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The support ... and distaste for Pete Rose

Let's do some baseball housekeeping on Pete Rose, international comments, and the Rule 5 draft.

My thoughts about Pete Rose last week generated numerous responses from readers. To my surprise, readers were split about 50/50 in reaction to what I wrote about Rose. I thought it would be more like 80/20 in Rose's favor. The 50 percent who agreed with me basically, well, agreed with me. The 50 percent who disagreed for the most part just responded with a defense of Rose that could have come right from Charlie Hustle's mouth.

But there were several readers who were more thoughtful in taking me to task. Their basic argument, made rather eloquently in some cases, was that while what Rose did was wrong, for me to say that it was an insult to those who showed integrity in defending the game from gamblers was disingenuous. There was no integrity in baseball, wrote one reader, at least not before the dropping of the color barrier. Some readers were particularly incensed that I mentioned Commissioner Landis, who was, as we know, an ardent defender of segregation, and often little more than a mouthpiece for ownership greed. One reader even defended the Black Sox, saying that if it weren't for the penurious nature of owners like Charles Comiskey, who made Carl Pohlad look like Santa Claus, the players would never have turned to gamblers for money.

There is some truth to such criticisms. But I don't see how any of this can be spun in Rose's favor. Indeed, one can make the case that what Rose did was even less excusable than what the Black Sox did. Rose was very well paid as a player and manager; he didn't need the money, or at least he shouldn't have. Ed Cicotte had a family to feed.

One should not take this too far; the Black Sox did throw a World Series, and for all his gambling problems, there is no evidence that Rose did anything that heinous. But the fact remains that everyone knows what the penalty is for players or managers to gamble on baseball games. Rose knew; he did it anyway. I see no evidence of true contrition on his part, and I remain adamant that he should not be reinstated.

My comment last week about getting a question from Croatia generated several additional international responses. I now have received e-mail from Belgium, Norway, Malaysia, Spain, and China. Let's build a United Nations of Baseball.

I wrote an article analyzing the first round of the Rule 5 draft early in the week. There were two additional rounds, and let's finish the mailbag by taking a look at the players involved.

Matt Ford, LHP, Milwaukee (selected from Toronto)
Went 9-5 with a 2.37 ERA in 21 games for Class A Dunedin, making 18 starts. His K/BB was OK at 85/42 in 114 innings. A 6-1 southpaw, Ford has an average fastball, but gets outs with a nasty curve. He turns 22 in April, and could slot in as a long reliever/spot starter.
Chance to stick: Fair. Chance to do something interesting: Fair.

Shane Victorino, OF, San Diego (selected from Los Angeles)
A speedy outfielder, Victorino hit .258 with 45 steals for Double-A Jacksonville. He does not have much power, hitting just four homers and 15 doubles, but he does make contact and control the strike zone reasonably well. Not a bad option as a fifth outfielder/pinch runner, but I don't think he'll hit enough to ever be a regular.
Chance to stick: Good. Chance to do something interesting: Fair.

Ronny Paulino, C, Kansas City (selected from Pittsburgh)
Hit .262 with 12 homers and 26 doubles for Class A Lynchburg in the Carolina League. Paulino has solid raw power, but his strike zone judgment is marginal, and his defensive skills are unpolished. The Royals need catching, and Paulino could make the team as a platoon reserve, but I don't think he'll do much if he does.
Chance to stick: Fair. Chance to do something interesting: Remote.

John Koronka, LHP, Texas (selected from Cincinnati)
Went 11-0, 3.07 in 12 starts for Class A Stockton, but just 2-8, 4.99 in 15 starts for Double-A Chattanooga. A 22-year old lefty with fair stuff, Koronka also struggled at Double-A in 2001. If he hasn't mastered Double-A, what are the chances that he'll do enough in spring training to earn a major league job?
Chance to stick: Remote. Chance to do something interesting: Remote.

Blake Williams, RHP, Cincinnati (selected from St. Louis)
Williams was one of the Cardinals' top pitching prospects, but blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery in 2001. He came back late in '02 and made two starts in the New York-Penn League, pitching well, but the NY-P is a long way from Ohio. He appears to be healthy now, and while I'm optimistic that he can be a good pitcher in the long run, projecting what he'll do in '03 is problematic.
Chance to stick: Fair. Chance to do something interesting: Fair.

Gary Majewski, RHP, Toronto (selected from Chi. White Sox)
Did good work in the bullpen for Double-A Birmingham, posting a 2.65 ERA and a 75/34 K/BB ratio in 75 innings. He's got good stuff, and has adjusted well to relief work since starting his career in the rotation. If his command holds up this spring, he could sneak up on us with some quality innings.
Chance to stick: Fair. Chance to do something interesting: Good.

Matt White, LHP, Boston (selected from Cleveland)
Went 6-2, 3.93 in 27 games, 11 starts for Double-A Akron, then posted a 4.76 ERA in seven games for Triple-A Buffalo. White is a typical average-stuff lefty, but none of his ratios get me excited. He fanned 63 in 89 Double-A innings, while walking 39 and allowing 97 hits.
Chance to stick: Remote. Chance to do something interesting: Remote.

Rontrez Johnson, OF, Oakland (selected from Texas)
Johnson was in the Royals system last year, then signed with the Rangers as a minor league free agent, only to go to Oakland under Rule 5. He hit .300 with nine homers and 31 steals for Triple-A Omaha, showing good contact ability (50 walks, 51 strikeouts in 403 at-bats). Johnson can run, play defense, and hit for average. I think he could be a good solid backup outfielder.
Chance to stick: Good. Chance to do something interesting: Good.

Jerome Gamble, RHP, Cincinnati (selected from Boston)
Like Blake Williams, also selected by the Reds, Gamble is a good pitcher who has had a lot of health problems which have slowed his progress. He posted a 1.82 ERA in 14 starts for Class A Augusta last year, though a strict pitch count limited him to 49 innings. I'm intrigued with his long-term potential, but will he stick on the roster? It seems unlikely. Chance to stick: Remote. Chance to do something interesting: Fair.

Jason Dubois, OF, Toronto (selected from Chi. Cubs)
Hit .321 with 20 homers, 85 RBI for Class A Daytona. He's hit very well in A-ball (.296, 24 homers at Lansing in '01), but turns 24 in March and has been old for his levels. He'll take a walk, but he also strikes out enough (95 times in 361 at-bats last year) that I'm not sure he'll make sufficient contact against high-level pitching.
Chance to stick: Remote. Chance to do something interesting: Fair.

Adrian Brown, OF, Boston (selected from Tampa Bay)
Played for the Pirates last year, hitting .216 in 91 games, though he was better at Triple-A with a .337 mark in 51 contests for Nashville. Signed by Tampa Bay as a free agent, but lost under Rule 5, he'll have a chance to earn a reserve outfield role for the Red Sox. He's a career .261 hitter in 408 major league games, with .330 OBP, .347 SLG, and 42 steals. There's no reason to expect anything different if he sticks on the roster.

John Sickels is the author of the 2002 Minor League Scouting Notebook, and is now working on the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book. His biography of Bob Feller will be published next spring. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com, or you can visit his homepage at JohnSickels.com for information on ordering his new book.