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Notebook: Larkin wants to leave quietly, teammates hope he stays

The Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Barry Larkin wants to leave quietly. Upset teammates hope there’s a way to keep him from packing.

The Cincinnati Reds shortstop rejected the club’s take-it-or-leave-it offer of a one-year contract extension Monday, sensing he wasn’t wanted anymore.

Larkin, who has spent his entire 18-year career with his hometown team, also turned down the team’s offer of a night in his honor during the season’s final homestand.

“If I were retiring, absolutely,” Larkin said. “But I’m not retiring. I think the fans of Cincinnati deserve it. I would love to give it to them. One day I will — I assume they’ll want to give it to me. But I’m not retiring. You have your day when you retire, and I’m not retiring.”

The Reds consider it a foregone conclusion that he’s leaving. Chief operating officer John Allen waited until the next-to-last weekend of the season to offer a $500,000 base salary for next season, which would have made Larkin one of the team’s lowest-paid players.

Allen also said he wouldn’t budge on the offer — a stance that disappointed Larkin, who wanted to spend his entire career with the Reds and had taken below-market contracts in the past so he could stay.

“The money’s not the issue,” Larkin said Tuesday, sitting in the Reds dugout before a game against the Chicago Cubs. “It’s the handling of the situation and the manner that I think it should have been handled. It wasn’t very classy. For it to come to an end on these terms is unbelievable.

“This is a major league franchise and it’s not being run that way. I think this was all staged.”

It was the latest blow to a clubhouse that has lost most of its veteran leaders since July, when Allen fired general manager Jim Bowden and manager Bob Boone and began trading players to save money and obtain pitching prospects.

Now the young players remaining on the roster are faced with losing their team captain.

“It’s probably upsetting to a lot of us,” outfielder Austin Kearns said. “He’s a guy we all look up to. He’s a friend first, then a teammate.

“Something like this puts things in perspective. You realize it comes down to one thing, and that’s money.”

The payroll slashing was the last thing fans expected in the Reds’ first season at Great American Ball Park, which was built through tax money. Larkin, 39, is in the final year of a three-year, $27 million contract and had been waiting for months to see whether the club would try to keep him.

Larkin was the National League’s MVP in 1995 as voters recognized his importance as the Reds’ clubhouse leader. He helped them win a World Series in 1990 and steadied them through the turmoil caused by former owner Marge Schott in the ’90s.

“For me, Barry Larkin is the Cincinnati Reds,” first baseman Sean Casey said. “He’s an icon in this city after being here for 18 years. In my book, he’s a legend. It would be the weirdest thing not to see Barry Larkin in the clubhouse.

“I still hold some optimism that something can get done. I don’t know all the details, but hopefully they can come to a middle ground.”

HIGGINSON SUSPENDED, FINED

Detroit Tigers outfielder Bobby Higginson was suspended for two games and fined by the commissioner’s office for throwing equipment that hit an umpire during a game against Toronto on Sept. 16.

Higginson threw his shin guard after striking out to end the sixth inning in a loss to Toronto. The shin guard struck plate umpire Kevin Hollowell, who ejected Higginson.

ROBINSON TO MANAGE U.S. TEAM

Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson will manage the U.S. national baseball team that will try to qualify for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

The Montreal Expos manager was selected by a committee made up of representatives from Major League Baseball and USA Baseball, the ruling body for U.S. amateur baseball.

The U.S. team will compete in a qualifying tournament in Panama City from Oct. 30 to Nov. 11. Professional players not currently on 25-man major-league rosters are eligible for the squad.

Thirty-two players will be invited to try out for the team in Phoenix next month. The selections will be announced tomorrow, USA Baseball said.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda managed the 2000 U.S. Olympic team in Sydney, leading a squad of 24 minor- leaguers to the country’s first gold medal in baseball.

If the U.S. qualifies for the 2004 Games, Robinson would likely continue as manager of the national team. Lasorda also coached the qualifying team in 2000.

BELL RETURNS TO PHILLIES’ LINEUP

Philadelphia Phillies third baseman David Bell was activated and in the lineup against Florida after missing 2.5 months with a back and hip injury.

The game was the start of a key three-game series, with the Phillies needing to win two of three to tie the Marlins in the NL wild-card race.

TWO CHARGED WITH KLLING GIANTS BASEBALL FAN

Two men were charged with murder in the shooting of a man after a baseball game last week at Dodger Stadium.

Manuel Hernandez, 33, and Pete Marron, 19, both of suburban South Gate, were each charged with one count of murder, said prosecutor Kerry White.

The parking lot shooting of 22-year-old Mark A. Antenorcruz, a San Francisco Giants fan, occurred during an argument with Los Angeles fans. It was not immediately clear what the disagreement was over.

The Giants won the game, 6-4.

Hernandez was to be arraigned later Tuesday. A felony warrant was issued for Marron, who was not in custody, the district attorney’s office said.


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