Valentine blames miscommunication as center of storm
Posted: Sunday October 17, 1999 08:14 PM
Rickey Henderson feels there may be a lack of respect between himself and Turk Wendell. AP
NEW YORK (AP) -- Rickey Henderson lashed out at a teammate Sunday for implying he's a quitter.
Henderson was removed for defense in the top of the eighth inning of Game 4 on Saturday, a 3-2 victory that kept the New York Mets alive in the NL championship series.
He did not comment after the game, bolting out of the clubhouse. Reliever Turk Wendell then questioned Henderson's work habits.
"If he doesn't respect me, then tough luck," Henderson said before Game 5 against the Atlanta Braves. "He should be happy he's in this position. He wouldn't be here if not for me."
Manager Bobby Valentine and general manager Steve Phillips tried to defuse the dispute. Henderson was in the lineup, leading off and playing left field.
"Rickey was embarrassed," Phillips said. "Bobby told him he had a brain cramp and screwed up. I think everything is over with now."
The problems started when Valentine decided to replace Henderson before the top of the eighth inning. However, the manager forgot to tell Henderson and Melvin Mora, his replacement.
After Henderson took his position, Valentine realized his oversight and sent Mora out to left field. Henderson apparently took this as a slight.
"The timing was very bad, particularly for a player of Rickey's stature," Valentine said. "I expressed those concerns yesterday to him. ... Some of my coaches thought it was improper to take him out at that time. I believed my job is to do what's proper to win the game, regardless of timing." Part of the mix-up might have happened because bench coach Bruce Benedict was coaching third base instead of sitting next to Valentine in the dugout. Regular third-base coach Cookie Rojas was serving the fourth game of a five-game suspension for bumping an umpire in the division series.
When Henderson returned to the dugout, he walked right by Valentine, who tried to explain his move. Valentine later apologized before Henderson left the stadium.
"He was man enough to come up to me and admit he made a mistake," Henderson said.
The Mets already have had to deal with a season full of controversies. Phillips fired three coaches in June following an eight-game losing streak, causing friction with Valentine.
Valentine nearly came to blows with outfielder Bobby Bonilla in the middle of one game. Valentine also came back to the Mets dugout in a disguise after being ejected in a game in June, leading to a two-game suspension.
The latest dispute came last week, when Valentine criticized his own players in Sports Illustrated. He told an interviewer: "You're not dealing with real intelligent guys for the most part," and said five of the players were "losers."
"Controversy hasn't distracted our team all year," Phillips said.
Players also questioned Henderson's lack of effort running out balls at certain times of the year. But Valentine said their is no dissension on the team.
"The players I talked to are ready to go and to go with him," Valentine said.
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