The Pulse: Hot Stove Stoking

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and chatting with experts in The Show. We collect the daily highlights and put them in The Pulse.

Story of the Day: Baseball Image Problem
SportsNation Stat: Half of SportsNation voters still consider Roger Maris the single-season home run champ.

Baseball season is right around the corner (sort of), and it's safe to assume the folks in charge are eager to put even more distance between the game and the issue of performance-enhancing drugs. But even with tougher new policies in place for offenders -- and a majority of SportsNation voters expect a big-name player to get bounced for 50 games after an initial positive test this season -- one big obstacle promises to keep the story in the headlines: Barry Bonds.

The San Francisco slugger has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but the public perception of his connection with the issue is undeniable. And as Bonds returns from injury and resumes pursuit of Hank Aaron's all-time record for home runs, it's tough to mute the controversy. How strong are opinions on this subject? More than 60 percent of voters admit to openly rooting against Bonds as he chases the record, and fewer than one in four voters thinks Bonds would receive a standing ovation if he broke the record on the road

Do you feel baseball owners and executives are entirely committed to ridding the game of performance-enhancing drugs, even if it means a decrease in home runs and scoring? (39,955 votes)
58.6% No
41.4% Yes

Will a big-name player be suspended for 50 games after an initial positive test this season? (39,955 votes)
59.5% Yes
40.5% No

How do you feel about Barry Bonds' pursuit of Aaron's record of 755 home runs? (39,955 votes)
62.8% I don't want him to get it; I'm rooting against Bonds.
22.4% I want him to get it; I'm rooting for Bonds.
14.8% I'm not rooting for him, but I don't mind if he breaks the record.

If Bonds ties or breaks the record on the road, how do you think the crowd will react? (39,955 votes)
43.2% Mixture of applause and boos
23.7% Lengthy standing ovation
19.9% Mostly supportive applause
13.2% Mostly silence or boos

Who do you consider baseball's single-season home run leader? (39,955 votes)
49.9% Roger Maris
32.8% Barry Bonds
8.0% Mark McGwire
7.9% Babe Ruth
1.5% Sammy Sosa

  • Click here to vote on the issue

    SportsNation's Show: Hot Stove
    Aaron (Allston, Mass.): Here's a real tough one for you. Rank 'em by future overall performance: Rickie Weeks, Delmon Young, Prince Fielder, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Joe Mauer and Ryan Howard?

    Jim Callis (Baseball America): Joe Mauer (giving him a lot of bonus points for being a catcher), Delmon Young, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Howard. That was a tough one.

  • Click here for Callis' chat transcript

    Todd (Tucson): I can't figure out what my Mariners are doing. Can you offer any insight?

    Rob Neyer: Flailing. I think Jarrod Washburn's going to be a pleasant surprise and Kenji Johjima should be a real upgrade at catcher. But Carl Everett's going to be a disaster, and the M's haven't done nearly enough to challenge the A's and Angels.

  • Click here for Neyer's chat transcript

    More SportsNation: World Baseball Classic

    SportsNation voters may not like Bonds, but that doesn't mean they're going to kick him to the curb if he can help bring baseball glory to the United States. And considering voters make the Dominican Republic the favorites to win the World Baseball Classic, the United States may need him. Bonds is one of the players on the initial 60-man roster for the United States in the World Baseball Classic, and 64 percent of voters would pick him to start in left field ahead of Houston slugger Lance Berkman.

    As for the idea of the World Baseball Classic itself? SportsNation isn't fully sold on the tournament yet, although 40 percent of voters are at least "somewhat" interested with the games still seven weeks away. And while the big news this week was the release of the initial rosters and Alex Rodriguez's decision to play for the United States, the voting shows that solving the current issues with Cuba's participation remains a major concern.

    How interested are you in the World Baseball Classic? (47,060 votes)
    37.9% Not interested at all
    27.2% Somewhat interested
    22.3% Not very interested
    12.4% Very interested

    Here's the starting lineup SportsNation would like to see on the field for Team USA.
    SP-Roger Clemens
    C- Jason Varitek
    1B- Derrek Lee
    2B- Michael Young
    SS- Derek Jeter
    3B- Alex Rodriguez
    LF- Barry Bonds
    CF- Johnny Damon
    RF- Carl Crawford
    CL- Billy Wagner

  • Click here to vote

    Which country do you think will win the World Baseball Classic? (34,850 votes)
    45.4% Dominican Republic
    44.4% United States
    2.8% Other
    2.8% Cuba
    2.5% Puerto Rico
    1.2% Japan
    0.9% Mexico

    Should Cuba be allowed to play games in the United States if any profits from their participation are donated to charity? (34,850 votes)
    87.8% Yes
    12.2% No

    How much would Cuba being effectively blocked from the tournament by U.S. government policies diminish the event in your eyes? (34,850 votes)
    39.8% A little
    37.9% A lot
    23.1% Not at all

  • Click here to vote on the issue

    Voice of the Fan
    A-Rod doesn't know what he wants. Maybe he should just hold a press conference and flip a coin. That probably will settle the issue.
    KB (Baltimore)

    A-Rod is probably still deciding what he wants for breakfast. The oatmeal or the frosted flakes?
    Jonathan (Buffalo)

    The U.S. team should tell him they don't want him to play.
    Collin (Framingham, Mass.)

    I want to know if Rodriguez can force his way to play shortstop. It's not the Yankees, so he has no reason to defer the position to Jeter now.
    Brian (Bridgeport)

    Most of us are spending much more time debating this than we will actually spend watching the World Baseball Classic.
    Rob (New York)

    Can anyone tell me that A-Rod is not an upgrade over Morgan Ensberg? Please, we all know A-Rod hits best early in the season.
    Phil (New York)

    It doesn't matter what the United States is doing to its roster. The Dominican Republic looks like the clear-cut winner.
    Angel (Waukegan, Ill.)

    I'm looking forward to the NEXT time they do the tournament, because it appears that the first time is going to be a disaster. But once they work the kinks out, it should be fun.
    Cara (New York)

    I may be in the minority, but I'm looking forward to it. Who wouldn't want to watch the best baseball players in the world (for the most part) representing their countries, even if it is only a glorified exhibition.
    Jeff (Iowa)

  • Click here for the transcript of Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie

    SportsNation's Show: Expert Opinions
    Randy (Buena Park, Calif.): I've been a season-ticket holder for five years now, and I was reluctant to shell out the money for tickets to the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Do you think it is wise for an average baseball fan, like myself, to be skeptical of an event that excludes Cuba and has yet to draw the interest of any major broadcast network?

    Jim Callis: I think your skepticism also could be called "realism." It's an intriguing premise, but I think logistics will be a pain for the inaugural event. And with pitch counts and some players not in top shape, it may not be more than a glorified exhibition.

  • Click here for Callis' chat transcript

    Matt (Illinois): What can we expect from the World Baseball Classic: hard-fought games or glorified spring training?

    Rob Neyer: The later games will greatly resemble the All-Star Game, with pitchers shuttling in and out, and most of the hitters on the roster getting at least one plate appearance. It'll be fun. But not quite real baseball.

    Deege (Champaign): Who is your favorite in the World Baseball Classic with the addition of Alex Rodriguez to the U.S. squad?

    Rob Neyer: Considering the limits that will be imposed on the pitchers, it seems to me the pitching depth of the U.S. team makes them the obvious favorites.

  • Click here for Neyer's chat transcript

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