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The Rays, Hal Steinbrenner, Johan Santana and Jason Varitek

Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek wipes a

Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek wipes a tear during his baseball retirement announcement in Fort Myers, Fla. (March 1, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

I spent yesterday at Rays camp, and not surprisingly, I wrote that the Rays remain an impressive operation and a major threat to the Yankees and Red Sox.

One consequence of the Rays' current way of life, that they can't afford a major free agent in his prime, is that you'll never accuse their roster of being too old. They always have a surplus of youth. It undoubtedly helps them slog through the marathon of the regular season.

--In Tampa, Hal Steinbrenner confirmed what has been reported here and elsewhere for months: The Yankees intend to get their payroll down to $189 million by 2014, at which point that number becomes the luxury tax threshold and the Yankees' tax would be 50 percent.

My prediction is they actually reach that modest goal. The retirement of Mariano Rivera will help in that regard, although it will have the Yankees' rivals dancing in the street. And it's why you can bet on the Yankees not retaining Nick Swisher after this season, all the more so if Swisher has a good year and convinces another club to invest heavily in him.

--Hal Steinbrenner also confirmed his support of Brian Cashman.

--Johan Santana threw live batting practice, and the Mets came away encouraged. Maybe this'll all work out quite dandily, but after spending a few days with the Mets, I do think the team is a little too heavily invested, emotionally and financially, in the idea that Santana can be the old Santana again this season. Santana himself seems to be the most realistic and calm about his situation.

--Justin Turner will back up Ike Davis at first base, Terry Collins said. Makes sense. Let Lucas Duda do his thing in rightfield.

--The war of words between Ryan Braun and Major League Baseball continued yesterday, as Braun's lawyer responded to Dino Laurenzi Jr., the urine sample collector. I'm enjoying the back and forth, but there's one thing I don't understand: Isn't there a simple way to confirm or refute Braun's argument that Laurenzi had time to get the samples to a FedEx outpost the day he collected the samples? Can't the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel send a reporter around the area and figure this out?

--Jason Varitek officially announced his retirement yesterday, news that will surely sadden our own Islander505. I have proudly become a stats geek, but there's general agreement in baseball circles that WAR and its ilk are least sufficient in measuring the value of catchers. Teams have their own proprietary information on catchers and the way they can impact a pitching staff.

Varitek was beloved in his clubhouse and immensely respected by his pitchers for his work ethic and his passion. That might not register on any of our favorite stat websites. But it matters very much to even the most statistically savvy teams.

--I probably won't check back in, so have a great day.

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