Feb. 28 -- Three Quick Mets Thoughts

9:03 AM

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Back in chilly NJ, it seems a lot of the action is in Port St. Lucie.

1. They can say whatever they want about precautions, but the fact is that Johan Santana has now been scratched from two appearances because his elbow hurts. That's five-alarm info, and the alarms won't stop sounding until the man gets on a mound and feels good throwing.

2. I agree completely with the premise of this John Harper column. Regarding the idea of batting Luis Castillo first and Jose Reyes third (or anywhere else), I can see where it might be a good motivating factor for Castillo. But if there's even a one percent chance that it might have a negative effect on Reyes, it's not worth doing. He's too good the way he is, and too important to mess with.

3. I have known Livan Hernandez for 13 years, and covered his most glorious season. I have followed his career since then, and while I understand he is not the pitcher he was when he was younger, and that his numbers in recent seasons have been dreadful, I would not bet against him in a competition such as this one.

Feb. 26 -- Notes from Yankees-Rays

3:59 PM

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I wasn't with the Mets today, but I did see this story, and I believe the official baseball term for this is "NOT GOOD."

Over on this side of the state, we saw Phil Hughes, who was once an emerging top pitching prospect, pitch against the Rays and Wade Davis, who appears to still be. Davis hit 95 on the radar gun and struck out three batters in two scoreless innings, leaving the Yankees impressed and reinforcing the notion that the Rays aren't about to run out of pitching anytime soon. (More on that below.)

Two notes of significance from the Yankees' side of things today.

First, it appears Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi met with Alex Rodriguez to tell him it might not be a great idea to have the cousin he one week ago identified as his steroid supplier and fellow steroid user pick him up from the ballpark anymore. You'd think this would be something a person wouldn't have to be told, but with Alex, traditional logic apparently gets tossed in the hazardous waste bin with the used needles.

Cashman, Girardi and Rodriguez all were asked about the Cousin Yuri issue today. Cashman said, "It's been handled." Girardi and Rodriguez said, "It's been addressed." All three were pressed further, none commented further.

At this point, this has to be getting old for Cashman and Girardi, no? I mean, at this point, when A-Rod walks into the room for the meeting and sees those guys sitting there, do they even have to say anything anymore? If you're Cashman, don't you just wave the newspaper at the guy and go, "Really? Really, you thought this was a good idea?"

For a guy who seems so obsessed with the way he's perceived, Alex sure is tone-deaf in regard to his own actions. What's next? Dinner with Victor Conte?

The second note of interest -- most likely greater interest to Yankee fans -- has to do with Jorge Posada, who hit the ball as if he were angry with it. He homered on the first pitch he saw this spring, leading off the third inning. And in the fifth he hammered a long double to center field. A-Rod said he jokingly asked Posada if he'd been playing winter ball in Puerto Rico, his swing looked so good.

"I was a little nervous," said Posada, who missed much of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. "So I said, 'I'll just go up there and swing at the first pitch and see what happens."

Posada was the DH today, and Girardi said they're still hoping he'll be able to catch by March 15. He said he caught Hughes' warmup in the bullpen and was trying to "mimic" the pregame routine he'd be going through if he were catching. In the meantime, he's happy to be getting at-bats and feeling good -- he said the shoulder injury prohibited him from "loading" and deprived him of power when he tried to swing last year before going on the disabled list for good.

The Yankees need Posada to be healthy, and they need him to be healthy enough to play catcher -- as in, not DH. Because every day he's the DH, that's a day Jose Molina plays catcher and a better hitter (Xavier Nady, Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui...somebody) rides the bench. The Yankees' lineup will function better if Posada can be in it as the catcher for at least 120 games, and the pitching staff is likely to benefit from having the same person back there every night. So Posada is worth watching as a key to the Yankees' season.

