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Rant, Rave

Published January 11, 2004

Rose should be assessed on two levels

Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.*

Pete Rose should not be a part of Major League Baseball. *

* as of right now.

The Hall is about Rose the player, and his credentials - all-time hits leader - are unquestioned. The character and integrity issues revealed in baseball's investigation of Rose dealt with his actions after his playing career, which have nothing to do with Rose's Hall of Fame candidacy. He's not being considered as a manager. The Hall is about Rose the player, and Charlie Hustle epitomized integrity.

He always went all out, gave his best and tried to win. Isn't that the ultimate standard of character? However, if there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt Rose gambled as a player, then no Hall for him.

Rose has admitted to gambling on baseball while managing the Reds. This is an egregious violation of the integrity of the game, worthy of a lifetime ban. After 14 years of denials, Rose confessed.

But it is just the first of several steps he must take if he wants to get back in the game. He also must apologize and show genuine contrition and remorse for damaging the game. Then a move toward reinstatement can be considered.

Hall of Fame, yes.* Major League Baseball, no.* Regarding Rose, the two should be separated and affixed with an asterisk.

Four great coaches, one great division

The NFL is all about the AFC. The Patriots, Chiefs, Titans and Colts were the four best teams this season. Next season, however, the balance of power shifts toward the NFC East.

The NFC East's rebirth began this season with Bill Parcells' revival of the Cowboys and Andy Reid's continued excellence in Philadelphia. The addition of Joe Gibbs in Washington and Tom Coughlin in New York gives the division two Hall of Famers and two other proven winners. It is, perhaps, the greatest confluence of coaches in league history.

Coughlin, a detail-oriented taskmaster and former Parcells assistant with the Giants, is a panacea for the lack of focus New York showed this season. He twice led expansion Jacksonville to the AFC title game.

Gibbs might need an adjustment period because much has changed in his 11 years away from football and immersion in stock-car racing, notably free agency. But the basics are the same, and Gibbs is a superstar with three Super Bowl rings. He's not coming back to soil his legacy, and he's smart enough to adjust to the times.

The plotlines are delectable: Parcells vs. mentee Coughlin; Gibbs and Parcells rekindling an all-time great coaching rivalry. Reid, the king of the hill, trying to fend off the assaults.

The NFC East is where the action will be in 2004.

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