CLEVELAND -- Chicago White Sox outfielder Albert Belle worked so hard to stay out of the spotlight at the 68th All-Star Game, he ended up being the focus of the pre-game workouts.
Belle was a reluctant All-Star to begin with. He told American League manager Joe Torre on Sunday that he would prefer not to be in the starting lineup, and apparently made it clear that he would rather have stayed home.
"I've talked to him," Torre said before the introduction of teams, where Belle raised both arms in mock thanks for the vociferous boos that greeted him. "If somebody got hurt and I have a problem, I'll use him, but it's not all that comfortable for him being here."
No one expected Belle to get a lot of playing time. Not after Indians fans showered him with play money and a variety of hard objects when he returned to Jacobs Field as a member of the White Sox earlier this season. Major League Baseball officials wouldn't say so, but they probably were relieved that he didn't want to play.
They could not have been happy, however, when Belle stiffed the AL team picture yesterday and left everyone wondering why the American League wasted a roster spot that some other player would have appreciated.
American League president Gene Budig did not even want to address the situation.
"Let's play baseball," he said. "He talked to the manager and he's available if the manager needs him."
Griffey vs. Bonds debate
It wouldn't be an All-Star Game without more attempts to ignite the controversy over who is baseball's best player, Seattle's Ken Griffey or San Francisco's Barry Bonds.
Neither player would allow himself to be lured into it, though Bonds came the closest.
"If you want to look at the realism of it, you turn one [baseball] card around and you turn the other card around and you look at the stats. Then you evaluate. It speaks for itself.
"He's very good. He also has a great team around him, too. And he has a great ballpark to hit in, too."
Griffey also has a perception that he doesn't get respect from the media, a subject he first raised before batting practice Monday, then returned to yesterday after much prodding.
"Just because you like somebody doesn't mean you necessarily respect them," he said.
"It's an inner feeling. I guess you have to be in my situation to really understand it, to really be around me 24 hours to know what I'm talking about.
"No matter what I do, it's not good enough."
Dressed for the occasion
Jason Dickson's first All-Star experience got off to a rough beginning when he arrived at Jacobs Field Monday and discovered that his uniform pants had been left behind. A rookie pitcher for the Anaheim Angels, Dickson had to borrow a pair of Yankees pinstripes to get through the workout.
His pants arrived yesterday, so he was able to wear the full Anaheim ensemble. "I was glad about that. I knew since I would be wearing my Angels top, I'd be in a little bit of trouble. But they made it," he said.
The uniform snafu was the only unsettling moment for Dickson, who brought an 8-4 record and 3.41 ERA into the break.
"It's been a blast," he said. "I got to meet some of these guys that I've wanted to talk to and heard about, and meet them off the field, as people, and not just competitors on the baseball field. I wanted to talk to everybody. Some guys are just super-nice people."
Torre on Orioles
Torre said yesterday that the Yankees still are too far behind the Orioles to worry about catching them in the second half.
"We haven't found them yet," he said. "They are a distance out in front of us. After we lost two in Baltimore, I had a meeting at home where I told our guys just to concentrate on our record. If we get 15-20 games over .500, that means we're playing well.
"The Orioles are going to win a lot of games and we don't play them again until September. Being against the wild card at the beginning, I'm all for it now."
AL starter Randy Johnson composed an interesting list of pitchers he most prefers watching: Dickson, Detroit's Justin Thompson and Kansas City's Jose Rosado. Each one an All-Star, none a household name yet.
"They're all young pitchers and that's where I was four or five years ago, learning the game. They're probably even further along than where I was. They have command of all their pitches and they're very mature young kids. It's exciting watching those guys."
What about hitters? "I don't like hitters, so I don't really care to comment on that," he said jokingly. "Griffey's on my team so I really enjoy watching him. I enjoy when he hits a home run for me. He's the one hitter I love."
Anderson status quo
The halfway point in the season apparently has brought Brady Anderson no closer to a multi-year contract extension with the Orioles. He said yesterday that there was nothing new to report in his negotiations with the club.
Frank being semi-frank
Honorary NL captain Frank Robinson wore a San Francisco Giants uniform last night, even though he spent half of his playing career with the Cincinnati Reds.