By David F. Cohen
Ever since he was found to have gambled on baseball games in 1989, Pete Rose has been barred from consideration for the Hall of Fame.
But now that Fox Sports has hired the all-time hits leader — who led the Phillies to the 1980 World Series championship — the earth has shifted.
Fox announced Saturday that it has hired Rose to be a guest analyst for its studio coverage of Major League Baseball on Fox and Fox Sports 1.
According to Ken Rosenthal’s story on FoxSports.com, the network didn’t need the approval of MLB to hire Rose, who has been banned from baseball since 1989. However, Fox said Commissioner Rob Manfred was aware that it was auditioning him for the role.
“As a courtesy, Fox informed us that they were interviewing Pete Rose for an on-air studio position,” said Pat Courtney, baseball’s chief communications officer. “The decision to hire on-air talent for its telecasts rests solely with Fox.”
The move, though, will prompt much speculation that Manfred will reinstate the 74-year-old Rose. Given that sports leagues work closely with their broadcast partners, it is unlikely Fox would have hired Rose if MLB had strong objections. Working on the telecasts could be a way to gauge public reaction to his complete return to the game.
The new job will be the retired Hall-of-Fame caliber player’s closest association to MLB since being banned for life for betting on baseball. He played down the reinstatement aspect to Rosenthal.
“I don’t even worry about that. I’ve never thought about that,” Rose said. “I’m just trying to give back to baseball. Hopefully people will watch and I’ll make some good points that will help them understand the game more.
“I’m not concentrating or worrying about reinstatement. I’m worried about working, having fun. This will be fun for me. It won’t be like work. That’s the way I look at it.”
At the very least, the addition of Rose should boost the ratings for Fox’s studio presentations.
“It’s obvious that Pete has a vast knowledge of baseball history, but what is equally impressive is how well informed and opinionated he is about the game today,” Fox Sports executive John Entz said.