The 10th anniversary of Pete Rose's lifetime suspension passed last week with some of the usual cries of outrage from an assortment of columnists who perhaps haven't done their homework.
Perhaps if they could see the issue from the eyes of Commissioner Bud Selig they would feel differently. In that torturous summer of 1989, Selig saw first-hand what the stress of the Rose case did to his friend, then-commissioner Bart Giamatti. Giamatti died shortly after announcing Rose's suspension, so for Selig, the Rose matter is personal.
There also are the simple issues of what Rose did or did not do. Dozens of people familiar with the case believe there is a mountain of evidence suggesting Rose did bet on baseball games, including games in which he managed. Rose denies such charges.
"It's just ridiculous for him to play this denial game," said John Dowd, the Washington-based investigator for Major League Baseball. "He has never addressed the issues--the bets, the indebtedness. Every year we get this same public relations effort, and every year I go on radio and television and say all you've got to do is read the report."
The report prepared by Dowd and used to ban Rose from baseball includes page after page of damning evidence.
"We had the original betting slip in his handwriting with his thumbprint for a Cincinnati-Montreal game he managed in 1987," Dowd said. "We had 10 separate witnesses who saw him betting on the Cincinnati Reds. He always used middlemen, and we have tape recordings of the middlemen placing bets on baseball and incurring enormous debt. What drove me crazy is that he owed the New York mob $500,000. I don't think he has paid that yet. We had the betting records recovered from bookmakers. We had all the telephone traffic for 90 days in 1987. You can see the calls every single day right from the clubhouse.
"He told Bob Costas he'd never seen the evidence. We spent two days in Dayton in 1989, and I showed Pete all the evidence. We allowed him to comment, and he simply couldn't handle it.
"We prepared the report and sent him a copy. He was asked to come to a meeting, and we made 113 witnesses available to him and his lawyers. They never interviewed one of them. The report is uncontradicted. The evidence really is powerful that he had bet on the Reds, continuously. And that's the capital crime in baseball."
The Diamondbacks have built a five-game lead in the National League West, and Manager Buck Showalter will devote the final month of the season to fine-tuning his pitching staff. Ace Randy Johnson will start every fifth day down the stretch even if it means bumping another pitcher from the rotation. Despite just 14 victories, Johnson has been baseball's most dominant pitcher this season. He has pitched at least seven innings in 27 of his 30 starts and hasn't allowed more than two runs in a game since June 20.
Showalter also will watch Todd Stottlemyre, who has allowed 10 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings since returning from a torn rotator cuff.
Johnson's presence gives Arizona a huge advantage in any playoff series, and if Stottlemyre becomes a factor, the Diamondbacks are as good as anyone in the National League. "I feel like I'm a fraction away of putting together really good results," Stottlemyre said. . . .
Rockies reliever Dave Veres established a franchise record by picking up his 26th save last week. That it took so long for Colorado to find a quality reliever is one part of the story. That it turned out to be Dave Veres is another. He's a 32-year-old journeyman who had never saved more than five games in any minor league season. He was once released by a team in the Mexican League and calls his limited big league success before this season "more an accident than anything else." His career changed when he learned a split-finger fastball that turned his career around.
Unsung in New York
Mets General Manager Steve Phillips will be an easy vote when the executive of the year ballots are passed out. He had almost a flawless offseason by acquiring Robin Ventura, Armando Benitez, Roger Cedeno, Ricky Henderson and others. But not even Phillips knew what he was getting when he signed right-hander Pat Mahomes to a minor league contract. Mahomes didn't make the team in spring training, and didn't figure to have an impact at any time during the season. He began the year with a 21-28 career record and hadn't thrown a pitch in the big leagues in two seasons.
Since being called up in May, he has gone 7-0 to add another dimension to one of baseball's best bullpens. Mahomes is a familiar name to many in baseball. He was in Minnesota's rotation at the age of 21. He eventually was traded by the Twins and later released by both the Red Sox and Yokohama Baystars of the Japanese Central League. He was 28 when he went to spring training with the Mets, having won more than four games once in his big league career. . . .
Not everything has gone wrong for the Dodgers this season. Mark Grudzielanek leads all NL shortstops with a .315 batting average, and is attempting to become the franchise's first shortstop to hit .300 since Maury Wills did it in 1963. His eight errors are the fifth fewest among NL shortstops. . . . The Yankees originally believed Darryl Strawberry might be part of a left-field platoon this season, but by the time he rejoined the team last week, the job belonged to Ricky Ledee.
"You are the left fielder," Strawberry told Ledee. "I'm happy for you. You've earned it."
Ledee has earned the job by raising his batting average from .277 to .305 in the second half of the season. He's hitting .360 with three home runs and 15 RBI since Aug. 9.
At least for now, Strawberry will be used as a pinch hitter and part-time designated hitter. His best chance to play may be subbing for DH Chili Davis, who has no home runs and two RBI since Aug. 16. . . .
The Blue Jays called up 20-year-old outfielder Vernon Wells this week after watching him race through their system this season. He began the season at Class A Dunedin, was promoted to Class AA Knoxville and then to Class AAA Syracuse, where he hit .310 the past month.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Matchups to Watch
Boston at Oakland
Tuesday and Wednesday
These will be the AL wild-card hopefuls' final meetings of the season. Oakland has won five of the first eight. Luckily for the Athletics, they will not have to face Pedro Martinez, who is 20-4 with a 2.26 earned run average. Oakland's offense is third in the AL in runs and second in homers. Kevin Appier, who is 3-3 with a 6.03 ERA since coming to Oakland from the Royals, has lost three straight decisions; he will start the second game of the series.
Boston at N.Y. Yankees
Friday through Sunday
Anything short of a sweep by the Red Sox will all but assure New York of its third AL East title in four years. Boston has beaten the defending world champions in five of nine games this season. The Yankees' main concern is getting their starting pitchers in top form for the postseason. Orlando Hernandez (15-7) and David Cone (11-7) have been solid, and Andy Pettitte was 5-1 with a 1.76 ERA in August. But Roger Clemens has been erratic, and Hideki Irabu has won just once in his last five starts.
Cleveland at Texas
Tuesday and Wednesday
The majors' two highest-scoring teams are in a tight competition with the Yankees for home field advantage for the AL playoffs. While the Rangers' top three starters (Rick Helling, Aaron Sele and Mike Morgan) have a combined ERA of over 5.00, their bullpen combination of Jeff Zimmerman and John Wetteland is among baseball's best. The Indians' starters have been erratic, but Mike Jackson (34 saves in 37 chances) has become a solid closer. Activating CF Kenny Lofton and 3B Travis Fryman from the DL should bolster Cleveland's already frightening lineup. Texas has won five of the clubs' eight meetings this season.
-- Matt DeMazza
By the numbers
The Red Sox have used 13 starting pitchers -- the most in baseball.
The Reds have lost 25 of their last 29 games against the Braves, including eight of nine this season.
The Padres are 18-45 against teams with winning records.
Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez entered the weekend with a 16-game hitting streak -- his fourth double-digit hitting streak of the season.
Mo Vaughn was 3 for 20 with 8 strikeouts in five games at Fenway Park this season.
The Rangers are 22-39 against the Yankees since the start of the 1995 season.