So tonight the spotlight will find Pete Rose again, after long years of wandering a wilderness of his own making. He'll be honored as part of the Big Red Machine, because that's what you do when the All-Star Game is in Cincinnati. He'll wave to the crowd. The crowd will pour out its love in return, and that love will be fierce and unconditional.
Heck. Jim Gray might even leave him alone this time.
All of this will be more evidence that baseball and commissioner Rob Manfred do not really think he's the greatest criminal in the history of the game, nor do they believe it serves the game's purpose to Stalinize its history by treating him as such. Pete will have his moment tonight because it's entirely appropriate for him to have that moment. Baseball will survive the outrage.
What it won't do, what it can't do, is allow what is inappropriate. And that includes enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Once upon a time I said Pete's banishment from the Hall was simple justice for the way he violated the game's most inviolable rule, and the only way for him to overturn that banishment was to come clean. Finally, he did, or so we thought. And even though it was entirely self-serving (as is everything with Pete), I thought it was enough.
The man had done his time in purgatory, not to say in every card show and whistle-stop independent baseball town in America. He'd owned up. He'd been, for want of a better term, rehabilitated.
So, let him in. Certainly everything else about him screamed Hall of Fame, even if his rectitude didn't.
Well, now, of course, it turns out Pete still can't tell the truth. Now it turns out he DID bet on the game as a player, and rather than admit it, he's gone into lawyer mode by saying that, technically, he didn't lie, because he was also the Reds manager at the time.
Enough with the bobbing, the weaving, the hair-splitting. Enough with the supporters who try to justify him with moral equivalency ("What about the steroids guys? You gonna tell me Pete's gambling hurt the game more than steroids?"). The man not only touched baseball's third rail, he wrapped it in a bearhug. And he's still lying about it.
And so ... give him his night in Cincy. Let the love pour down around him. Acknowledge that, from a purely performance standpoint, the doors of Cooperstown should swing wide for him, and likely will someday.
But not for awhile yet. Not for a good long while.