Pete Rose says he is not aware of anybody who used steroids during his career. "I know nobody that played with me took steroids. I played with 11 Hall of Famers and played against 52 Hall of Famers, and I don’t know any of them linked to steroids." (Photo: Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports)
Ted Berg, USA TODAY Sports
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- All-time major league hits leader Pete Rose has been banned from baseball since 1989, but no one can stop him from keeping a close eye on the game. And Rose, who says he watches two or three games a day, has some advice for the suspended Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and other players caught up in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal, including Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees.
"Come clean as quickly as you possibly can," Rose told USA TODAY Sports Thursday from a memorabilia store a block away from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. "I guess Braun thought he was going to get away with it when he got off the hook the first time. I wish I could go around to all the spring training camps and talk to the young players about what happened to me.
"If baseball wants to get you, they've got enough resources and enough investigators that they'll find a way to get you."
Rose accepted a lifetime ban from then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti in August 1989, after an investigation revealed he had been gambling on games while managing the Cincinnati Reds. Before confessing in a 2004 autobiography, Rose admitted fault to Commissioner Bud Selig. He has filed for reinstatement multiple times, but Selig has yet to rule on his case. And as the only living person banned for life from the game, Rose thinks Braun caught a break.
"Braun's got to feel pretty fortunate to only get 65 games, because they're really cracking down on it," he said. "He did like I did. He disappointed a lot of people. Deceived a lot of people. And if you get anything out of it, I think the young players should take one thing away from it: Don't lie. All they have to do is watch what happened to me, and that would teach you, don't lie."
But even as an indomitable baseball fan enduring the sport's harshest ban, Rose will not say whether he thinks the league's current system of suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use is appropriate punishment.
"I've been suspended, in August, 24 years," he said. "Is that fair? I don't know. What's worse? They're both bad.
"But the most important thing in baseball - the history of baseball - is the stats. I did nothing to alter any stats. I did nothing that would (tick) Babe Ruth off. I did nothing that would (tick) Roger Maris off. I did nothing that would (tick) Ty Cobb off. So I guess my question would be - wouldn't it be nice if you could talk to Roger Maris or Babe Ruth? Hank Aaron won't talk about it. Those are the guys whose records have been assaulted by steroids. Not my record. And if someone ever got 4,257 hits that was linked to steroids, I'd have something to tell you about it."
Rose says he is not aware of anybody using steroids during his career. "I know nobody that played with me took steroids," he said. "I played with 11 Hall of Famers and played against 52 Hall of Famers, and I don't know any of them linked to steroids."
Rose maintains a relationship with Rodriguez - who has come to him for hitting advice since the pair met at an autograph signing in Las Vegas several years ago. Rose says the two last communicated when Rodriguez's differences with the Yankees over his quadriceps injury first arose this month. Rose advised Rodriguez to shut out the distractions.
"I don't want to get into all that," Rodriguez said, according to Rose. "I just want to come back and rake."
"A-Rod is a great kid, I think, but he lacks self-confidence," Rose said. "A lot of good players do. Sparky Anderson taught me this a long time ago: There's three ways you can treat a person. You can pat 'em on the butt, you can kick 'em in the butt, or you can leave 'em alone. If Sparky was alive today, he'd tell you that A-Rod needs to be patted on the butt."
Rose shied away from discussing Rodriguez's current situation with both his team and the league's Biogenesis investigation, but he suggested the 14-time All-Star and three-time MVP has been unfairly treated at times by both the Yankees and fans.
"Before any of this stuff came out, A-Rod had Hall of Fame stats," he said. "Still does. So to get pinch-hit for (as Rodriguez did in the 2012 playoffs) is tough for a guy to take, especially in a town like New York.
"Plus, all through his career in New York - it wasn't fair - he was always compared to Jeter. They're totally different, and they're thought upon totally different by the fans. A-Rod can do no right, and Jeter can do no wrong. It's not because of his ability - he's got great ability. It's just the way people perceive him."
Rose has signed autographs at Safe at Home Sports every induction weekend since 1994. He stays in an apartment above the store when he's in town, and signs autographs all weekend long. As he greeted fans Thursday, Rose expressed remorse for his own reluctance to confess his guilt to Giamatti.
"I wish I had come clean a lot sooner," he said. "I had my different reasons why. It's not right. I made a mistake and they made a mistake.
"Most people in this country understand that people are human and they make mistakes. And most people will give somebody a second chance. I'm still waiting on that second chance. I'll get it someday."
USA TODAY Sports