Pete Rose may be one step closer to returning to baseball.

Baseball's all-time hit king has been hired by Fox Sports as a special in-studio analyst for an unspecified number of games this season. His start date has not been announced.

Major League Baseball, which banned Rose for life in 1989 for betting on games, says it is aware of the hiring, but insists that Fox did not need its' approval, since Rose will not be inside a broadcasting booth at an MLB stadium, which would violate the terms of his ban. Nonetheless, MLB issued a statement:

As a courtesy, Fox informed us that they were interviewing Pete Rose for an on-air studio position.

The decision to hire on-air talent for its telecasts rests solely with Fox.

Technically that may be true, but trust me, Fox has too much money invested in its' baseball contract to risk angering the commissioner's office. I have no doubt baseball signed off on this deal behind-the-scenes.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The hiring could signal the most significant move to get Rose back into the game since he agreed to the ban 26 years ago. Back in 1989, then-commissioner Bart Giamatti launched an extensive investigation that showed Rose had placed numerous bets on the Cincinnati Reds, while serving as the team's manager. Gambling on the game carries an automatic lifetime ban.

Rose denied the allegations for 15 years, before finally coming clean in his 2004 autobiography My Prison Without Walls. Rose has been seeking reinstatement since 1992, but two different commissioners, Fay Vincent and Bud Selig, have turned him down. With new commissioner Rob Manfred now on the job, it looks like Rose's chances of returning to the game are better than ever.  

The numbers certainly warrant his spot in baseball's hall of fame. Rose is the game's all-time leader in:

Hits (4,256)

Games played (3,562)

At-bats (14,053)

Singles (3,215)

Outs (10,328)

He is also a 17-time all-star, three-time world champion, won three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player Award, one Rookie of the Year award, and two Gold Gloves.

In my opinion, despite a lifelong hatred of Pete Rose, he should be reinstated. Enough time has passed, he's finally taken responsibility, and in all honesty, compared to the toll rampant steroid use has tarnished the game, his crimes seem far less sinister.

Another thing to keep in mind: all of Rose's transgressions came during his time as a manager. Considering his mark of 426–388 and four second-place finishes as a skipper, Rose was NEVER going to Cooperstown as a manager. His numbers as a player, unaffected by his gambling vices, are the only things that should be considered all these years later.