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Florida skipper says series critics turn his stomach

Jim Leyland was mad and wanted everyone to know it.

He'd read in the papers that World Series TV ratings were down, and took it as criticism that the Florida Marlins and Cleveland Indians were in it."It's making me puke," the Marlins manager said Thursday before Game 5. "I'm sick and tired of hearing about New York and Atlanta and Baltimore. (Indians manager) Mike Hargrove said it best: `They had the same chance that we did.' We won it."

Leyland was asked about acting commissioner Bud Selig's criticism of the slow pace of the games, which Selig thinks may be part of the reason for the ratings decline. Leyland chose to let out the anger that was bubbling inside.

"Aren't our fans entitled - 67,000 fans, the second-largest since the White Sox played in '59? I'm sick of hearing the weak comments about the pitchers and everybody crying because Atlanta, Baltimore and New York aren't here," he said. "We beat them. And the Indians beat everybody they had to beat."

Leyland's voice was filled with emotion. It was clear a sore spot had been touched.

"I get tired of having to apologize because the Florida Marlins and the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series," he said. "It's great for baseball."

Leyland has advocated starting the games earlier. All three games in Cleveland started about 8:20 p.m. EDT, while most teams start their regular-season night games at 7 or 7:30.

Television executives say earlier starts would decrease ratings because many people on the West Coast are still at work.

"We're trying to get the youth back involved. For God's sake, most youth are sleeping by 9 o'clock. And more importantly, so is the guy that works from 7 o'clock to 4 or 5 in the afternoon. The blue-collar guy is tired. By the sixth (inning) I think he's in la-la land somewhere," Leyland said.

"So I don't want to hear about everything that's not perfect about us being in the Series. We've got a hell of a lot more problems in baseball than worrying about the time . . . the TV thing with NBC. . . . The ratings of this World Series is not very high on the list of problems we've got in baseball."

Leyland wouldn't address what he thought was wrong with the game.

"I'm a field manager, and I usually keep my mouth shut," he said. "But it hurts me, to be honest with you, to think that the Cleveland Indians and the Florida Marlins worked as hard as we did to represent baseball - doesn't it seem like we're getting cheap shots consistently, almost having to apologize for being here? And I've been in baseball 33 years, riding the buses for 18 years, and I'm not apologizing to anybody for being here."

Hargrove said he understood Leyland's anger.

"I think we felt kind of under-appreciated all year long, but we didn't let it deter us," Hargrove said. "If people have a problem with us being here, then that's their problem. We beat good teams to get here. I don't remember last year - when we won 99 games - saying the best team in baseball wasn't in the World Series last year. So, yeah, it's upsetting."