They said it in spring training, but they take it back now:

"There's no reason why I shouldn't be productive again." -- St. Louis second baseman Tommy Herr. He hit .302 and drove in 110 runs last season, but this season, was hitting .218 with 23 RBI through Thursday.

"The Mets don't think we can play. They think we're freaks. I know we can out-defense them. I know we can out-run them. And I think we can out-bullpen them. Right now, I would say, 'Don't bet against the Cardinals.' " -- St. Louis Manager Whitey Herzog, whose team is 23 games behind the Mets.

"I guarantee you that before the year is out, he won't be able to get me out of the lineup." -- St. Louis catcher Mike Heath. Hitting .195, Heath now sits almost every day as Mike LaValliere plays.

The arrogance of the Dodgers, Chapter 3,283,215: Although they're in last place and had the seventh-worst record in the major leagues (41-49) before yesterday's games, the Dodgers talk about a divisional championship as if it's one hot streak away.

This from a club that leads the major leagues in errors (104), has the fewest saves (12) and most injuries, and hadn't rallied to win a game after the sixth inning until a week ago.

What's more, no team since the 1973 Mets has been in last place at the all-star break and come back to finish first. (No Dodgers team has finished last since 1905.)

But they have had 11 different players on the disabled list, and the opening day lineup hasn't been together since June 5. Bill Madlock, Franklin Stubbs and Mike Scioscia returned this week, and Pedro Guerrero is expected back in about 10 days.

Seeing Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda and Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog together Thursday, pitcher Jerry Reuss said: "After they say 'hello' and 'how are you,' everything else is a lie."

The New York Yankees have offered outfielder Dave Winfield to at least four teams, including the Cardinals in a trade that might have sent shortstop Ozzie Smith to the Bronx. Winfield said the Yankees can forget it, that he can't be traded without his permission, and he's not giving it.

"Why don't they just tell me what the problem is?" he said. "I want to stay in New York. I want to play every day. And I want it to be in a positive environment."

What do Rick Sutcliffe, Mario Soto, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Joaquin Andujar and Reuss have in common? (They're all million-dollar pitchers with four victories or fewer in 1986.)

Because of a weird clause in his contract, Milwaukee's Robin Yount can declare himself a free agent after this season. The risk is that he'd be giving up three lucrative years of guaranteed money, worth more than $1 million a season. But Yount has told friends a dream has been to play for the Dodgers.

Milwaukee's home attendance is off by more than 172,000, hence the signing of popular Gorman Thomas. Forty-five reporters showed up at the news conference announcing Thomas' return.

The Chicago Cubs are closing in on a major shakeup. It appears that utility man Davey Lopes is about to be traded to Houston or San Diego, and that third baseman Ron Cey is going to be released. Further, when a contending team needs a pitcher for a September stretch run, Steve Trout will be more than available.

In the Atlanta Braves' last 50 games, opposing pitchers have driven in 22 runs, more than any Braves regular except Bob Horner (who has 27 RBI).

Billy Martin, who makes no secret of wanting to return to the Minnesota Twins, and Ray Miller, the man he wants to replace, are taking shots at each other again. On a Minneapolis radio show last Sunday, Martin was asked about the Twins' pitching.

He made a comment, then added: "Of course, I've only been in the major leagues 36 years. I'm not as smart as your manager."

Earlier, Miller had responded to rumors of Martin's returning to Minnesota by saying: "He has already messed up enough clubs. Let me mess up this one."

Last Sunday, Miller was asked a question about the Twins' pitching.

"I've only got nine years in the majors," he said. "You'll have to ask Billy Martin."

They're productive, but three players -- Jose Canseco, Jim Presley and Pete Incaviglia -- have a chance to break the single-season strikeout record (189 by Bobby Bonds in 1970).

The Detroit nucleus of Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Chet Lemon has been together only 22 times in the first 88 games, and inside their clubhouse, fingers are being pointed at Lemon and Whitaker.

Whitaker last week sat out three games at Yankee Stadium because he was "sore," and Lemon missed five straight road games.

"I feel sore, too, sometimes," Gibson said. "It's obvious to me that some people have drive, and you never hear them talking about how sore they are or how hot it is."

California rookie sensation Wally Joyner was asked to appear on ABC's "Good Morning America" last Tuesday from Houston, the site of the all-star game.

The producer who phoned said, by the way, that Joyner would be appearing with "Darryl Raspberry." Joyner chose "The Today Show."

Actor Jack Lord phoned Mets pitcher Sid Fernandez to thank him for the publicity Fernandez has given his native state of Hawaii.

Don't remind Texas Manager Bobby Valentine that the Rangers have had post-break losing records for each of the last seven years. "That's history," he said. "I wasn't here for it. Most of the players weren't part of it. It has nothing to do with this team. Zero."

Fifteen of the 24 Rangers have come to the team since Valentine became manager.

Ever looking to pitch again, Jim Palmer, 40, said he would do some throwing this summer and decide about a comeback.

There's almost no way to describe how popular Kansas City Manager Dick Howser is with his players, front office, opposing players and reporters throughout the country. He showed amazing grace and character under the most difficult of circumstances in the playoffs and World Series last fall and won admirers from coast to coast.

He'll undergo surgery for a brain tumor Monday, and he enters the operating room with the prayers of thousands.