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Monday, April 18, 2011

Why Rose should be in Hall of Fame and drug cheats should not- Dale Earnhardt Jr. fuels JJ's win at Dega - Pryor underwhelms NFL scouts -

Why Rose should be in Hall of Fame and drug cheats should not
Paul Daugherty si.com

Pete Rose turned 70 years old on Thursday. It's not known if he marked the day by sliding headfirst into a three-layer cake. The day Peter Edward Pan begins his eighth decade, we all start aging in dog years.
Rose is the world's oldest child. His life has been ruled by impulse and compulsion. If it feels good, do it. As a manager, Rose used gambling to provide the competitive rush he no longer had as a player. After 15 years of denials, Rose admitted in his book My Prison Without Bars that he bet on baseball games. He got a $1 million advance for that stunner. For $1 million, Pete Rose would admit he was a komodo dragon.
Since the book appeared in 2004, any chance Rose had of being reinstated to baseball -- and being eligible for its Hall of Fame -- seemed as likely as Pete nailing an exacta every day for the rest of his life. And yet, the debate lingers. It's not pushed by Rose. He has reconciled himself to the notion he will not be in the Hall. The talk is furthered by the drug cheats, alleged and admitted, that still dominate the headlines.
It used to be, Major League Baseball summarily dismissed Rose's pleas by saying he violated the game's scarlet rule. It's not that easy now. Not when Mark McGwire's name is on the Hall of Fame ballot, and Roger Clemens' will be. Not when there is no good solution for Barry Bonds.
I am an unapologetic supporter of Rose for the Hall of Fame. I have been since the day Bart Giamatti kicked him out of the game. Every time another hero dips baseball's credibility into a vat of juice, I feel better about my position on Rose.
Rose's transgression tarnished the game's integrity. It did not enhance his chances to be enshrined. Can we say the same for Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez? All are at least suspected of cheating the game, in a different way. A better way, apparently. Each made the right mistake. Allegedly. None has joined Rose on the game's permanently ineligible list.
I've had a Hall of Fame vote for more than 20 years. I have never voted for anyone I've believed juiced. If baseball's lords won't draw that line in the dirt, I will. And yet ...
I voted for Rose. I wrote in his name 15 times. In my own way, I'm as hypocritical as the lords of the game. I'm judging by degree, too. I'm saying what Rose did is less wrong than what the juicers did. How can I be OK with Pete and not with the three-time proven juice-aholic Ramirez?
It's entirely contradictory and subjective and meets no standard of rational judgment. It just is.

Pete: In.
Juicers: Out.

