After all that heavy campaigning for the Hall of Fame, you’d think Jim Ed Rice would need no tutorial on the power of the media to spread a message. But the former Red Sox slugger is feigning surprise just the same over the way his recent remarks to a bunch of Little Leaguers have been spread throughout the baseball world. “The tabloids had a field day. The chat rooms were abuzz with inflammatory comment” gushes Yahoo’s Gordon Edes, who surely must realize Rice deserves a ton of credit for keeping baseball relevant during the height of the NFL preseason.

For his part, Rice is flabbergasted at the outcry, saying he was unaware of the fuss he™d caused until reached by Yahoo! Sports while waiting for a flight in Philadelphia on Friday night. His words could not have been more miscast, he said. The rivalry was to blame.

œWhat do you expect? he said. œWho are the Red Sox playing? The Yankees. What else do you expect but some controversy involving the Red Sox and Yankees? I was misquoted.”

œYou see a Manny Ramirez(notes), you see an A-Rod, you see [Derek] Jeter ¦ Guys that I played against and with, these guys you™re talking about cannot compare, said Rice during his speech, who coincidentally or not mentioned the three highest paid players in the game today.

If that wasn™t enough, Rice also said, œWe didn™t have the baggy uniforms. We didn™t have the dreadlocks. It was a clean game, and now they™re setting a bad example for the young guys.”

whom he has frequently knocked for his seeming indifference.

Later, Rice protested, œAnybody who reads that story knows I wasn™t talking about Jeter or Rodriguez, he said. œLook at them. Do you see any baggy pants? Do you see any dreadlocks?

œWhen you think of the Yankees, who do you think of? Him [Jeter] and Rodriguez. Anyone who knows the game, anyone with any common sense knows which players give you leadership. And think about the way they play every day. Can you see either A-Rod or Jeter going into the manager™s office and saying, ˜Skip, I don™t feel like playing today.™ ?

Rice insisted he did not single out Jeter and Rodriguez as examples of me-first players. œI said, ˜The guys who play right, you know who they are, and they know in the clubhouse, too. You can™t fool your teammates.™ I mentioned ˜guys,™ not those guys.