With Rocker warming up, Guillen is in need of relief


If I could get embattled Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on the phone, I'd want to ask him this:

How bad do you have to be going to need John Rocker to come to your defense?

It's not a trick question. Rocker, whose outrageous diatribe about gays and minorities in a Sports Illustrated interview seven years ago turned him into the poster boy for political incorrectness, told the Chicago Tribune that sensitivity training is "a farce" and that Guillen should have the right as an American to say whatever he wants.

"This is a free country," Rocker told the newspaper. "If he wants to use a lewd term, he should be able to use a lewd term. Can't you use a lewd term in America if you want?"

Rocker found out in 1999 that it's not that simple. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig suspended him for a month, fined him $20,000 and ordered him to attend a sensitivity course. Turned out, however, that an arbitrator reduced the fine and suspension and Rocker said during the Tribune interview that he walked out of the sensitivity session after just 15 minutes, with no repercussions from the commissioner's office.

Guillen was fined by Selig and ordered to take a class after a profanity-laced tirade during which he labeled Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti with a homosexual slur. That might have been the end of it, but Guillen made the mistake of telling a reporter on Friday that he did not intend to take part in any sensitivity training.

He quickly changed his tune and now insists he will do whatever Selig orders him to do, but I think there's a better way to teach Guillen a lesson. Put Rocker in the White Sox bullpen.

I well remember the week that Rocker popped off that he would never want to play in New York.

"Imagine having to take the 7-train to Shea looking like you're in Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids," Rocker told Sports Illustrated. "It's depressing."

Strangely, I also remember the way the incident was reported on "Weekend Update," the funny news on Saturday Night Live.

"Weekend Update" anchor Colin Quinn related Rocker's remarks and the ensuing uproar, then had this to say about the then-Braves reliever:

"I don't like the guy either, but he has definitely been on the 7-train."

Rocker also claims that he never paid the fine, which was reduced from $20,000 to $500 by an arbitrator.

"I never paid a cent, a lot of players never pay a cent," he told the Tribune. "It's just a front to look good and the way Selig cowers to pressure."

Maybe this is a stupid question, but why have people been calling the interleague series between the Orioles and Washington Nationals "The Battle of the Beltway"?

I love alliteration as much as anyone, but the last time I looked, RFK Stadium is right off Route 295 and Camden Yards is on Russell Street, which is an extension of that same highway. I guess "The Battle of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway" was a little wordy.

Don't read too much into the Orioles' decision to sign struggling veteran pitcher Russ Ortiz. No one is imagining that he'll win 13 games over the last three months of the season and lead the Orioles back into contention, but his presence allows the team to put the brakes on Adam Loewen and be more patient with Hayden Penn.

If Ortiz does benefit from being reunited with former Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, however, he could become a wild card in the club's plans for a more promising 2007. peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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