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A federal magistrate judged ruled this week that the Associated Press couldn't publish the blacked-out names of baseball players in a warrant that was used to search former Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsely's house for steroids. The judge claimed that revealing the names would compromise ongoing investigations into illegal performance enhancers, and that telling the public more names of players who were juicing could cause "cooperation (to) be affected.... Investigation of named individuals could be compromised, leads developed from undisclosed information could be cut off, and evidence could be destroyed."

Puh-leeze. This is more Players Association wrangling, more slimy lawyers paid to protect cheaters at the expense of the wider membership's collective reputation. The idea that revealing the names of what are, reportedly, superstar steroid abusers would hinder an investigation into chemically-aided cheating in baseball is laughable. (You think there's some superstar pitcher out there with scads of evidence in his basement which he hasn't destroyed, but would destroy the moment some blacked-out names were revealed?) If anything, taking a few superstars out into the public square for a well-deserved flogging would help the cause, would shine a light into darker corners of millionaire players' private gyms. Sunshine is the best deodorant.

The L.A. Times reported last October that the blacked-out names on this indictment include Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons. So even if the corked legal system isn't invested in actual truth, let's get this out there: those five guys are under massive suspicion. Spread the word.

The NBA officiating scandal certainly casts a pall over betting on pro basketball. Do you retroactively look back at games this particular ref worked, and wonder whether bettors got the shaft?

Bodog Bookmakers, We have reviewed a few games, but only to satisfy our own curiosity. The game everyone is talking about is Game 3 of the Spurs-Suns series. That was the turning point of the series, and may have directly aided the Spurs in winning the NBA Championship. There's a great You Tube video that puts a spotlight on the fouls called and not called by Tim Donaghy during the game. The game line floated between four and five points that day, with the Spurs favored. The result of the game did favor the books, but we've found others that benefited the bettors such as the February 26th game between the Heat and the Knicks. In that game, Shaq was called for five fouls in 23 minutes as part of a 39-8 discrepancy in trips to the free-throw line. The Knicks easily covered the four-point spread and gave the public a big win.

How do you think the scandal winds up affecting NBA betting going forward? Will there be significantly less action? Will people be overly suspicious of outcomes even if they do bet?

BDB, This is easily the biggest scandal to hit the NBA. This is bigger than the Palace brawl, the Kermit Washington punch or even league's the cocaine problems of the '70s and '80s. Say what you want about David Stern, he will go down in history, along with Pete Rozelle, as one of the two best commissioners professional sports have ever had. He'll make some changes, and I'm sure the league will be stronger for it. I really don't think it's going to affect the bettor's attitudes towards wagering on the NBA. When the story broke, the reaction from the betting public wasn't one of disbelief as much as it seemed to be one of curiosity, asking "who was it?"

As NFL training camps open, can you give us a team from the AFC and a team from the NFC that you think will be surprise entrants in the playoffs this year?

BDB, I'm not sure how much of a surprise this pick is, but the Jacksonville Jaguars will be in the AFC playoffs this season. They have a dangerous running game and a defense that's among the best in the league. The Jags will need Bryon Leftwich to show that he can compete for an entire season, but I'm confident he will show his full potential in 2007. And as outlandish as it may seem, considering they finished 31st last season and it's been a long time since they've sniffed the playoffs, I'm picking the Detroit Lions as my surprise team out of the NFC. The Lions are stacked on offense and Joe Barry will have the defense strong enough to make a few stops in what could be some serious shootouts. They'll need to ensure top pick Calvin Johnson doesn't hold out, as he'll be a big factor in any Lions success.

Do you view the recently retired Curtis Martin as a Hall-of-Famer? How about the just-announced-his-retirement Craig Biggio?

BDB, It's an interesting coincidence that both Biggio and Martin announced their retirements in the same week, because through longevity, both players have quietly put up big numbers in their respective sports. Craig Biggio just recently reached 3,000 hits and Curtis Martin has amassed the fourth-most rushing yards in NFL history. Biggio is a Hall-of-Famer; his 3,000 hits guarantees his entry. Curtis Martin is a slightly different story. He's fourth all time in rushing yards, but his name never comes up in debates about the best running back ever. I think the voters will put Martin in, but he may have to wait a little longer than Biggio.

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