As for the Rays...interesting note I picked up today. It appears that David Price, the wonder-prospect who got the final outs of the ALCS for them last October, is NOT a lock to start the season in their rotation. The Rays say they're holding an open competition for their No. 5 starter's spot, including Price, Jason Hammell, Jeff Niemann and Carlos Hernandez, the former Astros lefty who's attempting a comeback following multiple shoulder surgeries.

Price obviously has the stuff to compete at the major-league level, as he showed in October. But Rays GM Andrew Friedman says that Price's development is the most important factor in determining where he pitches. If they feel like he'd be better off starting the season in Triple-A, they'll send him there.

There are, of course, off-field concerns directing some of this. Niemann and Hammell, for instance, are out of options, meaning the team would have to trade or release them if they don't make the big-league club. Price can be sent to the minors without such a concern. And remember last year, when the Rays started third baseman Evan Longoria in the minors so as to delay the start of his arbitration/free agency "clock." They could employ a similar strategy with Price, though I think that would be unwise.

The AL East is going to be a brutal division this year. It is very possible, I believe, that the three best teams in baseball reside in the AL East. That means none of the three contenders -- Yankees, Red Sox or Rays -- can afford to fiddle around. If the Rays believe Price makes them better, then they should probably put him on the team, rather than waiting until May to do it.

A year ago, remember, the Rays were the out-of-nowhere Cinderella team. They didn't open the season with any apparent expectations. This year, they're the defending league champions, and they're fully expected to make a run at a second straight division title. Tough to give away a month for procedural roster reasons when you're in that kind of spot.

Once again, you can catch me Friday morning on "First Take" on ESPN2 at around 10:20 am EST. After that, I'm heading back home to the frigid north. But I plan to be back in Florida at some point for more spring training. This week was too much fun!

Feb. 25 -- Lots of driving

7:08 PM

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I just saw that Miguel Tejada is dropping out of the World Baseball Classic because the Dominican team asked him to play first base. Curious, I went over to the WBC web site to see who's on the roster who's a better shortstop than Tejada. Holy crap. How about Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and, if they really want to get kooky, Alex Rodriguez?

I'm not much for handicapping, but you have to like their chances, no?

Course, now they need a first baseman...

Anyway, I digress. If you're here, you're at least mildly interested in the day I spent here in Florida at spring training. As promised, I did make the two-hour drive down to Fort Myers to pick up some Red Sox notes. I spoke with John Smoltz, who's recovering from shoulder surgery and has been working with fellow rehab pitcher Brad Penny in Penny's bullpen sessions -- something for which Penny is star-struck grateful.

But I didn't stay for the Red Sox exhibition game against Boston College (which I presume is still going on, with the Sox leading 214-0 in the top of the fourth inning). A freelance opportunity prompted a change in plans, and I made the two-hour drive back up to Dunedin to see what the crowd reaction was to A-Rod's first spring training game.

As I expected, he got a lot of boos and a lot of support. (Yankee road games in spring training always draw tons of Yankee fans who can't get tickets to the games at George M. Steinbrenner Field, nee Legends Field.) He walked twice and hit a home run, which indicates that the hip problem his hitting coach told me about yesterday isn't holding him back THAT much.

Afterwards, Alex spoke with us and said he'd had dinner Tuesday night with Reggie Jackson, and that Reggie had given him some advice. Alex said he was comfortable on the field, playing the game. "Everything else is confusing," he said. "Baseball is what I do best."

Talking to Reggie, we learned that it was apparently Hank Steinbrenner's idea for him to take A-Rod out and offer some advice. As for what that advice was, here's Reggie:

"I told him to hit the baseball. And hit it when it counts."

Of course, it didn't count today, but the message is simple: If you perform, the way Alex Rodriguez can, the fans (Yankee fans at least) will appreciate it and love you for it. And that'll make everything else go away, at least for the three hours every night when you're playing ball.

This makes me think it's more important than ever for Alex to start the season hot. If he struggles in April and the team is sitting around .500, Yankee fans will be all over him. Come on, Yankee fans. You know who you are. You will boo the everlasting crap out of this guy.

