The World Series champs have been loading up on insults for Rodriguez.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Boston is treating A-Rod like an iPod.
Every day, the Red Sox are loading their insults, filling Alex Rodriguez's head with limitless megabytes of putdowns, seemingly hoping he'll play them over and over in his mind. They get replayed repeatedly in the Hub and the Big Apple, splashing across back pages and filling the airwaves around the major leagues.
He's been called a "clown," by Trot Nixon, told he's a "bush-league" act by Curt Schilling and instructed that he's "got to earn it" by David Wells.
Bronson Arroyo said people could perceive he's "a little bit of a dirty player and not as likable as maybe he once was." Jason Varitek responded to Rodriguez's workout routine description by saying: "I don't need to boast."
Even Jose Canseco chimed him, calling him a "total phony" in his book.
Expected in camp soon
The $252 million man has yet to report to spring training and has yet to respond. We don't know if he'll be bewitched, bothered or bewildered when he gets to Legends Field today or Monday.
"You don't know how much is just magnified," Yankees manager Joe Torre said Saturday. "Because they're world champs, I think maybe more questions are being asked. But I don't really pay a lot of attention to it. Again, maybe I will pay attention to it if I see my guys getting distracted by it or making more of it than it is."
For much of the off-season, the big questions around the Yankees were "Did he?" or "Didn't he?" references to whether Jason Giambi took steroids.
Now they're "Will he?" or "Won't he?" as in, will Rodriguez strike back at the Red Sox or continue to be their personal piIata?
Meet in opener
On April 3 at Yankee Stadium, scene of Boston's triumph in Game 7 last year and of the Yankees' downfall, the major league season begins.
Fans used to chant "1918!" at Yankee Stadium. They'll be yelling "2-for-17!" at Fenway Park when Rodriguez bats this year, a reference to his performance at the plate in the last four games of last year's AL championship series.
Following 52 high-intensity games over the past two years, including a pair of seven-game AL championship series that they split, the Yankees and Red Sox sometimes seem to be the center of the baseball universe. Their intramural sparring may consume their players and their fans, but the rest of baseball would be excused for finding it tiresome.
"I think everybody should respect each other," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "Everyone's ripping on A-Rod. He's a great player."
Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin said the attention paid to A-Rod was understandable.
"People that get in the paper take heat," he said.
But Matt Mantei, another member of the Boston bullpen, said -- is this allowed? -- positive things about Rodriguez on Saturday.
"I've played with him in A-ball and a couple of years later I saw him again, and I don't think he remembered who I was because he was such a big timer by then," Mantei said. "But I like A-Rod. I think he's a nice guy. He does a lot of good things for the community and children and stuff like that, and I think that's pretty impressive, to do what he does. So I have nothing against A-Rod."