"Every time he opens his mouth he makes a fool of himself," La Russa said. "You try to protect guys, shade the truth a bit. But there's a term players use -- V.I. -- when a player starts believing fantasy. Ruben's a village idiot. . . . In this case, I'm going to say how full of it he really is. He gets on Sandy because he never played. Here's a guy [Alderson] who went to Vietnam. . . . He's trying to intimidate a guy who did two or three [Marine Corps] tours in Vietnam?"
La Russa has twice benched Sierra in an effort to get him to be more selective at the plate.
"I've given Ruben a lot of slack," La Russa said. "He's not a bad guy. [He's just] fallen into that trap -- stats, stats, stats. Sandy has put together winning clubs. And here you've got a guy who hasn't won his first ring. There's so much arrogance. You've got to be nuts. You've got to be an idiot."
La Russa continues to write Sierra's name on the lineup card, but they're not talking. The silence could be deafening for years to come: Sierra's five-year, $28 million contract runs through 1997.
Those lame Yankees
The Yankees are extremely concerned about whether injured pitchers Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki will be healthy enough to be factors in 1995. The Yankees went 1-8 on their recently concluded West Coast trip, just a little worse than the 10-1 they posted on their final Pacific swing in 1994. New York has used the disabled list six times already; they didn't have their sixth disabled player last year until the 79th game.
The Yankees' lousy start has allowed the team to promote minor-league shortstop Derek Jeter, who is going to be a star along the lines of Barry Larkin. Jeter, 20, is the first Yankees first-round pick to play for the team since Rex Hudler (drafted in '78, debut in 1984).
Have bat, no position
Toronto has returned Carlos Delgado to the minors, and they must figure out a position for him. Delgado, an exceptional hitter, came up as a subpar catcher, tried the outfield and has been sidelined with shoulder trouble. Now the Blue Jays may try him at first base.
"We want him to use his bat," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. "[Where he plays] depends on the makeup of the team. It could be at first, designated hitter or the outfield. It depends on who signs [for '96], who you have and who you don't. John Olerud and Joe Carter are signed, but Devon White's not signed. [Paul] Molitor's not signed, although we've got an option. Carlos will play wherever you can use him. We'll certainly hope and try to give him a chance to play."
Around the horn
* Dodgers right-hander Ramon Martinez wants Carlos Hernandez to catch him, rather than Tom Prince, while Mike Piazza is out. Here's why: Martinez is 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA with Hernandez catching. He's 0-2 with a 13.60 ERA pitching to Prince. (And 2-0, 1.92 pitching to Piazza).
* Giants manager Dusty Baker wants left-hander Terry Mulholland, off to a terrible start, to acknowledge the fact that he can't throw hard anymore and start changing speeds more.
* The Padres moved first baseman Eddie Williams out of the cleanup spot. "I think Eddie's trying too hard," said manager Bruce Bochy. Williams agreed: "I was squeezing the bat so hard, sawdust was falling to the ground."
* Mark Grace on the Cubs' surreal start: "I think early in the year, teams might have said, 'Ah, the Cubs, we can throw our gloves out there and beat them.' But we played real well in spring training and came together. Then, when Jim Bullinger threw as well as he did Opening Day [against the Reds], it was a challenge to the rest of the staff. Now they have a friendly competition going of who can out-pitch who."
Cubs manager Jim Riggleman has been invited by Expos manager Felipe Alou to be a coach at the All-Star Game.
* The Pirates are 1-8 against left-handed starters; they were 15-12 last year.
* Mike Mussina wasn't the only pitcher speaking out last week. Dodgers reliever Todd Worrell questioned the commitment of some of his teammates.
"We look like we don't really want to win at times," Worrell said. "If you're struggling, you've got to make some adjustments, and we've got some guys who aren't doing that."
* It showed some guts on Mussina's part to say something about the Orioles' catatonic play the first month of the season. Mussina isn't at the top of the team hierarchy, like shortstop Cal Ripken or first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, but he is the club's best pitcher. No one can question Mussina's competitiveness -- to pitch with such intelligence means that he's constantly thinking of ways to beat hitters -- and with Mussina's long-term deal seemingly imminent, he should be one of the leaders. He could be around here for quite a while, long after Ripken and Palmeiro are gone.
* The Florida Marlins are a disaster, and right fielder Gary Sheffield is unhappy. In the last week, he questioned whether the Marlins should let their pitchers call their own pitches, then wondered aloud whether it would be better for him to move on.