I don’t suppose it’s any great revelation that Fay Vincent and John Dowd, for all their virtues, have for many years been irrational, single-minded scolds when the topic turns (as it so often does) to Pete Rose.
To John Dowd, former special counsel to the commissioner of baseball, hired to probe those now infamous allegations, Rose is the supreme example of why betting on professional baseball is such a sin when done by those within the game itself.
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"This (gambling) is just such a terrible business … it really does infect the game," Dowd told The Enquirer in a lengthy interview last week. "Pete committed the capital crime of baseball.
"But this is bigger than just Pete Rose. There is a reason we haven’t had another gambling case in 26 years. This case wasn’t about Pete â this case was about protecting the integrity of the game. When we investigated (former Philadelphia Phillies star) Lenny Dykstra for gambling, he told us: ‘Thank God for Pete Rose because now I know what the ultimate price was.’ "
As I wrote last week, I don’t believe that Rose’s suspension, after all these years, serves any real purpose. Of course I might be wrong. It’s possible that lifting Rose’s suspension, in whole or in part, might send a terrible message to our century’s players and managers that betting’s just fine. I don’t think that’s true? But I’ve been wrong before, and will be wrong again.
On the other hand, I can’t help wonder, as I have before, if Dowd and Vincent’s beliefs about Rose’s perpetual punishment are based on logic, or emotion. Because it seems nobody thought it nearly so serious … oh, 26 years ago. More from the exact same story:
Interviews with Dowd and others reveal this: Rose could have avoided his eventual conviction on tax evasion and his five months in prison – in addition to his lifetime ban from baseball – if he had only come clean in 1989.
It was fairly common knowledge back then that Giamatti was open to a suspension for Rose if the Reds manager would admit to gambling on baseball and enter treatment for his gambling addiction.
Yet, according to Dowd, it went further than that. Dowd now says he and Giamatti worked with federal prosecutors and even the FBI to work out a deal that any pending charges for tax evasion against Rose would be dropped if he came clean.
In addition, FBI agents worked behind the scenes to ensure that Rose’s gambling debts with the New Jersey loan sharks and bookies that numbered in the hundreds of thousands would be forgiven, Dowd now says.
"We never got a chance to finalize the deal or figure anything out because Pete got in his own way and his lawyers shut us down," Dowd said. "And throughout the whole process, (Rose’s attorney) Reuven Katz and all of them thought they could strong arm us and Bart, this Yale professor. But they found out that Bart had steel in his backbone."
Got all that? If you believe Dowd, Rose’s real crime wasn’t the gambling; it’s that he wouldn’t accept a plea bargain.
Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. You cannot, as an investigator or Commissioner or whomever, argue that a crime is so terrible that the ultimate punishment is absolutely necessary, then argue in the next breath that simply admitting the crime would justify a significantly lesser punishment.
I mean, you can argue that. You just can’t expect me to take you seriously.