By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003
ST. PETERSBURG -- Derek Jeter would seem to have enough trouble defending himself against odd accusations about his nighttime activities from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
But now he could really have problems, having alienated members of the mighty, and occasionally malicious, New York media.
The beat writers had been after Jeter for days to respond to Steinbrenner's digs, but when his comment to a Daily News reporter that he didn't plan to change his lifestyle turned into a back-page headline blaring, "Party On," he went elsewhere with his story.
Following his agent's advice, Jeter burned the New York papers by giving an Associated Press columnist an exclusive interview in which he lashed out at Steinbrenner and defended his lifestyle and work ethic.
"This isn't just a New York story, this isn't just a Tampa story, this is a national story," agent Casey Close said. "This is a bigger story than New York. There are people all over who care about him and needed to know."
The shortstop plans to talk to the New York media Monday, and it should be interesting to see how the story is spun.
As for the tabloid reports of his supposedly wild nightlife and dating history?
"I'm not a hermit. It's not like I'm locked up in my house," Jeter said. "But it's amazing the things that are in the gossip pages that aren't true. They've got me dating everyone imaginable. A lot of it I wish I would have."
MARK TWAIN CONNECTION: Reports of the Expos' demise apparently were greatly exaggerated.
Because of strong ticket sales for their 22 "home" games in Puerto Rico -- about 5,000 "season-ticket" packages -- the Expos no longer are under orders to dismantle a promising roster that still includes Vladimir Guerrero, Jose Vidro, Javier Vazquez, Tony Armas and Orlando Cabrera.
With Bartolo Colon traded, the team may dump only one more player, catcher Michael Barrett and his $2.6-million salary.
"Don't anticipate any more major moves between now and opening day," club president Tony Tavares said. "After that, just like any other team, it will come down to how long we stay in the race and how competitive we are. Playing in San Juan will have a significant positive impact on our revenues."
RAYS REPORT: One advantage of being an ex-Devil Rays manager is being in better shape. "I'm not drinking nearly as much," Hal McRae said. "I don't have any reason to drink." ... Brady Williams, the former Dunedin Little League star and son of Houston manager Jimy Williams, will be in minor-league camp as an infielder. ... TV analyst Joe Magrane will be a guest host on Fox Sports Net's Best Damn Sports Show Period Tuesday through Friday. One of his Thursday guests will be Bucs safety John Lynch. ... The team is selling memberships in a new seniors-only fan club -- the Silver Rays.
MAKE IT 10 BUCKS: The Rays expect manager Lou Piniella to have a significant impact on their record. Texas owner Tom Hicks said his new manager, Buck Showalter, should make the team at least 10 games better.
"Buck will make a difference," Hicks said. "We've never had here what he brings. You watch the way he communicates with the staff and with players. I think he helps them raise their own expectations."
Hicks apparently forgot Johnny Oates won 90 games with the Rangers in 1996 and a franchise-record 95 in 1999. In his seven seasons as manager of the Yankees and Diamondbacks, Showalter won more than 88 games once. RED ALERT: Jeter isn't the only veteran shortstop under scrutiny. Reds manager Bob Boone dropped the news last week that Barry Larkin will have to compete to keep his job. "We're going to see if Barry Larkin can show us he can still play or if Felipe Lopez is ready to take the shortstop job," Boone said. "The question will be if Barry is better than Lopez."
MISCELLANY: The once golden Rockies are projecting a $10-million loss, leaving ownership considering financing options. ... The Astros, meanwhile, say they'll lose $15-million even if they draw 2.5-million. ... Ex-Ray Bryan Rekar signed a minor-league deal with the Marlins. ... The Pirates are pursuing unsigned outfielder Reggie Sanders, with Kenny Lofton and Ron Gant also possibilities.
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.