However, if he has an April like the otherworldly one he had in 2007, and if he carries that performance all through the season (and into October this time), then he won't have to worry about questions about the fans.

At least not at home.

Alex did have one funny line, when he said he thought the crowd went easy on him today: "I'd like to bring a couple of them with me to Fenway Park this summer," he said.

And Reggie talked a little bit about his own frustration over the idea of being passed on the home run list by so many guys from the steroid era.

"When I retired, the game was 140 years old, and I was sixth all-time (in home runs)," Jackson said. "Eighteen months later, I was 11th. I get angry sometimes. I've been reprimanded by the commissioner or the president of our team for saying some things about it, and I've pleaded with them to understand, I'm personally affected by this. I'm disappointed and I'm hurt."

He said he expected he would talk to Alex about this very topic at some point, but that right now he's part of the Yankees' organization-wide effort to make sure Alex's head is in the right place so that he (and the team) can have a successful season.

"He's my friend," Reggie said. "And he's on the Yankees, and I work for the Yankees. It's like Brian Cashman says. We don't have choices here. He's a friend and he's a significant asset for us."

I will be discussing this topic some more Thursday morning on "First Take" on ESPN2 at around 10:20 am Eastern, if you're interested. Otherwise, planning to head to the Yankees-Rays game in Tampa on Thursday and will let you know what I come up with from there. Hopefully I can pick up some Rays notes. The A-Rod stuff does tend to swallow everything else, you know?

Feb. 24 -- Old Stomping Grounds

3:27 PM

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Sick of the weather up there, I figured I'd head on down for a little spring training trip this week. Just because nobody's ordering me to go this year doesn't mean I can't go on my own, right? Now, the trick is to pick up enough freelance assignments while I'm down here to make the trip profitable. Or at least, keep it from being a loss.

So I went over to George M. Steinbrenner Field (nee Legends Field) today and hung around with the Yankees. Here are a couple of tidbits I got out of the day:

-You don't have to spend but 20 minutes in Yankees camp to realize that Alex Rodriguez has swallowed it. All anybody's talking about is A-Rod -- How's he look? How's he feeling? How's he going to handle a spring training road game tomorrow in Dunedin? He's supposed to meet soon (he claims to know not when) with MLB investigators about his admitted steroid use. He leaves next week to join the Dominican Republic team for the World Baseball Classic. Hitting coach Kevin Long told me A-Rod's dealing with a hip problem that's affecting his batting stance -- making it more open than it's supposed to be. Basically, the guy's got a lot of crap going on. And no matter what anybody says publicly, I can assure you there's a real concern around the Yankees about how A-Rod is going to perform given the circumstances in which he now finds himself.

-Bernie Williams is here, working out with the team in preparation for his own turn on the Puerto Rico team in the WBC. Williams was hitting long home runs in batting practice and said he feels good and hopes "to catch someone's eye" during the WBC -- meaning, impress a big-league team enough that he can make a comeback and play Major League Baseball again. "I feel great, and I got the go-ahead from the family, the wife and kids to give it a shot. So I'm going to give it a shot," he said. I wish him well, because I like Bernie, but jeez...in a market where Bobby Abreu only got $5 million and Garret Anderson just signed for $2.5 million, it's tough to envision a big-league job for a 40-year-old Bernie Williams.

-The Yankees' three new star players may have contracts totaling nearly a half a billion dollars, but it appears the team is in luck, because they couldn't have given that nearly-half-a-billion to three more down-to-earth dudes. CC Sabathia spent most of his clubhouse time today hanging out among the relievers, way across the room from his corner locker, chatting about pitching and busting chops. And he just left with Nick Swisher and Brian Bruney to go fishing. Tino Martinez, here as a spring instructor, was raving about what a pleasure it's been to work with Mark Teixeira. And more than one person made a comment to me about AJ Burnett's work ethic and seriousness of purpose. Assuming health, the Yankees' big winter bucks appear to have been well spent. The last thing they'd need right now is one of the new guys coming in all high-maintenance and demanding a bunch of attention.

