NOTEBOOK : Canseco Takes a Few More Swings at Clark, Though in Jest, He Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jose Canseco kept up his salvo of insults against San Francisco Giant first baseman Will Clark Monday, although Canseco claimed that he called Clark "a three-toed sloth" last week out of affection, and said he uses the same term to describe teammate Mark McGwire.

Canseco, who recently became baseball's highest-paid player when he agreed to a five-year contract worth $23.5 million with the Oakland Athletics, said Monday his remarks about Clark, after Clark called him a jerk, were "a joke, and it seemed like Will Clark took it serious."

However, Canseco seemed to take his end seriously.

"Why does Will Clark play first base?" Canseco asked. "Because he can't run. If he could run, he'd be in the outfield. The best athletes are in the outfield."

Clark said the war of words has been blown out of proportion and that he might discuss it with Canseco if they meet at first base during the game.

"It's more of a joke than anything else," Clark said. "It seems like so much attention is being paid to little, bitty things. Everybody's worried about what kind of money we're making and what we do off the field."

Canseco enjoyed taking batting practice at Wrigley Field Monday, even though the wind was not blowing out. Asked how many home runs he would hit if he played there, he didn't hesitate. "At least 50, in a slump, before the All-Star break," he said.

Canseco was to receive an award for being the leading All-Star vote-getter but missed the ceremony. That didn't surprise his manager, Tony La Russa.

"When we got off the plane (Sunday), I said, 'See you at the press conference,' and he usually does the opposite of what I tell him to do," La Russa said.

Angel catcher Lance Parrish missed Monday's workout after he went to Detroit to be with his wife, Arlyne, who had a doctor's appointment there. Parrish arrived Monday night.

Pitcher Chuck Finley participated in the workout, spending most of his time shagging fly balls in right field and making friends with the Bleacher Bums who sit there.

"They were giving me their ideas about the AL not being as good as the NL," Finley said. "But you can't really talk to them. Most of 'em were half-drunk."

Finley did bring a bat in case he has to hit, but he doesn't expect to get the chance. Besides, he isn't prepared.

"They wouldn't let us near the cage," he said. "That's probably good. Hitting might be hazardous to my health and everyone else's."

Don Fehr, executive director of the Major League Players Assn., said his union's objection to the $225,000 fine imposed last week against the New York Yankees for tampering with Dave Winfield is based on the contention that Winfield was not yet the property of the Angels when Yankee principal owner George Steinbrenner made the remarks that drew the ire of Commissioner Fay Vincent.

"Winfield, in our view, wasn't traded until a settlement agreement was done, so it's difficult to see how that's tampering," Fehr said. The union could file a grievance and ask that the fine be rescinded, but Fehr said he will talk to Vincent before proceeding.

Oakland pitcher Dave Stewart was given the Roberto Clemente Award, presented annually to recognize players' sportsmanship, community involvement and contribution to the game. Stewart, an Oakland native, consoled victims of last October's earthquake and donated time and money to help those left homeless by the quake.

After being traded to the Seattle Mariners for Mark Langston, pitcher Randy Johnson thought he had to match the standards Langston had set. Johnson, who pitched the first no-hitter in the Mariners' history on June 2, learned that he was better off being himself.

"Being left-handed, I really felt I had to replace Mark Langston," Johnson said. "No one can replace him, but I felt I had to try."

Johnson has a 9-3 record; Langston is 4-9 with the Angels.

"(Manager) Jim Lefebvre told me to just be Randy Johnson, and I owe a lot to him and my teammates," Johnson said.

Outfielder Ellis Burks of the Boston Red Sox is unable to play because of an injury but will be in uniform. He was replaced on the squad by infielder Brook Jacoby of the Cleveland Indians.

"I had made other plans but I didn't mind changing them," said Jacoby, who was going to take his children to an amusement park. "I guess I can make it up to them."

Pitcher Frank Viola of the New York Mets, who leads the NL with 13 victories and a 2.20 earned-run average, is enjoying his club's 26-5 streak under new Manager Buddy Harrelson.

"We knew we were capable of it," Viola said. "It was just a matter of bringing it out. Buddy brought in a one-on-one relationship Davey (Johnson) might not have had with the team. I don't see any other team, maybe Oakland, that has as much talent as us."

Contract issues dominate almost every baseball discussion, and that was the case at the lockers of NL All-Stars Andre Dawson and Darryl Strawberry.

Dawson, earning $2.1 million while hitting .324 with 19 home runs and 57 runs batted in, is eligible for free agency when the season ends.

However, he said he wants to finish his career with the Chicago Cubs and hopes an agreement can be reached on a two-year extension--possibly within 48 hours. The agreement would reportedly pay Dawson between $3 million and $3.5 million a year.

Strawberry said agent Eric Goldschmidt remains in negotiations with the Mets on a contract of the Canseco magnitude.

He described Canseco as a franchise player, "but then so am I, and I want to make more than he does. Look at my career. I think I deserve it."

If it doesn't work out, Strawberry said he will file for free agency after the season.

In his last 50 at-bats, Strawberry has 19 hits, seven home runs and 17 runs batted in, helping spark the Mets' revival. He is hitting .306 with 21 homers and 56 RBIs.

The National League bullpen will feature clashing relievers.

There is quiet Dave Smith of Houston, appearing in the second All-Star game of a standout career. Then there are loud Rob Dibble and Randy Myers of Cincinnati, the self-proclaimed "Nasty Boys," each appearing in his first.

"I keep pretty quiet out there; I don't talk a lot or do a lot of extra things, because I can't see giving a team extra incentive to beat you," Smith said.

Smith said that his Astro teammates get fired up against the Reds, partially because of the "Nasty Boys."

"Sure, guys get keyed up to face them," Smith said. "I hear them talking about it. It was like when teams would get keyed up to face Charley Kerfeld when he pitched for us. I would try to give Charley advice about jumping around on the mound and pointing at people, but well, he was just Charley.

"It's great to have a 100-m.p.h. fastball and all that. But what do you do when it's gone? I figure, why not just let a sleeping dog lie."

One familiar All-Star who appeared weary was San Diego outfielder Tony Gwynn, who has been through a rough first half. The Padres have been sold, his manager, Jack McKeon, has expressed a desire to leave the field, and Gwynn's attitude has been publicly questioned by teammates who have called him "selfish."

"That's why now, I do my job on the field, I go home, and I forget about it," said Gwynn, who used to watch videotapes of his performances at home throughout the night. "No more burdening my family with all of my worries from the park. No more going to my wife with, 'Hey, honey, what do you think about this swing?'

"I realized, I can only do so much. And no matter what you do in this business, people are going to criticize you. So, now I forget about it. Maybe that is why I stink."

Gwynn is hitting .311, ninth in the league, with a league-leading six triples. His 99 hits are fifth-highest in the league.

Times staff writers Ross Newhan and Bill Plaschke contributed to this story.

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