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August 15, 2001

From The Mailbag

The Debate Continues

by Baseball Prospectus


The Dowd investigation was both sloppy and biased against Rose, and it doesn't come all that close to proving what it claims to prove. Yes, someone was betting on baseball games. But it easily could have been Paul Janzsen, Rose's chief accuser making the bets for himself rather than for Rose. Perhaps John Dowd is the one who should draw your ire. If Dowd spent more time trying to gather facts and less time trying to draw conclusions to make a name for himself, the investigation could have been done right the first time. Rose's guilt or lack thereof would be more apparent and we wouldn't be subjected to bi-annual Rose interruptions.

The biggest point I'd like to make, however, is this: BETTING ON BASEBALL IS ***NOT*** THE GREATEST CRIME AGAINST THE GAME. Did Shoeless Joe bet his way onto the permanent suspension list?

The greatest crime against the game is affecting the outcomes of games for reasons other than the pure sporting interest. Betting against your team or even FOR your team definitely could put a participant at risk of committing the true greatest crime, and the participants doing so should be punished severely (as Rose has been). But all sorts of illegal activity could put participants at risk, even if not quite so directly. Couldn't Darryl Strawberry be asked to help throw a game in return for another fix?

Rose was supposedly betting around $2000 per game. Is $2000 enough money to alter the way Rose managed? We are talking Charlie Hustle here. Most baseball fans, including myself, don't believe betting influenced Rose's gametime decision-making. There hasn't been even the slightest suggestion that Rose allowed his extra-curricular activities to affect the way he approached the game. Even Dowd didn't bother to try to make such a finding. That is why most fans forgive Rose. The punishment should fit the crime, and Rose's mistakes have had a negligible impact on The Integrity of the Game. Baseball should stop this holier-than-thou crap and let the guy off the hook.


I've read the Dowd report closely and many of the refutations against it, and the Dowd report is neither sloppy nor biased.

There are two versions of what happened available to us: one is the Dowd report, which has a clear, well-supported timeline, a ton of evidence, and a damning conclusion. The other is Rose's side, which has not yet advanced a comprehensive alternate version and in the piecemeal denials and evasions has contradicted and tripped itself up ("I only bet a couple thousand on any football game"/"The checks totalling $34,000 covered a Super Bowl bet"). The simpler answer is correct.

If the Dowd report was biased and inaccurate, if its conclusions wrong, why did Pete sign the ban? Why not fight it, bring out the truth? The truth is already in front of us.

Pete Rose signed the agreement, which reads, in part

Peter Edward Rose acknowledges that the Commissioner has a factual basis to impose the penalty provided herein, and hereby accepts the penalty imposed on him by the Commissioner, and agrees not to challenge that penalty in court or otherwise. He also agrees he will not institute any legal proceedings against the Commissioner or any of his representatives, either Major League, or any Major League club.

If there was no factual basis to impose the ban, why did he sign it? If he could have refuted it, why not do so?

Betting on baseball is the greatest crime against the game. A player or manager can't have money on a game they're in and not have a direct, incontestable interest in the outcome. A player can take drugs, or father children outside a marriage, leaving themselves open to blackmail, but the difference is the directness of the action. Someone who gambles knowingly and immediately attempts to affect the outcome of the game for reasons other than "pure sporting interest", willfully. Now, if a player goes out actively soliciting fixes for game-throwing actions, that's the same thing -- and falls under the same Rule 21, but section (a) instead of (d):

(a) MISCONDUCT IN PLAYING BASEBALL. Any player or person connected with a club who shall promise or agree to lose, or to attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which he is or may be in any way concerned; or who shall intentionally fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any such baseball game, or who shall solicit or attempt to induce any player or person connected with a club to lose, or attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which such other player or person is or may be in any way connected; or who, being solicited by any person, shall fail to inform his Major League President and the Commissioner.

Such infractions are punished just as harshly as gambling is. See the Black Sox.

The argument that Rose wasn't betting enough money to change his behavior an absolutely insane defense. If the money wasn't enough to influence him, why was he betting it all? Why was he betting anyway?

And arguing that there's no evidence that he threw games is absurd. What if there was a manager who sometimes bet on his team to lose to the tune of one million dollars, but said he was just flushing the money for tax reasons, or something similarly stupid, and never did anything to affect the game? Is that okay?

Action is not necessary -- the gambler has a vested interest in changing a game's outcome from what it might naturally be, and that can't and shouldn't be tolerated.

Baseball should absolutely not let him off the hook. Rose has behaved cowardly in avoiding admitting his problems and the damage he has done to the game, and absolution requires a penitent man.

--Derek Zumsteg


Several recent players that I can think of (Rob Lindsay last year) were called up to serve only as a pinch-runner. This got me thinking. Which player has spent the most time on a major-league roster or has been in the most games without logging an official at-bat? This could include a batter that has walked, since a walk does not count as an official at-bat. Same thing goes for sacrifices. Also which player who has batted in a major-league game went the longest at the beginning of his career without receiving an official AB?

--Beau T. Underwood

My best guess is Bob Stanley, with 637 games, for the pitching record, and Herb Washington for non-pitchers with 105 games. Stanley did get one at bat in the '86 World Series, but none during the regular season. If you include post-season AB, then it's probably Tippy Martinez with no at-bats in 537 regular season and eight post-season games.