-I'm an idiot. This is the 10th year I've lived in the Northeast and covered spring training in Florida. Do you think I'd remember to bring allergy medicine and sunscreen by now? Yeah, well, you'd be wrong. And here I sit, sneezing and red-necked.

But I have to say, it was a fun, pleasant, productive day. Maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Heading down to Red Sox camp in Fort Myers on Wednesday. Catch me on "First Take" on ESPN2 at 10:25 am. We'll be talking about some of this stuff and some other stuff, too.

Feb. 19 -- Ken Griffey Jr. returns to Seattle

12:17 PM

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Over/Under on the day the Mariners make the publicly painful decision to release Griffey: June 23. Yeah, you heard it here first.

Keith Law on ESPN.com did a beautiful job of breaking down this sentimental move -- a foolish one for a team that needs to be rebuilding and getting at-bats for its up-and-coming youngsters so that they can be good again once Griffey is mercifully retired. The money quote:

"What's most troubling is that this appears not to be a baseball move, but a marketing one. It's a cynical, insulting ploy to try to get fans into the park -- "Hey, they've heard of this guy! They won't know he's not half the player he used to be!" -- and worse, it's misguided. Fans who want to see Griffey play again will go … once. One past-prime player isn't going to get large numbers of fans to go to the park on a regular basis; the only thing that can do that is winning."


I also have a couple of thoughts on this insane idea that Braves fans are upset with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution because Braves GM Frank Wren said Griffey bailed on the Braves because he was upset that the paper ran a story saying he'd decided to sign with Atlanta.

1. Baloney.

2. And if it is true that this is what made Griffey's decision for him, then the Braves got a huge break.

3. Griffey is soft, a whiner and not an especially useful major-league baseball player at this point in his career. I respect what he's accomplished in the game, statistically, but personally he's a loser and he's no longer a good enough player to justify this kind of angst.

4. The Braves will be better off with Garrett Anderson.

Just sayin'

Feb. 17 -- We're supposed to believe this?

8:17 PM

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Alex Rodriguez says he was young and stupid.

Well...he's not young anymore.

But he's stupid as hell if he expects us to swallow what he was serving up this afternoon in Tampa.

Enough already with the half-truths and made-up stories. This thing about how he and his "cousin" dabbled with over-the-counter injectible drugs they could only get in the Dominican Republic, at a time when he was entering his athletic prime and, presumably, watching everything else he put into his body just doesn't hold water.

And even if you bought it, it still leaves open too many questions:

-Is his unnamed "cousin" a doctor? And if not, is Alex insane? He was feeling pressure to perform at the beginning of his record-breaking contract, and so he and his cousin walked into some random Dominican drugstore and picked up something that they didn't know how to administer and didn't know whether it would be effective and just started taking it twice a month for three years? If this story is true, then Alex is a stone-cold moron. If it's not true (which is where the smart money is), then it's a bad, bad lie. Because it's impossible to believe.

-Was he such an outcast in the Rangers' clubhouse that he really didn't talk to other players in there about steroid use? It seems, from everything we've learned, that pretty much every single play on those Ranger teams was doing steroids. Alex never had a conversation with a teammate in which this stuff came up? What are you taking? Do you think it's helping? That kind of stuff?

-Is he really, truly sorry for what he did? Does he really think he made a mistake? Is he really interested in telling kids his story and keeping them off the stuff? Because for a guy about whom all of that is true, he seems awfully concerned with making sure everybody still thinks of him as a Hall of Fame baseball player. All you hear is how good he was before 2001, how good he's been since 2003. How he still wants to go to the Hall of Fame. I'm not sure, if a man is feeling real remorse, that that would be such a high priority.

Alex cares deeply what other people think about him. He's a textbook case of a kid who didn't have a father and spends his life desperately seeking attention, affirmation and approval. In a lot of ways, that's the sad part of his story -- a real reason, if you're so inclined, to pity him.

