Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rickey Henderson: Mr. Misunderstood Another Season, Another Reason for Rippin' Rickey

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rickey Henderson: Mr. Misunderstood Another Season, Another Reason for Rippin' Rickey

Article excerpt

It's like a song playing in the background of some late-night piano lounge: Another season, another reason for rippin' Rickey.

There aren't many major-league players who get the bad-mouth the way Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A's does. Every year it's something about money, or attitude, or being too fragile.

It's no different this year. Toward the end of spring training, Henderson missed the last three exhibition games with a sore left wrist and got into a shoutdown with manager Tony La Russa over his unhappiness about making a trip to play one of the games.

"I don't know what it is," Henderson said. "I'm just one guy on a team. If he does good or he does bad, people try to figure out why. Because I'm a Hall of Famer? I don't know. I guess I'm just one of those guys who catches people's eyes.

"That thing with Tony, it was just a misunderstanding. Tony's the type of manager, the closer it gets to the season, the more involved he is in the game . . . He wasn't happy with some stuff that was said on the bench and we had it out. He knows I can take it. Some players can't, but he knows I can."

La Russa smiled, saying, "I get a kick whenever they write `low-key manager' . . . that day there were several players I yelled at, and it continued back at the clubhouse. I was in a real bad mood."

To La Russa, the way the argument made the rounds was an example of the way Henderson gets singled out: "Rickey's one of the most misunderstood players in the major leagues. I don't think the public really knows much about him - what he's like or who he is."

What he sees, said La Russa, "is how much fun he has with his teammates before and after a game. If people could sit in the clubhouse before a game, they'd see how much he enjoys his teammates and how much they enjoy him."

For a while, Henderson was distant, said veteran reliever Dennis Eckersley.

"Over the years he's become much more friendly and open."

Henderson gets rapped for sitting out with minor injuries, but you have to know him, Eckersley said. "Whenever he plays, he runs as fast as he can, goes full bore. He isn't the type who just cruises. So if there's a little problem with his legs, with his wrist, he's got to be careful. …

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