What to do with Pete Rose?

Pete Rose is banned from Major League Baseball.

But he hasn’t disappeared from the game.

Far from it.

In fact, 31 years after his last at-bat, and 28 years after he last managed, Rose remains as visible — and as indispensable — as ever.

Baseball has been walking a fine line with Rose for some time, but never more than in the last few years.

Rose isn’t allowed to work in the game. But he does tremendous analysis for Fox Sports before and after them.

He isn’t eligible for the Hall of Fame.

But he’s been inducted into the Reds’ Hall of Fame, and will also be inducted into the Philadelphia Phillies’ Wall of Fame.

If the Montreal Expos were still around, they’d probably honor Rose — who played half a season for them — as well.

Rose is out of baseball, except when he isn’t. He won’t be honored in Cooperstown, but he received a standing ovation two years ago at a pregame ceremony for the game’s greatest living players in Cincinnati. It was minutes before the All-Star Game, and baseball had no problem having Rose be introduced last as a Reds’ representative.

Hey, it was great TV.

So, Baseball is still mad at Rose about the gambling thing.

I think.

This week it was announced Rose will not be voted on for the sport’s Hall of Fame. But on Saturday, a statue of him was unveiled at Great American Ballpark to celebrate him.

Maybe no one will mind if the White Sox put up a statue of Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Or maybe they will. Or maybe they’ll have to go over everything they’ve said or written to find out if they can somehow allow their opinions to remain consistent.

I’d be more perplexed about this if I could find some consistency in my own thoughts.

Pete Rose played in the first MLB game I saw live. I was 5. From the moment I became a baseball fan, Rose represented the way the game should be played.

Hustle. Hitting. Winning.

Yes, he had 4,256 hits, a number that may never be reached. He played in six World Series, and his teams won three of those.

But stats don’t tell you about Pete Rose.

Go to YouTube and watch a game he played in. Not highlights.

Watch him in a game, and watch him hit a grounder to second.

An easy out.

Rose will run it out, all the way.

He played with a reckless desperation, as if everyone was trying to throw him out of the game. It’s something to watch, even now.

No one today plays like Pete Rose did.

There was, and is, so much good about Pete Rose.

But there’s bad, too.

Rose bet on baseball as a manager, and may have as a player. He is said to have bet on games in which his team played.

By doing so, he compromised the game. And then he lied about it for years.

He received a lifetime ban, and deserved it.

And yet, I can’t bring myself to believe the sport is better without him.

And I think Baseball is slowly realizing it as well, which is why it is relaxing some of the restrictions on Rose.

He was in the Reds’ broadcast booths Saturday, first on TV, with Thom Brennaman and Chris Welch, and then on the radio, with Marty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley.

Rose talked about the day, what the statue meant to him, and so on.

But he also talked about the sport today. About how few people realize how good the Reds’ Joey Votto really is. About how multi-year contracts have hurt the game because some don’t go all out to win.

He was engaging, funny and interesting.

It was a major letdown when he left the broadcasts, and not just because the Reds were getting smoked by the Dodgers.

Rose is 76 years old. But his passion for the game — the one that kicked him out — is so apparent. I don’t know of anyone today who is as capable of championing baseball.

Joe Morgan, a teammate and friend of Rose’s, once said that Rose needed baseball.

He was probably right.

But more and more, I believe Baseball needs Pete Rose.

I just don’t know if Baseball will, or even should, embrace that idea.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I can either.

You have rules, and Rose broke them.

He’s paid a major price for that, and will continue to pay.

But I think in a way, we’ve all been paying for it, too.

That’s the problem with Pete Rose.

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