It doesn't pay to ask for more time off

THE BALTIMORE SUN

So the Orioles thought they had it rough, being forced to commute from Baltimore for Thursday's final game of their interleague series against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium?

They'll get no sympathy from the Boston Red Sox, who were forced to fly home in the middle of a12-game road trip to play a makeup game against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday.

The makeup game, which replaced a poorly scheduled minor-league exhibition game, turned normally soft-spoken star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra into an angry critic of Major League Baseball's scheduling priorities. Just listen:

"The whole schedule is stupid. OK, at this road trip. No day off, then we've got to go play the Braves and the Yankees who we just played, what, a week ago?" Garciaparra told the Boston Globe. "And now we go back and play them again? What is that? And people wonder why there are injuries in the game. We've got to figure out a better schedule."

Garciaparra seemed to put the blame on ownership, charging that baseball won't reduce the regular-season schedule because the game isn't willing to give up the revenue.

"I always thought, why can't you play three-game series on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and another three-game series on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and give everybody Monday off," he said. "You probably couldn't play a 162-game schedule like that. Maybe 150-something. But they say they can't do that because of the gate. It's all about the loot."

He's right, of course, except for one thing. The owners aren't the only ones who wouldn't be willing to take less money and play a shorter schedule. The players wouldn't exactly cheer if ownership offered to cut the schedule down and pro-rate salaries. Everybody wants the loot, and Garciaparra - for all of his high-minded talk - isn't offering to give up any of his share.

Sosa, Baylor make up

Cubs superstar Sammy Sosa wasn't happy when manager Don Baylor told a local columnist last week that no one - not even Swingin' Sammy - is an untouchable when it comes to possible trades that might help rebuild the struggling franchise. Sosa took that as an indication that the new manager viewed him as part of the problem instead of part of a brighter future for the club.

"I've been playing here eight, nine years and I've been playing hard every day," Sosa said. "I've been carrying baseball the last two years. ... I don't deserve this."

Sosa's agent, Adam Katz, wasn't happy either with recent intimations that Sosa is a defensive liability and doesn't have an impact on the team commensurate with his huge offensive numbers.

"The manager's comments are disturbing," Katz said. "There has been a whole series of them that have been unsettling. I think it's improper to connect Sammy to the Cubs' problems. Sammy has established himself as one of the great offensive players of this era. That's undeniable; there's consensus on that. To connect this warrior who plays every day and produces unfathomable numbers with the Cubs' problems doesn't make intellectual sense."

Sosa and Baylor finally hashed it out face-to-face in a 15-minute meeting on Wednesday that both said settled the matter.

"We both can go home and sleep tonight," Sosa said. 'There will be no more problems. We agreed man to man, one to one, like father and son; we had to put an end to this."

Rocker rumors

The Cleveland Indians apparently would be interested in embattled reliever John Rocker if the Atlanta Braves make him available for trade, though Indians general manager John Hart cast doubt on the likelihood of a deal.

"It doesn't appear that he's any more available than before," Hart told reporters, "but I never say never."

The Indians, like any other team interested in Rocker, would have to convince the rest of the team to accept him, which might be no small trick considering he has become a pariah inside the Braves' clubhouse as well as everywhere else in the civilized world.

"I don't know the guy," said Indians outfielder David Justice. "He might just need a change of scenery. But we don't want anyone to come in here and ruin the chemistry on this ballclub."

For Rose, a rose

Shortstop Barry Larkin says it was not a statement of protest when he laid a rose on third base during last weekend's silver anniversary celebration of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds world championship team.

Larkin placed the rose there in honor of baseball exile Pete Rose, who was refused permission by commissioner Bud Selig to take part in the ceremony because of his lifetime ban for gambling on baseball.

"It was the right thing to do, and I was happy to be a part of it," said Larkin, who grew up in Cincinnati. "It wasn't a protest. It was respect for a man I grew up adoring. ... We just felt it was right to represent him in some capacity. It showed respect for what Pete Rose has done. He's the ultimate team player. It's a shame he couldn't be here. But he was here in spirit. I think everybody felt he should have been here."

Major League Baseball isn't going to make that mistake again. Selig allowed Rose to be part of baseball's All-Century Team at last year's All-Star Game (apparently at the request of corporate sponsors), and the all-time hits leader gained tremendous national sympathy when he was ambushed by NBC reporter Jim Gray after the ceremony.

Rose is no hero, but he was an important part of that 1975 title team and should have been allowed to take part in the celebration.

"There's no doubt Pete should have been allowed to be here," said Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. "That's just the way it is. It's unfortunate he couldn't be here."

Milton hobbled

Former University of Maryland pitcher Eric Milton is limping around after being hit in the leg by a Craig Biggio line drive Tuesday night, but the Minnesota Twins left-hander says he'll make his next start.

Milton (5-1) can only hope that the bruised leg doesn't knock him out of his groove. He was 3-0 with an 0.78 ERA in his three starts before the injury, but he is a control pitcher who depends on good mechanics and pinpoint location to be successful.

Griffey Sr. demurs

It has been long assumed that coach Ken Griffey Sr. would eventually replace Jack McKeon as Cincinnati Reds manager. There was even speculation - ridiculous speculation - that it was part of the deal when Ken Griffey Jr. signed a long-term contract with the club.

Griffey Sr. obviously heard those whispers, because he has told the club that he has no interest in managing the team. He made no official announcement to that effect, but general manager Jim Bowden let it slip this week.

"Ken Griffey Sr. told me and his agent [Brian Goldberg] told me they wanted to make it very clear that Ken Sr. had no interest in managing the Reds now or in the future," Bowden said, "that he's very happy being with the Reds in his current role."

Apparently, Griffey Sr. would prefer to pursue a managerial opportunity that is free of any implication that he got the job because of his superstar son.

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