It has been 37 years since Tom Lasorda managed his first All-Star game. The first batter in Lasorda's first All-Star lineup: Pete Rose.
It has been 17 years since Lasorda relinquished his executive authority with the Dodgers. His involvement since then could suggest a path toward redemption for Rose, although Lasorda would not grant mercy to him.
Rose is the major leagues' all-time hits leader, and Cincinnati's favorite son. As Rose reminded reporters on a conference call last week, you can walk out of the Reds' ballpark and onto Pete Rose Way. He'll be at the ballpark for Monday's workout day, as an analyst for Fox, and he'll participate in an on-field ceremony before the game.
And then he will wait.
In 1989, Rose was banned for life for betting on baseball. Rob Manfred, baseball's first-year commissioner, has promised to meet with Rose and consider his request for reinstatement.
Rose said he is "elated" that Manfred will reconsider his status. When we asked whether Rose might accept something short of an unconditional reinstatement, he said yes.
"When you're in my situation, you're open to almost anything," Rose said.
For a generation, Lasorda has been an ambassador for the Dodgers, and for baseball. He is a cheerleader, an adviser, a preacher of the Dodgers gospel far and wide. When he is in attendance at Dodger Stadium, he basks in the applause.
That could be a template for a kind of limited reinstatement for Rose — no involvement in the day-to-day operations of a team, but a chance to appear on behalf on the Reds at the ballpark and in the community.
Lasorda would not endorse that path. He would not forgive Rose, either.
"You have got to be out," Lasorda said. "He has got to be suspended for life."
That is the punishment specified in major league Rule 21(d), and it makes no difference whether Rose gambled as a player or as a manager. The rule is posted prominently in every clubhouse: any "player, umpire, or club or league official or employee" betting on a game in which he is involved "shall be declared permanently ineligible."
Said Lasorda: "If you are stupid enough to go out and bet on your own team and bet on baseball, there has got to be something wrong. If my brother did it, I'd say the same thing."
There is the question of deterrence, whether a player or manager might take a chance on betting in the future knowing that a lifetime ban might mean something less than a lifetime. And there is the question of mercy, whether a 74-year-old man who has been banned from the game he loves for a third of his life has suffered enough.
Lasorda takes the hard line, without apology.
"I'm not afraid to come out and say it," Lasorda said. "Pete and I are friends. But he did something wrong, and it was terrible. You represent an organization. Wherever I go, I'm not Tommy Lasorda from Norristown, Pa. I'm Tommy Lasorda from the Dodgers.
"It's not a question of getting a front office job, or anything like that. He got suspended. He is completely out of the game."
The extra .02%
It is not just the Dodgers' world-record payroll that keeps rival teams awake at night. It is the application of virtually unlimited resources in creative ways, from a salary-absorbing trade that essentially amounted to buying an extra draft pick, to feeding minor league players organic meals rather than junk food.
In search of even the tiniest of edges, and in need of a spot starter, the Dodgers' new front office decided a relief pitcher would start last Monday, relieved by a minor league starter promoted just for the occasion.
Smart thinking, or overthinking?
Yimi Garcia had not started a game in four years, when he was in rookie ball. Eric Surkamp, a starter at the Dodgers' triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate, had not pitched even two innings in any of his 35 games as a major league reliever.
Garcia gave up two runs in two innings. Surkamp gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Whatever concern the Dodgers might have had with taking the players out of their usual roles was outweighed by the chance to force the opponents into a platoon mismatch early in the game — Garcia throws right-handed, Surkamp left-handed — and to bat for Garcia in the second inning, so the Dodgers pitcher would not hit the first time through the lineup.
Manager Don Mattingly, who does not make these calls, sympathetically suggested in his postgame briefing that the Dodgers wanted to ease the pressure on Surkamp by using him as a reliever rather than a starter.
The front office thought Surkamp could have just as easily hung that home run pitch to Ryan Howard, who was batting .129 against left-handers, in the first inning rather than the third. And, although the front office would tell you the thought process should be judged independent of the results, the Dodgers won the game anyway.
The Dodgers, spared any great concern over travel expenses, have called up right-handed outfielder Chris Heisey from triple A for a day, just to give Joc Pederson a day off against left-handed pitching. They have recalled reliever Daniel Coulombe five times in the first half of the season, twice for one day, once for two days, once for three days, once for four days. Oklahoma City already has registered 195 transactions, 25 more than all of last season.
The Dodgers should run away with the National League West. Their fate will be determined far more by what Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig do than by tinkering with the margins of the major league roster. However, in the chance that the division race comes down to Game 162, the front office is determined to be as proactive as possible for each of the preceding 161 games.