Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Rose still a hot topic in baseball circles

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEW ORLEANS - Lou Piniella, the man who replaced Pete Rose as manager of the Reds in 1990 and won a World Series, said it is "a reach" to think that Rose would be allowed to manage the Reds or any other team in the near future.

"Once he's reinstated, I think the Hall of Fame is a dead cinch," said Piniella, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays skipper who was attending baseball's Winter Meetings here.

"(But) managing? At this moment, I think it's a reach. Time might change that, also, but for now, I see (only) the Hall of Fame as a certainty."

Rose hasn't publicly admitted what everybody expects him to have to do as part of his possible reinstatement: that he bet on baseball, despite denying it for the past 14 years while serving a lifetime suspension for his involvement in gambling.

When a reporter asked Piniella if he felt it was "a reach" for Rose to manage in the near-term because it might be difficult to convince a cynical public that suddenly the former bettor on baseball games was beyond reproach, Piniella nodded his head affirmatively.

"How do you convince?" Piniella said. "That's it. How do you convince (the public)?"

Nothing has changed on baseball's timetable for reinstating Rose. It's believed it will happen no later than early next year, sometime before Opening Day, and will include a year's probation. After that year, he would be allowed back into baseball, although it isn't clear if he would be allowed to manage right away.

Hall of Famer Al Kaline voiced support here for Rose making the Hall of Fame, provided that Rose acknowledges he bet on Reds games in which he was involved as a manager in the late 1980s. That position is consistent with what fellow Hall of Famers Tony Perez, Brooks Robinson, Robin Roberts and Gaylord Perry said several months ago in a visit to Cincinnati to attend the "Baseball As America" exhibit at Union Terminal. Former Rose teammates Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan, also Hall of Famers, support that position, too.

But Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda said Rose faces a tougher battle on the road to Cooperstown than has been widely reported.

"If you took a secret ballot among the surviving members (of the Hall of Fame), there'd be a lot less support than you've been hearing about," said Lasorda, former manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers who likes Rose and considers him a friend.

"There are a lot of Hall of Famers who will really be upset if he makes the Hall of Fame. I've even heard some of them say they would ask to have their plaques removed from the Hall."

He said it is mostly the "old-timers" who are dead-set against Rose. He didn't put a number on it. But it's more than only him and Bob Feller, he said.

Phillies manager Larry Bowa, who is also close to Rose and won a World Series with him in Philadelphia in 1980, said Rose has to "fess up" and that he can then be considered for Cooperstown and the manager's chair.

Is managing feasible?

"If he clears everything up, I think it'd be a good option," Bowa said.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he would be supportive of Rose being given a second chance.

"He's paid a lot of dues," La Russa said.

San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou agreed.

"He's paid a big price (already)," Alou said. "There should be some way (after he's reinstated) to get him back into baseball, maybe coaching or managing in the minor leagues, and then have him manage again in the big leagues if that's what he wants to do."

But Lasorda, who works for the Dodgers in the front office and very well may be baseball's top goodwill ambassador, said there is no way Rose should be allowed to manage again.

"What keeps me (as a manager) from betting on my team?" Lasorda said. "The consequences. (If Rose is allowed to manage again), what are the consequences? ... That's why I don't think it will ever happen."

The "betting on baseball rule" cannot be changed, nor should it, Lasorda said.

"Betting on (other) baseball games is a one-year suspension, and if you're caught betting on or against your own team, it's lifetime suspension," Lasorda said.

Lasorda said it doesn't say much for baseball's regard for the Hall of Fame if baseball says Rose is good for the Hall of Fame but not good for managing.

"I can't allow my heart to rule my brain," Lasorda said. "I've been around the guy. I like him. But he broke the most serious rule of baseball."

Lasorda said he has grown tired of the argument that drug addicts are forever being third and fourth and fifth chances to return to play baseball, but the hard-charging Rose is being denied his due.

"An arbitrator can come in and declare whether an (addict) can remain in baseball," Lasorda said. "But this (the betting on baseball violation) cannot be arbitrated. This is a standard rule in effect since the 1919 White Sox scandal. Judge Landis (the commissioner of baseball) threw eight players out of the game, even though they weren't convicted in court. Judge Landis knew that they bet. He knew that they took the money. And he knew he had to keep the game beyond reproach."


E-mail jerardi@enquirer.com

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