Normally, people in the news business like to see news get out. But in the case of the two umpires who were investigated and punished 13 years ago for gambling, it would have been better if the whole episode had stayed closeted. Because the revelation that umpires Rich Garcia and Frank Pulli received two years' probation from baseball will give the banned Pete Rose a chance to win points despite deserving none.
Rose's people already are saying he was treated unfairly. "Double standard," cried Rose lawyer Roger Makley in the Daily News, which broke the story.
The hope here is no one listens. There already is way too much sympathy for Rose. The Dowd Report makes it clear that he bet on baseball. And he's lied forever about it.
These two umpires are another story altogether, a much less nefarious one. Unlike Rose, no evidence was found that the umpires ever bet on baseball. Unlike Rose, their bets on football and/or horse racing had no chance to impact the baseball games they worked. Unlike Rose, they cooperated with baseball's investigators.
It's not fair to Garcia and Pulli to be connected to Rose. The similarities are that the investigations both occurred in the late 1980s, and both involve gambling. The difference is the key. Rose bet on baseball, the umpires did not. Rose bet on Reds games, in fact, calling in bets to his bookie from the clubhouse at a time when he managed the Reds.
Rose expressly violated the rule that is posted in every big-league clubhouse. Garcia and Pulli were punished under the "best interest of baseball' clause, as there is no specific rule against betting on other sports.
John Dowd, who investigated both Rose and the umpires for baseball, said there were thorough checks of phone records and bank records in the case of all three men. Rose's problem was all the calls were placed in the middle of the summer to his bookie, when no other sports were going on.
Garcia and Pulli threw themselves on the mercy of baseball, and that is exactly what they deserved, mercy. Pulli is back in baseball as a supervisor and Garcia is being strongly considered for the same type of job. They pleaded guilty and did their time.
Meanwhile, Rose gave baseball the runaround. Had he confessed his sins when baseball showed him all the smoking guns they had, Rose might have made it back to the game he loves. But instead, he compounded his error with one whopper after another.
He might have won sympathy by confessing his gambling addiction. But you add stonewalling, lying and a felony conviction for not reporting income for signing autographs, and you really have a case.
The case of Garcia and Pulli is a lot closer to many other cases in which baseball figures were caught gambling on other activities besides baseball, or caught associating with gamblers. "The same thing happened to Leo Durocher, Denny McLain, Clete Boyer, Don Zimmer, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Lenny Dykstra," Dowd told Newsday. "There's a long history of this in baseball."
Just like the umpires, these other guys received probation or short-term suspensions. Dykstra was on baseball probation after testifying in a court case that he lost $78,000 playing cards. Mantle and Mays were connected to casinos, small potatoes, and even they were punished.
Rose is a case unto himself. He could have altered his pitching plans for the games he bet on. He could have used his closer three innings instead of one.
"I'm not here to suggest that betting on anything is good," said Sandy Alderson, baseball's VP of operations. "But as long as (the umpires') bets are not on baseball, they don't directly affect the game. This is not something we'd like to see any umpire do. On the other hand, they were fully investigated, a decision was rendered, and these guys went on to have another 10 years of outstanding service."
Some will make something of the fact that the investigation into the umpires was kept quiet for 13 years. But that's the way baseball always wants it. Rose's case became public when he filed a court motion against baseball. Of course, Rose's case had to become public. When he didn't get into the Hall of Fame, fans would have wondered what happened.
Baseball has enough stains on its record already, most notably the ones caused by Charlie the Hustler.
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