More Gamblergate musings, this morning’s first cut & paste job courtesy of the New York Post’s Mike “Don’t Call Me Brenda” Vaccarro.

In Tony La Russa’s next career, maybe he can become the czar of amateur baseball, or the chairman of Little League, places where things like the purity of competition and the sanctity of sportsmanship really matter. Then he can he can bathe himself in sanctimony all he likes and he can tell us all again about the high plane of baseball ethics he subscribes to.

But in his current job, which is manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, he has the obligation to do everything in his power, everything within the rules, to assist his team in its goals – which, at the present time, means trying to win the World Series. So when La Russa suspects an opposing player is cheating, when he’s tipped that it looks like Kenny Rogers’ hand is slathered in pine tar, he not only has to make the umpires aware of that, he has to insist that they check him out.

Anything short of that is malpractice.

La Russa allowed Kenny Rogers to skate, he allowed the Tigers to avoid having their emotional touchstone ejected from the game and, possibly, suspended for the balance of the series. And he may have allowed the Cardinals’ best chance to win the World Series slither down the clubhouse sink, along with whatever residue Rogers washed away.

The Detroit Times polls a number of greats and near-greats on the subject, and really, you can’t close the book on this  without hearing from man of ethics Denny McLain (nor badmouther of ethnics, Bob Feller).

The St. Petersberg Times’ John Romano is correct in pointing out that doctoring the ball in some fashion is hardly a new practice —- citinng, as did Keith Olbermann on ESPN Radio yesterday, the surgical work carried out by Elston Howard’s wedding ring —- and even more correct in pointing out that Kenny Rogers is full of shit).

Rogers feigns innocence, and the Cardinals act unconcerned. Meanwhile, a World Series devoid of personalities is suddenly titillated with dirty talk.

œI™m a mudder, Rogers said Monday, when repeatedly asked about the gunk on his hand. œI don™t mind getting dirty.

As for the mysterious hat?

œMy head hurts with the other one, Rogers said. œIt shrinks. I get headaches.

Look, I don™t want to call Rogers a cheater.

But I will.

And I don™t want to say the man is a liar.

But he is.

To put it politely, his explanations are disingenuous. To put it bluntly, they are a crock. It strains credibility to believe that he wound up with nearly identical smudges weeks apart by rubbing baseballs in the bullpen. Or, that he would never notice all that dirt on his hand before games.

It is far more likely that Rogers put something on his hand to help him grip the ball, or to make his pitches do the shimmy and shake .

So does that make Rogers a baseball criminal?

Hardly. In some ways, he is carrying on traditions that have been a part of the game since before Oliver Stone accused Dutch Leonard of throwing a spitter.

Beyond the obvious points in the rule book, there is a line of integrity that everyone follows. Although, at times, they argue about how straight it runs.

Popping amphetamines when a day game follows a night game? That was acceptable. Sticking a needle in your butt to build muscles? Not so much.

Dishonesty is permissible, so long as you don™t flaunt it.