Alex Rodriguez arrived in Tampa today and was quoted by the AP with the following comments in response to the unrelenting criticism eminating from Boston.

“As far as earning your stripes, I really couldn’t agree [more] with Trot Nixon and the guys that have said that because hopefully in due time, when I pay the price like Paul O’Neill and Roger Clemens did, then the fans of New York would realize that, hopefully, I’m a Yankee,” Rodriguez said.

Reporting two days ahead of the first full-squad workout, Rodriguez said he had not been keeping up with what he called the “bulletin board stuff,” relating how he was occupied with his 3-month-old daughter and illnesses to two family members.

Yet, he was aware of at least a few of the zingers fired from Fort Myers, where the World Series champions opened camp last week. The $252 million man said the attacks were “a little perplexing.”

“The bottom line is they won. They’ve earned the right to say whatever they need to say,” Rodriguez said.

As usual, Rodriguez sounded quite polished. He didn’t mind that none of his teammates responded to the Red Sox.

“It just tells you how classy our organization is. Our players, they don’t get caught up in that everyday stuff,” he said. “And I appreciate their position. I’m going to say the same thing, probably. They’ll say that I’m not supporting myself. And that will probably be a big story, too.”

OK, I’ll bite. What exactly does “pay the price” mean in this instance? Does Rodriguez mean he won’t be accepted until he wins a ring in NY, or that O’Neil and Clemens went through some sort of painful initiation rite?

And it seems less than smooth that days after being raked over the coals for mocking his fellow players for picking up their kids from school, A-Rod stresses that he’s been too busy with his new daughter to read how much everyone thinks he sucks.