Talking points


Hours at a time, baseball writers stand in clubhouses with notebooks and tape recorders waiting for players to offer pearls of wisdom.

Most times, we get nothing.

Cliches. Brief answers. Nasty stares if the questions are particularly stupid or the one being interviewed is particularly surly.

Occasionally, though, ballplayers and managers fill it up with introspective stuff, funny stuff, bizarre stuff.

The reigning king, of course, is Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who already has a book of quotes published. Almost weekly he makes it onto this page.

Not today, though.

Today's space is dedicated to some of the best - or most telling - quotes of the season's first half, collected by a group of intrepid baseball writers. An honest attempt has been made to keep it Guillen-free. Call it equal time for the sport's other great mouths.

But it would be heresy to completely ignore Guillen. So let's start with an excerpt from a Greg Couch column in the Chicago Sun-Times in June during Guillen's spat with another Sun-Times columnist, Jay Mariotti, whom Guillen called a homosexual slur.

In the backpedaling statement of the year, Guillen explained that his interpretation of the slur has to do with manliness and not sexual orientation. He said he has absolutely nothing against homosexuals; he likes them, in fact. Here's Couch's adept paraphrasing of Guillen's inane, but classic, rationalization.

"[Guillen] also said that he has gay friends, goes to WNBA games, went to the Madonna concert and plans to attend the Gay Games in Chicago."

Yes, Guillen's impossible to top. But here are some other memorable rants:

"If you have to spend a day in jail, at least it's an off day so you don't miss a game. There were some pretty good athletes in there. So if they get out, we might be able to work a couple out." Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, four days after an April arrest for DUI in Miami Beach, Fla.

"In the NL, when the 7-8-9 hitters came up, you could enjoy your cigarette." Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, on the difference between American League and National League lineups.

"Once I manage a game for the Dodgers, people are going to quit asking me about Pedro. They're going to start asking me about what I screwed up in the game that night instead." New Los Angeles Dodgers manager Grady Little, talking in spring training about his decision to keep a tired Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning of the seventh game of the 2003 American League Championship Series, one in which the Boston Red Sox eventually lost to the New York Yankees.

"The only real difference is that there's a picture of Barry on the ball, and if you look in his eye, he winks at you." Oakland Athletics pitcher Brad Halsey, who allowed Barry Bonds' 714th career home run in May. It was a special MLB-issued baseball that Bonds hit.

"The way I was pitching I felt like Gallagher. I was throwing watermelons." Cincinnati Reds starter Brandon Claussen, on a particularly poorly pitched game.

"I do feel sorry for the kids that were watching." Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, speaking about his primary regret after slugging unpopular White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski in the jaw in May.

"Can someone make a play?" Minnesota Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse, referring to his club's shaky defense as he was removed from a game in May. Shortly thereafter, Lohse and his 8.00-plus ERA learned whether teammates in Rochester could make plays when he was demoted to Triple-A.

"We've already got one more win than everybody expected of us." Florida pitcher Dontrelle Willis, after the rebuilding Marlins beat the Houston Astros in their second game of the season, which was their first victory.

"It feels like somebody keeps twisting a knife in my gut, day after day after day." Pittsburgh Pirates closer Mike Gonzalez, during the team's 13-game losing streak in June.

"I don't have any problems eating salad. I just have problems getting it out of the bowl." Milwaukee Brewers reliever Matt Wise, who was sidelined after he cut his finger on a pair of salad tongs. Wise is this season's early leader to win the "Marty Cordova Dumbest Injury Award." Cordova, the former Orioles outfielder, missed a few games in 2002 because he fell asleep in a tanning bed and burned his face.

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