But the problem is always the same with Alex. He doesn't come off as sincere. Even when he's being sincere, he doesn't seem it. And that kills him in terms of public perception.

A year ago, Andy Pettitte sat in the same spot and answered questions for 55 minutes about his appearance in the Mitchell Report. Several times during that session, Yankees media relations director Jason Zillo tried to cut it off and Pettitte told him not to. Before and after the session, Pettitte approached reporters who'd covered him for years, individually, and apologized for "putting you in a position to write bad things about me." Pettitte could have been lying through his teeth that day, but for some reason all of his actions had a genuine feel. He's a more genuine person, and a more likable person, and for him that's the biggest reason 2008 went as smoothly as it did after February.

Alex won't be so fortunate, for way too many reasons. But the biggest reason is that anybody who watched that fiasco in Tampa on Tuesday has to still be wondering what the whole truth is. And as long as we're all still wondering that, this won't be over.

Dan

Feb. 12 -- On Selig, A-Rod and a whole bunch of littler stuff

12:50 PM

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This thing about Bud Selig considering a suspension for A-Rod seems a little silly. There were no penalties in place during the time when Alex admits to having used steroids (though certainly, the drugs were illegal, and had someone been caught using them at that time he would have been subject to some sort of punishment), and it makes little sense to suspend him six years later. Plus, the union would have a chicken.

I wonder if this is an attempt by Selig to get A-Rod to do what he made Jason Giambi do a couple of years ago, when Giambi slipped and acknowledged his past steroid use in an interview with USA Today. Under threat of suspension, Giambi resolved the situation by going in and talking to MLB officials (and George Mitchell) about exactly what he did, when he did it and, presumably, why. Since I believe there's something to be gained by finding out as many specifics as possible about what went on during the "Steroid Era," I think it would be nice of Alex to go in and spend some time with the MLB officials in charge of investigating and prosecuting drug use in the game. His information could be valuable, and as of now there's no reason for him not to offer it -- if, as he claims, he's come clean about absolutely everything. And of course, we're all entitled to our doubts about that.

A few more notes from around the league:

*A front-office official with a major-league team that isn't the Mets told me yesterday that the Mets were one of the teams with a serious chance of signing left-handed reliever Will Ohman, and that Ohman was likely to sign somewhere before the weekend. The Phillies' obvious interest in Ohman, this person said, has led the Mets to consider paying more for Ohman than they initially intended to pay, though this person believed it unlikely that they would offer more than a one-year deal. Just passing it along.

*Rather than injuring the bargaining position of the Dodgers or Manny Ramirez, I believe the recent signings of Bobby Abreu (Angels) and Adam Dunn (Nationals) signals that the Dodgers are close to finalizing a deal with Ramirez. My theory is that the sides got close enough, in recent days, that a deal is inevitable, and that word of such got out, so Abreu and Dunn, who were on the Dodgers' list of backup plans, decided to take the offers they already had. This is an educated hunch of mine, based on experience with the way these things tend to work. I have no direct knowledge of any impending announcement of a Ramirez-Dodgers deal. I just wouldn't be surprised.

*Everybody knows pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training this week, but I wanted to offer my best wishes to the writers who are reporting for nearly two months of work with almost no time off. Spring training is the most grueling part of the baseball year for those who cover the teams, and if any of my former colleagues/competitors are reading this, know that I feel for you. And that a great, big, kinda-sad part of me wishes I were down there with you.

Feb. 10 -- Too many questions remain

8:17 AM

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I guess, at the most basic level, Alex Rodriguez is to be commended for admitting that for which he was caught. His admission, incomplete though it may be, puts him ahead of the Roger Clemenses, Barry Bondses and Mark McGwires of this sordid steroid world. He didn't deny what we already knew, didn't insult our intelligence, didn't hide behind the towering arrogance that convinces our biggest baseball stars that people will and should believe everything they say just because they're good at baseball.

But.

To say that Alex "came clean" in his ESPN interview with Peter Gammons is to ignore that which wasn't addressed, and that which is still being denied.