At is most essential, the Hall of Fame is a museum. Lots of museums house scraps of bad memory. Some trade in it wholesale. Ever been to a Holocaust museum, anywhere?
I do not go to Cooperstown seeking divine inspiration. I did not take my son there, point to Ty Cobb's plaque and say, "He loved his mom. Instead of awarding him a Nobel Prize, they put him here.''
Puffs of smoke do not rise from the transoms when a new member is enshrined. The Hall of Fame is a place for honoring achievement. Rose had 4,256 hits. No one had more. That's one hell of an achievement. Besides, a lot of Rose's things are there already. If baseball wants to mirror-gaze momentarily, maybe it ought to question the righteousness of that.
It would be nice if athletic grace equated with the walking-around kind. It almost never does. We still tongue-cluck when our jocks fail us away from the arena. That's on us, not them.
And yet ...
If I give Rose a Hall pass, why not the others?
Rose's gambling didn't help him get 4,256 hits. It didn't mess with the outcome of a game any more than another player's pill/cream/needle did. It's specious to suggest that because Rose never was found to have bet against his own team, his gambling was less harmful.
What if he bet on the Reds and had to use his closer for a fourth day in a row, to try and win the bet?
Maybe it's the man himself. In some ways, Rose remains what we like to think is good about the game, and ourselves: a less-than-supremely gifted dirty shirt, self made, who rose on the back of his own sweat ethic. A little boy who played a little boy's game the way all of us imagined we would, if given that chance.
Rose's wounds have been self-inflicted, caused by the same stubborn arrogance that fueled his chase of Cobb's hits mark. He believed he could outlast the game, same as he did Cobb. Rose was admittedly a selfish player, but his selfishness never hurt his team. Compare that with the profound selfishness displayed by Manny Ramirez.
Pete hasn't taken down anyone but himself. Legions of high school kids aren't betting on ballgames. They are experimenting with performance enhancers.
In Cincinnati, fathers with good, long memories still tell their sons to "play the game like Pete did.'' Who would say that about the Steroid Era suspects?
What's the solution? Can hypocrisy and suspicion co-exist in Cooperstown? Why is one man's gambling worse than another man's drugging?
Maybe the Hall of Fame should include a Cheaters Wing/Annex/Cell Block. The Hall of Exile.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Asterisk Room ...
Regardless, baseball needs to do something. If you're OK with keeping Rose's nose pressed against the window, fine. You must do the same for the others. Either that, or admit them all to the museum. But start with Rose. His brand of cheating didn't help him 4,256 times.
The Hit Kid turned 70 on Thursday. Baseball's dilemma remains ageless.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. fuels JJ's win at Dega
David Newton
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. was wrapping up a pit road interview following Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway when teammate Jimmie Johnson pulled up in his car.
Earnhardt walked over to congratulate his teammate.
Johnson handed him the checkered flag and invited him to join the celebration in Victory Lane.
"He said it belonged to me, but I don't agree with that," Earnhardt said after his fourth-place finish. "I appreciate it. I'll get him to sign it and it'll be one checkered flag that ain't mine."
He's wrong. Earnhardt deserved the flag as much as the five-time defending Cup champion. Without him agreeing that the Hendrick Motorsports tandem was faster with him pushing, without him holding things together in the wildest four-wide, eight-car scramble you'll ever see, Johnson wouldn't have been in the top five.
It was a classy move by a driver who hasn't been to Victory Lane now in 101 consecutive races.
Johnson knew that and returned the class with class.
"Just came to mind," Johnson said of his gesture. "I handed it to him and he said, 'Man, I don't want that.' I said, 'Well, I've got to give you something for the push and working with me.'
"He said, 'No, that's what teammates do.' I smiled and said, 'Take the damn flag. I'll give you the trophy, too.' "
It's not every day you get the flag and a trip to Victory Lane for finishing fourth, even if fourth was only .058 seconds behind the winner.
But in many ways this was a win for Earnhardt. He made the right call to be the
pusher in a two-car draft, didn't wreck as he did in February at Daytona -- where two-car dancing took on a new meaning -- and earned a ton of respect from Johnson.
"Man, he's a riot,"Johnson said. "You guys scan all the time, but to hear him on the channel and Stevie [Letarte] and the things he talks about. ... Can I have this channel more often just to listen?"
Crew chief Chad Knaus smiled and said, "No."
"I mean, there's some entertaining stuff going on," Johnson continued. "On a serious note, he was committed, as was I, and it showed today. Neither one of us were selfish and we worked as a group. And at the end, he felt like the 48 car leading was faster; we agreed."
Johnson was proud of that. So was team owner Rick Hendrick. He came to this 2.66-mile facility half expecting Earnhardt to end his losing streak. Knowing how badly Earnhardt wants to win as much or more than anyone, he appreciated the sacrifice it took to play the supporting role at the end.
"That's a helluva teammate to say we're faster with you in the front," said Hendrick, noting this was the first time he left Talladega with four cars intact. "Junior made the call, and they did it. They had a plan and they stuck to it. Every other time I've been down here we had a plan and never stuck to it. It was good to see."
It was wild to see, whether you were in the grandstand, the lead pack or watching on television. But the finish was particularly wild from Earnhardt's view, or lack of view, behind the No. 48.
For the most part, all he saw was a spoiler.
The two actually fell off the pace with about four laps remaining because Earnhardt's motor was running too warm. When they finally reconnected, Earnhardt pushed Johnson past a large group on the bottom.
Heading to the final lap, they were behind the tandems of Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin on the inside, with Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick on the outside and Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle closing against the wall.
Johnson ducked to the bottom going into Turn 3, but Gordon and Martin blocked. Let's let Earnhardt, who did a masterful job of staying on Johnson's bumper, take it from here.
"I had no idea how many cars were in front of him," he said. "I was screaming on the radio for him not to lift no matter what. TJ [Majors, spotter] was screaming and Jimmie was screaming. Jimmie was telling me, 'I might go to the middle.' No, the middle is blocked. We come out of four. He said, 'I'm going to the bottom.'
"He didn't show his hand, which was really smart. He kind of sat in there behind them. We formed a run. They tried to sweep us down. I got into the side of Martin real hard and turned myself sideways. I thought we were going to have a helluva wreck."
Instead, Earnhardt pulled off the save and had enough momentum to push Johnson to a .002-second victory over Bowyer, the closest finish in NASCAR history.
"I didn't know who won the race," Earnhardt said. "I just wanted to get a good finish. I would have loved to have won the race. In this kind of package you've got to make some sacrifices, just like a relationship."

“That's a helluva teammate to say we're faster with you in the front. Junior made the call, and they did it. They had a plan and they stuck to it.
”-- Rick Hendrick on Dale Earnhardt Jr. ceding position to Jimmie Johnson

This season has been all about relationships for Earnhardt. He's got a good one now with his crew chief, pit crew and seemingly everyone in the organization. The bond between him and Johnson definitely got a boost on this sun-splashed day.
"I felt better about pushing him through the pack," Earnhardt said. "I felt better about him making the decision we were going to make at the end."
If you remember, it wasn't that long ago that Earnhardt was critical of Johnson as a plate driver. Now he's calling him smart and letting him make the key moves.
Another victory.
"We would have been pushing the 88 if Dale hadn't come on the radio and said we were faster with Jimmie in front," Knaus said.
The sacrifice will pay off one day. Perhaps at the next restrictor-plate race at Daytona in July, Johnson will return the favor. He does owe him one.
But one gets the feeling Earnhardt will win before then. He already has five top-10s, three shy of what he had all last season. He has three top-5s, equaling his total of a year ago when he finished 21st in points.
He's also third in points, 19 behind Edwards and only 14 behind Johnson in second.
"If he keeps doing this, he'll get there," Hendrick said.
Earnhardt is getting closer, and a checkered flag and trip to Victory Lane isn't half bad for fourth place.
"Yeah, yeah, man, points," Earnhardt said as he handed the flag to a member of his staff for safe keeping. "I like trophies, but points are cool, too."

Pryor underwhelms NFL scouts
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor is saying the supplemental draft is not in his future. And staying in school probably is a smart move. He may be a great college player, but scouts I've spoken with say Pryor would likely go in the fourth or fifth round of the supplemental draft. They see him as a player who is not an NFL style quarterback, an inaccurate passer and a player who struggles making decisions.

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