Posted: Friday August 5, 2011 1:56PM ; Updated: Friday August 5, 2011 2:31PM
Jon Heyman
Jon Heyman>DAILY SCOOP

A-Rod unlikely to be suspended over alleged poker games

Story Highlights

Sources say that Alex Rodriguez is already looking for poker games this winter

Once again, the commissioner's office wants to speak to A-Rod

The Nationals want to make Davey Johnson their permanent manager for 2012

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Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez's lips were sealed on Thursday when asked about MLB's poker probe.
AP

Alex Rodriguez reportedly played in a couple card games at rich guys' houses in or near Beverly Hills. The stakes were said to be high.

And word out of well-placed Los Angeles poker sources is that Rodriguez is already trying to find poker games for next winter in L.A.

Big deal.

According to the initial reports about the card games that allegedly included A-Rod, a fight broke out over some steep losses. Rodriguez, according to the story, got up and left upon seeing the skirmish. One report suggested that someone -- not Rodriguez -- used cocaine out in the open at one of the games.

As a scandal, this is a pair of deuces.

Unless there is something more to this story -- and MLB will indeed investigate -- Rodriguez will not be suspended, people with knowledge of the situation say. He will only be warned and re-educated about how to stay out of bad situations.

This is a worthwhile chat. Rodriguez is a magnet for bad situations and worse publicity (which may explain why he is the only current major leaguer with a coterie of publicists).

Officially, this will be the third time in three years that he has been called to the principal's office (a.k.a. 245 Park Ave. in New York City, site of the commissioner's office), and this will be his easiest chat to date. The first one was to discuss Rodriguez's public comments regarding his steroid usage following Sports Illustrated's 2009 report that he failed a 2003 drug test. The second MLB interview was over his association with a Canadian doctor being investigated by the federal authorities for dispensing HGH to athletes. (Rodriguez told MLB that he didn't get HGH from the doctor, Anthony Galea.)

Rodriguez certainly has shown a great ability over the years to get himself into sticky situations and draw negative publicity. The commissioner's office wants to make sure that the man who is chasing the all-time home run record stays out of any more bad spots. But they aren't about to suspend him for playing cards, even if someone else got into a fight or used illegal drugs.

The stakes shouldn't matter, but for the record, the reports suggest that Rodriguez lost what for him is a small amount. One said "a few thousand'' dollars, another said $40,000. He makes about $200,000 a game, so relatively speaking, that's pennies.

The bad publicity part came when one report suggested that there was cocaine out in the open at one of the games. If true, that certainly is not a plus, but that can't be pinned on Rodriguez, as seeing someone else do drugs isn't a suspendable offense.

The other negative part was the alleged fight that broke out at one of the games over lost money. It was someone else's lost money, and someone else's fight.

The original report was in Star Magazine, which isn't exactly The New York Times. That report was more about poker-playing A-list actors, including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, who were said to be at one of the games. Rodriguez was mentioned as an afterthought.

But when his name attracted the attention of sportswriters, Rodriguez publicist Richard Rubenstein told Newsday that A-Rod wasn't at any of the card games. This seemed like a long shot, as Rodriguez loves to play cards (the Yankees warned him to stay away from New York poker clubs after he was seen at one in 2005). Then predictably, more confirmation came that he was indeed playing cards, which is no surprise since Rodriguez does play poker.

The new story by the publicist is that there are "factual inaccuracies'' in the poker story. It appears that one inaccuracy is that Rodriguez didn't participate in a poker game in a Miami hotel in November 2009. The publicist didn't catalog what the "factual inaccuracies'' were. The publicist also didn't address his own factual inaccuracy claiming that A-Rod didn't play in any of the games.

MLB is within its rights to tell one of its biggest stars to stay out of bad spots, but it's doubtful that they can keep Rodriguez away from poker games. Rodriguez already is reportedly trying to line up games for this winter in Los Angeles. He has told people that he wants to play and that he's going to be in L.A. because that's where his girlfriend, actress Cameron Diaz, is.

It's hard to imagine that baseball can make a big deal out of private poker games. And it's hard to believe that it could dissuade Rodriguez from playing in these games. But it can try to warn him about the company he keeps.

Around the majors

• The Nationals' clear intention all along has been to have Davey Johnson manage the next two seasons, according to sources. He is, officially, a consultant for 2012 and '13, but word is, he can have the managing job if he wants it. The Nationals need to conduct at least a semi-search before giving him the job officially, as is required by MLB. But everyone suspects the job will be his.

• Same goes for Bob Melvin in Oakland, though he has no contract for next year. Melvin left the Diamondbacks for Oakland's interim job, but nobody really believes it will just be interim.

• Jose Reyes wants to remain with the Mets, sources say. But the team's plan all along seems to have been to offer a five-year deal. They could stretch it to six perhaps, but he should have seven-year offers out there. So Reyes may have a tough decision to make.

• Injured Mets first baseman Ike Davis is coming to New York, probably on Monday, to have his ankle checked out. The decision will then be made whether to stay the course or have surgery. If he decides on the latter, he is still expected to be ready for next season.

• The latest news seems relatively positive for the Mets' Johan Santana. It is said that he could possibly be back on the mound in a week or so after it was found that he just needs to strengthen the shoulder, and that there is no real damage to the area.

• White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper's contract is up after the year, and so are those of the other White Sox coaches. Ozzie Guillen has a year to go on his deal. It will be interesting to see if Guillen is let go, though. Some folks think that he'd be happy to go manage in Florida, where he has a home. ("If it's time for me to go to the Marlins, I will go with a lot of class," Guillen told Yahoo! Sports. "It [would] be an honor to manage the Marlins.") Insiders though, say that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf still loves Guillen (whose constant comments about whether he may be fired aren't helping his already difficult relationship with GM Ken Williams). Those people are giving little credence to the rumor that Tony La Russa could rejoin Reinsdorf on the South Side of Chicago next season. La Russa, who managed the White Sox from 1979-1986, and Reinsdorf are best friends, so this rumor will probably never die.

• Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik's contract also expires after this year. And while the team has shown only mild offensive improvement from its all-time bad performance last year, the Mariners are collecting big-time young talent. Rookie second baseman Dustin Ackley looks like a future star, as do minor leaguers Taijuan Walker, a pitcher, and Nick Franklin, a shortstop. Seattle is also expected to sign No. 2 overall pick Danny Hultzen, a left-hander out of the University of Virginia, at the Aug. 15 signing deadline.

• The Indians came so close to picking Jacoby Ellsbury in the 2005 draft that they even asked the Native American his thoughts about Chief Wahoo, according to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. But alas, they wound up taking Trevor Crowe with the No. 14 pick instead. Ellsbury, picked 23rd, is an MVP candidate this year.

• The Yankees tried for left-hander Matt Thornton of the White Sox before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After being swept in four straight by the Yankees this week, the ChiSox could re-evaluate whether they may do some selling before the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline. Players need to pass through waivers to be traded now (except in the occasional cases where they are claimed by the acquiring team).

• All eyes are on Heath Bell now. He wasn't expected to still be in San Diego, but the Padres have several options. They could try to trade him during this period -- though he has a good chance to be claimed, which would complicate things. They could continue to try to sign him to a multiyear deal (they've offered about $14 million for two years). Barring a trade or multiyear deal, they will offer him arbitration. If he accepts, they can still try to trade him.

 
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