The idea that Rodriguez didn't know what he was taking -- that he was somehow using stuff that may or may not have been illegal at the time or that he could "get at GNC" is ludicrous. Anybody who's studied this issue and these drugs can tell you that primobolan is not legal in the United States, was not legal in 2003 and cannot be found in any substance GNC sells. It's an extremely sophisticated steroid that sophisticated steroid users take in conjunction with testosterone in order to build strength without excessive bulk. Bodybuilders "stack" a drug like primobolan with synthetic testosterone -- using the former when they're cycling off the latter so that they can maintain their strength and their workout regimen without swelling up to dangerous (or suspicious) sizes.

The best bet is that Rodriguez, a world-class athlete with access to trainers, nutritionists, personal chefs and whatever else he needs to keep his body functioning at the highest possible level, knew exactly what he was taking and is trying to portray himself as a naif because that's easier to forgive. But even if we give him that -- even if we assume he was naive, caught up in that "loose culture" about which we all now know and didn't know everything he was taking -- then he should certainly know where and from whom he got his drugs. Given the drugs for which he has tested positive, whoever was administering them to him (assuming he wasn't doing it himself) would have known what they were for and what they would do. And if that's the case, he should be able to honestly answer questions about where he got them and from whom.

So it's clear, from watching this interview, that Alex is still holding back some information. It's clear that he's still lying, as he did when Katie Couric asked him in December of 2007 and the rest of us asked him in February of 2008 if he'd ever taken any performance-enhancers. It's clear that he could tell us (and, more importantly, Major League Baseball) more about what went on in that "loose culture" and enable everybody to learn the kind of information that would really, truly help the game move on.

It's clear that none of this would ever have come out if he hadn't been caught. He speaks of carrying a "gorilla" on his back, referencing his steroid secret. He says he feels great to finally reveal the truth. But if it was bothering him that much, why not come clean before the SI reporter shows up at the gym? He's obviously furious with Selena Roberts for breaking this story, and there's no way he'd have been sitting there with Peter Gammons yesterday if she (or someone else) hadn't.

So once again, we have to wonder if the cheater is sorry he cheated or if he's merely sorry he got caught. As I said above, give A-Rod more credit than you give Clemens and Bonds and those who insist on insulting our intelligence by denying what we all know. Given the standard that has so far been set in all of this, he's toward the more admirable end of the spectrum. But there's no way to believe he has really, as he claims, "put everything out there and been totally honest." He's still coming up short on that. And as long as he and the others who cheated in an effort to make themselves better baseball players keep coming up short, these kinds of stories are going to keep dribbling out, one by one, for years and years to come.

Feb. 8 -- A-ssorted A-Rod thoughts

12:46 AM

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Sometime in the middle of 2007, as Alex Rodriguez was obviously on his way to a runaway MVP award and just as surely planning to opt out of the final three years of his contract, I wrote a column for The Star-Ledger in which I urged the Yankees to resist the temptation to bring him back after he opted out. The gist was that sure, his monster 2007 season would prove his tremendous potential value to the team, but that they should be careful not to overlook all of the headaches he'd already caused them and likely would continue to cause them if they locked him up for, say, 10 more years.

I stand by that column.

Seriously, how must the Yankees feel when, almost every time a player's picture is on ESPN in the middle of a steroid story, he's wearing their uniform? Jason Giambi was the poster boy for the steroid era before Barry Bonds raced to the front. Gary Sheffield had his turn in this ugly spotlight while he was a Yankee. A year ago, it was Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte in disgrace. Even guys like Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice and Mike Stanton were mentioned in the Mitchell Report. Mike Stanton, for Christ's sake.

Now it's A-Rod, the player around whom the Yankees have chosen to build their franchise for the next nine years. One Yankee person with whom I exchanged e-mails on Saturday said, "Sure, it's embarrassing, but what can we do?" And this person is right. It isn't the Yankees' fault that so many of the high-profile guys who've been caught (and remember, the number of people who've been caught represents but a tiny fraction of the number of people who were doing this stuff) wore their uniform. I don't think you can claim that there's anything systemic about the way they do business that attracts steroid cheats. They get high-profile guys, they pay them a lot of money to be big stars, and when those kinds of guys get caught it makes big news.

