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Baseball : A Number of Unanswered Questions Regarding Rose Incident

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National League President Bart Giamatti has said that his 30-day suspension of Cincinnati Reds Manager Pete Rose for twice shoving umpire Dave Pallone stemmed from his concern for crowd control and preserving the health of his umpires. While noble in intent, perhaps, there are troubling aspects to it:

--Did Rose really incite the crowd during the incident, or was it the umpire who did it with his delayed call and ensuing unprofessionalism?

Shouldn’t Pallone have turned his back and walked away instead of joining Rose in that finger-pointing ballet that may have resulted in the manager’s getting jabbed before he pushed?

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Shouldn’t it be noted that Pallone has had problems with the Reds before, most notably by sustaining a series of controversial incidents with Dave Concepcion in a manner that wouldn’t be accepted of a sandlot umpire?

Perhaps, Pallone has been disciplined. He met privately with Giamatti. But don’t the public and baseball in general have a right to know the result of that meeting?

--Isn’t the umpire expected to turn his back rather than responding in a way that forces a manager or player to turn his cheek?

--Shouldn’t the spirit and loyalty Rose has given to the game count for something? A suspension covering one-fifth of the season damages the man and his team and is out of line with the precedent in similar incidents and Giamatti’s other disciplinary actions.

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Kevin Gross scuffed the ball in an act of cheating, marring the game’s integrity, and was suspended for 10 days. Rose got three times that for responding to an apparent provocation.

--Doesn’t the severe nature of the penalty leave the impression that Giamatti may be grandstanding some? Doesn’t it leave the impression that a man said to be interested in becoming the next commissioner may be using the incident as a springboard, informing his constituency that he is capable of making a decision?

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That possibility is the most troubling aspect of all. Maybe it is unfair to Giamatti even to raise it. But 30 days?

John Kibler, an NL umpire for 23 years and chief of the crew in which Pallone works, keeps two pocketknives in his equipment trunk.

They are souvenirs of a harrowing night in Houston, when Astro fans showered the field with debris in response to a controversial call.

“It was 1965, my first year in the league,” Kibler said. “One knife was open when it was thrown. The other was closed. I keep ‘em because I don’t want to forget.”

Kibler doesn’t want to forget what can happen when a crowd gets out of control, which is why he was quick to get Pallone off the field after the fracas with Rose.

Right fielder Jose Canseco of the Oakland Athletics is swiftly stamping himself as the best all-around player in the American League--in either league, perhaps.

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His minor league reputation as a home run hitter now seems shallow. Canseco is tied for the American League home run lead at 8, but he also has a .306 batting average, is second in the league with 29 runs batted in, second in runs with 30, third in stolen bases with 11 and has used his cannon arm to record 4 throwing assists.

Canseco is shooting for 40 home runs and 40 steals. He wants to be recognized, however, as something more than a home run hitter.

“The attitude toward me when I first came up was that whatever I did was not enough,” he said. “I was made out to be a robot and that everything I hit was going to go 500 feet. I decided that I can’t please everyone, that I’d have to please my teammates and myself.”

How is he doing?

A’s Manager Tony LaRussa, for one, is pleased. “I’m getting a big kick out of watching him play,” LaRussa said. “He’s running, throwing, catching, drawing walks, scoring runs. He’s not just a hitter, not just a slugger. He’s really playing the game, playing it right.”

There were whispers about a corked bat when Canseco hit a ball off his wrists about 380 feet for a home run in Cleveland a week ago. Said Oakland third base coach Jim Lefebvre: “They ought to X-ray his arms. It’s his arms that are corked.”

Although a ruptured disk may force Manager Frank Robinson to undergo summer surgery, something positive finally happened to the Baltimore Orioles.

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They signed a 15-year lease on a 50,000-seat downtown stadium that is expected to be ready for the 1992 season. The lease carries an annual guarantee of $1 million in season-ticket sales from downtown businesses.

Of his selection over the Boston Red Sox’s Roger Clemens as the American League’s pitcher of the month for April, Oakland’s Dave Stewart said: “I won six, he only won four. He wasn’t supposed to get it.”

The New York Mets seem on the verge of turning the race in the National League East into a 1986-style runaway. The Mets have already recorded seven shutouts, equaling last year’s total.

“There’s no pressure on the offense,” first baseman Keith Hernandez said. “With the kind of pitching we’re getting, you score three runs and you think you’re going to win.

“It’s kind of like the feeling we had in ’86. I hate to go back to that, but we didn’t have that feeling last year.”

The San Francisco Giants were forced to put Dave Dravecky on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder sprain Thursday, but an anemic offense has been the biggest pain. The Giants have been held to 6 hits or fewer in 11 games and have lost all 11. They had scored 3 runs or fewer in 15 games and are 3-12.

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“We’ve got the best team in baseball, we all know that,” center fielder Brett Butler said. “Everything is magnified because of what we did last year. But we’ll come out of this and someone will pay.”

Jim Rice, already dropped from fourth to sixth in the Red Sox batting order, may be moved to the bench next. Rice, 38, the object of consistent booing at Fenway Park, has three home runs since last July 22 and only two extra-base hits this year, both doubles.

The Red Sox have been shut out five times by left-handers, with Rice and Dwight Evans having failed to homer in 202 combined at-bats through Friday.

Leon (Bull) Durham appears through as the Chicago Cubs’ first baseman. He has been replaced by the touted Mark Grace, 23, a graduate of Tustin High who drove in 196 runs in his first two minor league seasons and was playing at triple-A Iowa before his recall last Monday.

Durham would like to be traded and the Cubs would like to trade him, but his $1.35-million salary is a major obstacle. He is eligible for free agency when the season ends and said: “I may have to wait out the rest of the year. I have no choice. Then it’s bye-bye for me.”

How about the weekend series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves at Atlanta? The Phillies went in with a 2-11 road record, and the Braves were 1-11 at home.

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With four players earning $1 million or more and three others at $850,000 or more, the Phillies remain a major disappointment. Mike Schmidt went to Atlanta with 7 errors and a .230 batting average, and Von Hayes had 1 hit in his last 23 at-bats and had become the focal point for fan unrest on the talk shows in Philadelphia.

“I know I’m in the middle of a little turmoil right now, but I’m used to it,” Hayes said. “This is Philadelphia, isn’t it?”

Minnesota General Manager Andy MacPhail has released three players older than he is: Steve Carlton and Joe Niekro, both 43, and Tippy Martinez, 38. MacPhail is 35.

The average age of the Twins’ pitching staff has dropped from 34.1 to 29.6. One other of MacPhail’s experiments, the attempt to revive Charlie Lea after he had pitched in only one major league game in the last three years, also seems doomed. Lea, 32, is 0-3 with an 8.15 earned-run average and has allowed 5 home runs in 17 innings.

The Twins are said to have joined the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays in the bidding for Atlanta left-hander Zane Smith.

The Braves are 24-18 in games Smith has started since the beginning of the 1987 season and 51-92 when others have started, but their farm system is in such disarray that they would reportedly trade Smith for at least three prospects.

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The field conditions at County Stadium in Milwaukee are so poor that the Texas Rangers refused to take infield practice Wednesday. Of the Brewers’ 20 errors, 14 have been made at home.

“Everybody knows it’s the worst field in baseball,” said shortstop Dale Sveum, who has made 7 of his 9 errors at home. “I can understand the infield dirt being bumpy, but it’s pretty bad when you can drive down the street and see lawns that are in better shape than our outfield.”

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