to sit
out the 1905 World Series. (That was more than his salary.)
Mickey Mantle was banned from baseball in 1983 for his association with
gambling, but he remains in the Hall of Fame.
Leo Durocher was accused of "slimy underhand transactions" with gamblers.
Durocher's shady friends included Meyer Boston, Memphis Engelberg, Sleepout
Louie, Cigar Charlie and the Dancer. Bookies roamed Durocher's clubhouse; the
Dodgers' locker room was described as an "open sewer."
Other "Morality" Issues
And there are, of course, worse things than gambling ...
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 Speaker have been accused of belonging to the KKK. Charles
Comiskey once "outed" a black player, Charlie Grant, who had been posing as a
Juan Marichal clubbed John Roseboro over the head with a bat, opening a
gash that required 14 stitches.
Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Paul Waner, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Hack Wilson
were notorious drinkers accused of playing under the influence of alcohol.
(Casey Stengel called Waner "graceful" because he could slide without breaking
the liquor bottle in his hip pocket.) 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.
Kirby Puckett, Roberto
Alomar and Hornsby were accused of domestic abuse. Hornsby was accused of
womanizing, abusing three wives, and multiple cases of reckless driving,
including running over an elderly man!
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.
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
Wade Boggs admitted being a sex addict to Barbara Walters, on national
How many steroid users will end up in the Hall of Fame? How many amphetamine users already
Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt
and Mantle have been linked to "greenies"?
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 other
stars who were judged strictly by their
performance on the field!
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.
Pete Rose: 1 MVP award, 15 MVP nominations with seven top tens, 17 all-star
games, 2 GG, 21 SOS = 134 (immortal)
Johnny Bench: 2 MVP awards, 10 MVP nominations with five top tens, 14 all-star
games, 10 GG, 15 SOS = 128 (immortal)
Joe Morgan: 2 MVP awards, 7 MVP nominations with five top tens, 10 all-star
games, 5 GG, 19 SOS = 108 (immortal)
Tony Pérez: 7 MVP nominations finishing as high as third with three top tens, 7
all-star games, 17 SOS = 60 (superstar)
George Foster: 1 MVP award, 5 MVP nominations finishing 1-2-3-6-12, 5 all-star
games, 13 SOS = 58 (superstar)
Dave Concepción: 3 MVP nominations finishing as high as fourth with two top
tens, 9 all-star games, 5 GG, 13 SOS = 57 (superstar)
Ken Griffey: 2 MVP nominations finishing as high as eighth, 3 all-star games, 16
SOS = 31 (star)
Cesar Gerónimo: 1 MVP nomination finishing 25th, 4 GG, 6 SOS = 16 (well
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.
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
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
Pete Rose was three times an all-star and won the NL MVP award as a left fielder
Pete Rose was four times an all-star and a top MVP candidate as a third baseman
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
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