--Keith Woolner

You must not have gotten over your love fest for Bobby Estalella. He can't call a game behind plate or throw out runners and he hits only when the bat mistakenly finds just the right plane to the path of the pitched ball. I don't think anyone is losing any sleep over his departure. Maybe you should spend more time analyzing the qualities of their minor-league catcher who's ready right now (Torrealba). Rather than wait for the crash and burn of Santiago (won't happen) a more apt conclusion is that they CAN'T AFFORD TO LOSE HIM to injury. This analysis ranks right at the top with the overblown and ridiculous premise that Dusty Baker overuses his starters. They, in fact, have been stronger in the second half of the season than the first half the last two years (ex. Livan Hernandez, your poster child for Baker's over-use hypothesis).


Let's take these point-by-point.

First, can you prove that Bobby Estalella can't call a game, and that it impacts his pitcher's performances? Anecdotal attributions don't hold much value, so I'd like to see some evidence. Also keep in mind that there's no evidence to suggest that even a measure like Catcher ERA means anything from one year to the next. Finally, you should know that it looks like you're claiming that Estalella must somehow be so bad that he's worse than a theoretical catcher like Edwards Guzman, which on the face of it might mean that anybody can catch, which would reinforce my argument, not yours.

Second, past performance is a great guide to future performance. So, what's to be taken more seriously, Benito Santiago's hot start when he didn't have to play every day, or his subsequent fade. In 2000, Santiago hit .262/.310/.409, pretty swell for a backup catcher. In 1999, he hit .249/.313/.377. In 1998, he didn't play a meaningful amount due to injury. In 1997, he hit .243/.279/.387. So in July, when Benito started hitting like he has since 1997, I'd describe that as predictable as well as highlighting how foolish it was to discard Estalella (who's only hitting .285/.359/.582 for Columbus), and thereby eliminating the chance that the Giants would have an experienced big-league catcher to rely on down the stretch just in case something bad happened to Santiago, which you rightly point out needs to be considered a concern (although you fail to describe how that makes dumping Estalella sensible).

Third, you describe Yorvit Torrealba as ready. Hitting at Fresno in the PCL, a great place to hit in a great league to hit, Torrealba is hitting .265/.298/.395. I'll settle for pointing out that he's not hitting as well as Estalella, and gratuitously mention that it's enough to keep Edwards Guzman feeling good about his job security.

Fourth, I notice that Livan Hernandez has exactly one good start in his last five. That's strength? For the record, Shawn Estes hasn't been getting hotter, Kirk Rueter has, Russ Ortiz has been pretty steady, and that adds up to what I'd charitably call a body of information that lacks a pattern, other than that Hernandez is still at the same level of lousiness he's been at since coming "down" from his execrable April.

That said, I'm presuming you're a Giants fan, and here's hoping you have fun watching the stretch run. I know I will, and how well the Giants fare is going to among the most interesting stories.

--Chris Kahrl

The Mets sent Gary Bennett down because Vance Wilson doesn't have any options left. When the Mets were forced to call Wilson up after Piazza went down, they used his last remaining option. When Piazza returned, they had three catchers on the roster and evidently felt that Vance Wilson was too good to waive. That's why they traded Todd Pratt (who was also on the last year of his contract) for a catcher with options left whom they could demote (Gary Bennett).

I believe the decision to demote Bennett was a result of him having options and not of the Mets being wowed by Vance Wilson's cup of coffee.


Perhaps, but this only brings up a pair of more basic questions: why would anyone worry about Vance Wilson being claimed on waivers, and who would waste a spot on a 40-man roster if they didn't have to? To put it another way, if Vance Wilson was claimed on waivers, I have a sneaking suspicion that the organization would survive. Since my focus is usually on the best possible major-league roster, and I see plenty of reasons to prefer Bennett to Wilson, I'm not convinced that Steve Phillips has made the right choice.

--Chris Kahrl

You are so right about Tom Kelly's bizarre fascination with Rivas and Hocking hitting 1-2. It completely baffles me. Here is what the boys did in the 3 games against Tampa Bay 28 AB, 0 R, 6 H, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 8 K. Outstanding! Rivas may have a future, but his .302 OBP at the top kills the Twins, and Hocking with his stellar .299 OBP - well, there is just no excuse for him to be anywhere near the top of anything. Kelly has always had this thing with putting "athletic" position players at the top of the order. Why? Why? Why?

--Shawn Goodell

Tom Kelly seems cut from the same discarded cloth that gave us Ralph Houk and his determination to lead off with his crummy infielders come hell, high water, or solo homeruns. Bobby Richardson? Tony Kubek? Dan Gladden? Blech.

I can't help but watch the action in the AL Central and wonder which of the Twins or the Tribe is going to underwhelm the opposition first. Both seem to have a lot of talent for it, which is why I still can't quite write off the White Sox.

--Chris Kahrl

You, of all people, passed up a chance about a guy named Mulholland pitching in Los Angeles?

"Mulholland doesn't have much left in the reservoir."

"This Mulholland has let in too much water over the dam."

There's a truckload of water engineering jokes to be made out of this acquisition.

Most of which wouldn't be understood outside of Southern California, however.


What, and step all over my old man's material, and when he's got decades of experience to have the Don Rickles patter down? Wasn't there a terrible movie starring Nick Nolte called Mulholland Falls? If I remember correctly, it involved dropping Jennifer Connelly from a great height--a terribly depressing idea--and not an awful lot of water resource management politicking.

I guess it's all just water under the bridge... hey, thank you, I'll be here all week.

--Chris Kahrl


After reading the responses for possible improvements to the Royals, I once again thought of a question that has occurred to me more than once.

Most baseball teams drive their fans to drink. The Red Sox drive theirs to a general hatred of the world; they may not be sure God exists, but they know the devil does. But what is there about the Royals that drives their fans to sabermetrics?

--Robert Darling

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