Pete Rose, who still gives the impression of being locked in a time frame somewhere between his first bike and his first Rolls-Royce, has never had a reputation for conning people. Maybe he wasn't this time either. But with Cincinnati struggling with its pitchers, its defense, its inconsistency, and particularly its run production, the optimism reflected in the Pete's rose-colored glasses somehow seemed manufactured. There have even been quotes in the papers attributed to coach Tommy Helms, who managed the team while Rose sat out a 30-day suspension for bumping an umpire, that some Cincinnati players don't care.
Rose, sitting in the Reds' dugout, quickly denied this the other day. He insisted that the club's problems would straighten themselves out; that with nearly 100 games left there was plenty of time; and that once this team had overcome its injuries, it would start moving again.
``When a team is in a slump, it often looks as though it doesn't care,'' Pete explained. ``But I'm satisfied with our effort. It's easy to forget sometimes that this is a six-month job. I don't think it's fair to point fingers after only two and a half months of the season.''
Actually there has been a lot of pressure on Rose from club owner Marge Schott to win a division title this year. Schott has likened the team's three consecutive second-place finishes under Pete to being a perennial bridesmaid. To make sure she got her point across, Marge presented her manager on Opening Day with a bridal veil that still hangs in his locker.
Is there trouble brewing between Rose and his boss?
``I'm not mad at anybody,'' Pete said. ``I still like Bart Giamatti [the league president who suspended him]; I still like Dave Pallone [the umpire he bumped]; and I have to love Marge Schott, because it was Marge who made me the highest paid manager in baseball.''
Although this is the final season of Rose's three-year contract, it is doubtful if Pete is losing any sleep over the team's problems, the owner's demands, or his own longevity.
If the Reds should fail to win the National League West title and the impulsive Schott should indeed fire Pete, he would never be out of a job for long. In fact two teams, San Diego and Philadelphia, are already said to be interested in hiring him if he becomes available.
Rose, who as a player broke Ty Cobb's all-time hit record and is now No. 1 with a career total of 4,256, is more than just a manager. Because of his colorful personality, he'll get you space regularly in the papers, time on the 11 o'clock TV news, and enough extra people in the ballpark to pay for spring training! Garagiola on umpires
Joe Garagiola, who played nine years in the majors and is now one the finest network broadcasters around, thinks the role of umpires may have to be redefined.
``Some of today's umpires seem to have a state trooper's mentality,'' Garagiola said. ``I knew that when I made that remark on the air that I shouldn't have said it, because state troopers really aren't like that.'' (Writer's note: Joe was thinking of the unbending, tough-guy image often given to law enforcement officers in TV commercials and films like ``Smokey and the Bandit.'')
``But I have seen umpires on the field today who bait managers, follow them back to the dugout and purposely prolong arguments,'' Garagiola continued. ``Basically I'm all for umpires. They have a tough job and most of the time they handle it well.
``Players and managers should be fined or suspended when they curse an umpire, bump him physically, or put their hands on him. But umpires aren't supposed to dominate the game either. Their job is to control it in as dignified a way as they can. Not all of them right now seem to recognize this.'' Around the dugouts
Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who has done an excellent job of tightening baseball's financial structure (22 of the game's 26 teams reportedly either made money or broke even last year), is calling it quits. Ueberroth announced from his New York office that when his five-year contract expires on December 31, 1989, he will not seek reelection. It is Peter's opinion that the game has a better chance to prosper when its commissioner is limited to one term in office. In that way, Ueberroth explained the commissioner is not beholden to anyone, especially the owners.
One reason the California Angels haven't been winning is a lack of hitting. And one of the culprits is Wally Joyner, whose home run and RBI figures are down sharply from those of the last two seasons. ``Even though I'm not a natural home run hitter, I am the kind of hitter who can take advantage of pitchers' mistakes,'' Joyner said. ``But right now I'm not taking advantage of much of anything. Basically I'm not attacking the ball.''
In a first even for him, Yankee manager Billy Martin recently used pitcher Rick Rhoden as a designated hitter against Baltimore. It was the first time a pitcher had been used in that position since the DH rule was adopted in 1973. Martin made the move because of injuries plus the fact that Rick had been a good hitter in the National League, batting .300 or better three times with a career total of nine home runs. Batting 7th in the Yankee lineup, Rhoden was 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly.