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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

Talk Isn't Cheap When It Comes From the Boss

September 05, 2000|MARK HEISLER

What do you think Yankee owner George Steinbrenner likes better, winning titles or working his players over in the New York tabloids?

Steinbrenner once called Hideki Irabu a "fat toad" (he knew whereof he spoke that time, being on the overstuffed side, himself). Last week he blasted reliever Jeff Nelson, who complained about not being used enough before giving up a game-losing grand slam to Seattle's Edgar Martinez.

"I want to offer Nelson the following advice," Steinbrenner told the New York Daily News. "Just give us what we need and zip the lip. . . . Put up or shut up."

Steinbrenner also ripped reliever Mike Stanton ("At least Stanton is standing up and admitting he's been . . .") and injured second baseman Chuck Knoblauch ("I'm not saying he doesn't have pain. If he says he does, then maybe he does. It's just that our doctors and trainers can't find it.")

Unfortunately, Steinbrenner couldn't be with the guys this weekend. He's spending it at his Ocala, Fla., horse farm.

"I'm going to be with my horses," he said. "because they don't talk back to me."

What a break for the horses.

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Add George: Of course, some in baseball argue the Yankees' preeminence isn't a credit to Steinbrenner's acumen as much as the franchise's vast resources.

When New York struggled this season, it added Denny Neagle, David Justice and Glenallen Hill and became the first baseball team with a $100 million payroll.

Said Minnesota's Brad Radke after losing to them: "They have a $150-million payroll. They should win every game."

It's only $110 million, but it's enough.

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Trivia time: The 1979 NCAA championship between Magic Johnson's Michigan State and Larry Bird's Indiana State was the highest rated basketball game at 24.1. What was the second highest?

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Took a pay cut for this? Ken Griffey's return to his native Cincinnati hasn't been all he hoped for.

His batting average swooned. The Reds dropped out of contention and are rebuilding again. Griffey reportedly complained about all the Jim Edmonds highlights ESPN showed, joked about hiring Johnnie Cochran to defend him and recently confronted team broadcaster Marty Brennaman, who criticized him for not running hard to first base. The exchange ended with Brennaman telling Griffey, "I'll be here when you're gone." Even admirers describe Griffey as thin-skinned.

"Sometimes when you're mistreated and you say something, they tell you to stop whining," Griffey says, demonstrating the point. ". . . If you get mistreated at a 9-to-5 job, when you say something, they don't say you're whining."

Let's hope for his sake he never has to find out about 9-to-5 jobs.

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Future bet: Former England soccer captain Alan Shearer welcomed his first son into the world Friday, with British bookies setting odds on the newborn following in his father's footsteps.

"When I realized it was a little boy I just burst into tears," said Shearer, who has two daughters.

The baby weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces, and bookmakers are giving 250-1 odds on whether he will play soccer for England when he grows up.

"From the size of him, I reckon he could be a bustling center-forward in the future," the 30-year-old Shearer said.

The Newcastle striker retired from international play after England's first-round elimination from this summer's European Championship.

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Trivia answer: The 1985 Villanova-Georgetown NCAA final, which got a 23.3 rating.

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And finally: St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer Stan Musial will become the first sports figure in the Hall of Famous Missourians, joining Walter Cronkite, Mark Twain, Harry Truman, Laura Ingalls Wilder, George Washington Carver and Walt Disney. The only other living honoree is Cronkite.

"He was more than an athlete," said House Speaker Steve Gaw of Musial. "He was an artist."

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