But they could have got themselves out from under Alex Rodriguez a year ago and they didn't. Instead, they decided to make him the face of their franchise and TV Network. So they are stuck with the storm that hit Saturday morning -- a storm whose eye is weeks away from landfall in Tampa. They are stuck with all of the headaches it brings, all of the headaches Alex Rodriguez always seems to bring.

A few more scattered thoughts:

-The Yankees are 10-14 in postseason games since Alex Rodriguez joined their team. Not his fault that their starting pitching has been garbage since he got here, but for some reason that hangs around his neck as much as it does anybody else's.

-CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett are in for a nice welcome to the Yankees later this week, when pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. With third basemen not scheduled to report until a week later, the newcomers who figured to see much of the attention in the first week are likely to spend much of that week fielding questions about an absent goofball steroid cheat they barely even know. But hey -- they might as well find out right away what they've gotten themselves into.

-This idea that if it turns out to be true that A-Rod did test positive in 2003 then at least we know he's been clean since then because MLB tests now? Please. The whole Balco scandal was about rich athletes paying scientists to develop drugs to help them beat tests. Very strict Olympic tests, in many cases. We're to believe this doesn't still go on? That for the past five years, while baseball has been testing its players, nobody's come up with a drug that beats the tests? And that a player as wealthy and driven as Alex Rodriguez wouldn't pay for such a drug? Sorry, Scott. Your man, if guilty, deserves every shred of suspicion that comes his way, whether it's about his career before, during or after 2003.

-What should Alex do? Well, he should come clean, of course. He won't, but he should. They all should. The Giambis, Bondses, Sheffields, Clemenses...all of them. A full public admission by those players -- what they did, why they did it, when and for how long -- would do so much to help baseball move on, it would be incalculable. But as long as the players who were caught do no more than the bare minimum -- either lie/deny or admit to only that for which they were caught -- this stuff is gong to keep happening. Every few months, another name will surface, and all of the ugliness of the "Steroid Era" will rise up and swallow the game again. Plus, the American public is a sucker for contrition. If Alex said he did it and was sorry, fans would go a lot easier on him than they will if he denies and hides.

-The Hall of Fame question, or "Why it sucks to be a Hall of Fame voter from here on out." My answer is no. If I believe Alex Rodriguez used steroids, I will not vote for him for the Hall of Fame. That's my personal position, as of Feb. 8, 2009 -- if I believe a player used steroids, I won't vote for him. That goes for McGwire, Bonds, Sheffield, Clemens...the lot. Is that fair? Maybe not, but it's where I am as a voter.

Some voters have said they'll vote based on the numbers, since we can't know every name of every cheater and they don't feel comfortable punishing only a few of the guilty. This is a valid viewpoint, though I dispute it. I mean, if you get caught speeding and tell the cop, "Everybody else is speeding," does he not give you a ticket?

Some voters have said they'll vote for no one from this era, for fear that they'll vote somebody in only to find out later that they elected a cheater. And I share this fear. I fully expect that, at some point, I'll cast a vote for somebody and later find out that he cheated. And some will cry hypocrisy. And that will be unfortunate.

But the way I feel as a voter is that all we can do is our very best with each individual case. If I have steroid-related doubts about a guy, I'm holding off. If those doubts get erased somehow, I reserve the right to change my mind and vote for the guy if he's still on the ballot. If I have no steroid-related doubts, and I believe the guy to be a Hall of Famer on the numbers, I'll vote for him. Because that's all I think we can do -- examine each individual case every year, applying all of the information we have available to us, and make the best decision we can based on the totality of that information.

Which means, assuming this stuff is true (and the story really offers no good reason to doubt its veracity), A-Rod's a no for me, 800 homers or not.