As dictated by his lifetime ban for betting on baseball, Pete Rose can't set foot in any areas of a major league stadium that is off-limits to fans.
Starting Monday, however, Rose will be in your living room, or favorite sports bar, on a regular basis as a studio analyst for Fox Sports 1, the network announced.
At first glance, it would appear Rose is dipping his toe back into the game that exiled him almost three decades ago. After being frozen out for so long, might this be an indication the ice is thawing, that Rose could eventually be reinstated by new commissioner Rob Manfred?
We won't say Rose has a snowball's chance in, well, you know. But being hired by one of MLB's broadcast partners still is a long way from getting a final thumbs-up from Manfred, who would be doing something that no commissioner has ever done.
It's called a lifetime ban for a reason, and Rose, 74, is the only living player on baseball's permanently ineligible list. That penalty has always been in place as a nuclear deterrent for potential gamblers, who have the dangerous ability to strip the sport of its integrity -- a crime that's nearly impossible to reverse, even the mere perception of it.
Rest assured Manfred won't be making any hasty judgments here. Rose sent a formal request for reinstatement to the commissioner's office after Man- fred took over for Bud Selig at the end of January. But a person familiar with the process said this week that it is likely to be a while before the two meet to discuss the application.
Manfred already has approved Rose's participation for the All-Star Game festivities in Cincinnati in July -- not all that different from what Selig did in allowing Rose to join the All-Century Team celebration during the 1999 World Series at Atlanta's Turner Field. Rose is a native of Cincinnati, one of the Reds' greatest players ever and was managing the team when the betting scandal that resulted in his ban first emerged.
Some believed Rose's inclusion at the high-profile Atlanta event was a sign that Selig was softening his stance on the lifetime ban, but he kept it in place. Manfred admitted recently that he has "volumes" of material to study before he's ready to form an opinion on Rose's status. And he pulled back from discussing the matter in detail during his Houston visit earlier this week.
"I made myself a promise about this," Manfred told reporters there. "All I'm going to say about Pete Rose is I don't have anything additionally to say at this point and time."
While this immediate conversation is about his reinstatement, what's really at stake here for Rose is a possible plaque in Cooperstown. As long as he remains on baseball's ineligible list, Rose cannot be considered for the Hall of Fame, despite his impeccable on-field credentials.
Rose not only is the sport's all-time hits leader (4,256), he's a 17-time All-Star with three batting titles, an NL MVP (1973) and World Series MVP ('75) as the catalyst for the Big Red Machine. Before Rose could even be considered for Cooperstown, however, the Hall's board of directors installed a new rule in February 1991 -- the year before he would be voted upon by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) -- to never give him the chance.
The rule stated that banished players also would not be eligible for the Hall, and therefore, not appear on the annual ballots. While not implemented specifically for Rose, the rule was approved two years after then commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti put him on the ineligible list and five years following Rose's retirement. Rose would have appeared on the BBWAA ballot that same November.
"The directors felt that it would be incongruous to have a person who has been declared ineligible by baseball to be eligible for baseball's highest honor," Hall of Fame president Ed Stack said at the time. "It follows that if such individual is reinstated by baseball, then such individual would be a candidate for election."
If Manfred does indeed reinstate Rose -- many believe this remains an extreme long shot -- he won't be subject to the BBWAA's general electorate of 500-plus qualified voters. His candidacy would be more complicated under the jurisdiction of the Expansion Era committee, which considers players whose greatest contributions were after 1973 but currently not on the modern ballot.
That involves a few extra steps. First, Rose must be appointed by a selection committee that puts together a list of 12 candidates -- but only every three years. That group won't meet again until 2017, so that's the earliest Rose could be considered for the Hall if reinstated.
Once on that list, Rose would then be scrutinized by another 16-person committee made up of Hall members, baseball executives and veteran media members. Induction by that group requires 75 percent of the vote. Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa all were elected last year by that same process.
Rose has admitted to gambling on baseball, and that makes him a special case as far as Cooperstown is concerned. The Hall took proactive measures to make sure Rose could not be elected -- unlike its stance on PED offenders, which is to leave that up to the BBWAA to sort out every December.
With Rose, it's difficult to predict how the Expansion Era committee would vote if he eventually was cleared for the ballot. Gambling on the game has stood as the one unforgivable sin for baseball, which is why the punishment must remain severe. Even if Rose was reinstated, it's highly unlikely he'd ever again be in a position that could effect the outcome of games, as he was as a player and manager.
Still, there seems to be little reason for Manfred to lift Rose's ban. Nothing has changed other than the passage of time, and from a disciplinary standpoint, Rose is worth more as a cautionary tale than whatever goodwill would be generated by his reinstatement.
After all, Rose's lifetime sentence did not come with parole or time off for good behavior. Being back on TV probably won't change that, but you can bet the commissioner's office will be watching.