Not content with casting aspersions towards Hank Rollins’ hand-eye coordination, Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa submits to an interrogation by Inside Bay Area’s Dave Newhouse.

Q. On the steroids issue, how have you come to grips with this whole mess, because you’ve maintained that you didn’t know what was going on in your own clubhouse in Oakland?

A. I suspected a couple of guys; that’s what I said. I still believe Dave McKay, my longtime coach who has as much integrity as anyone I know. He supervised our (conditioning) program and said nothing happened under A’s supervision that was illegal. Were things slipped under the rug where the A’s and Dave and Tony we’re not (aware)? Evidently. Jose (Canseco) said there was.

What I said was that edge those A’s had in strength and stamina were the product of five, six days a week in the gym, which no one in baseball was doing at the time. I watched Mark (McGwire) do this in season and out of season. If you and I did that for a year, we’d get stronger.

Q. But steroids also provide an unfair edge, correct?

A. Baseball dramatically went over the edge in an illegal way. And it happened on the A’s on my watch. I got suspicious of two guys who got stronger without working.

Q. McGwire has crawled into a hole after his embarrassment before Congress. Will he ever emerge?

A. I talk to him a lot, and it’s all positive. He’s got stuff he’s learned that he could share with hitters. I think he would like to do that, and sooner or later, I think he will do that. I don’t know how he’ll handle questions about his playing days, but I believe in him, and I trust him.

Q. You played the game clean. Does it bother you that others chose to get ahead by cheating?

A. I’m going to get philosophical. You’ve got heated competition, so we’re going to do anything we can to get an edge. This has been true since the first day the game was played ” spitballs, stealing signs, all that stuff. There’s a line, and if you cross it illegally, you should get suspended.

According to the Houston Chronicle’s Richard Justice, the Orioles big signing of the week might be someone other than Roger Cedeno.

It appears to be down to the Orioles, Phillies and Astros for Carlos Lee, and the bidding has gotten insane. It’s believed the Orioles have offered as much as a six-year contract worth about $80 million to $90 million, according to the Baltimore Sun. If those numbers are even close to accurate, the Astros ought to take a pass and find another way to improve the club.

Carlos Lee is a very nice player if the price is right, say, $48 million over four years. If things get crazy, you maybe could justify spending $75 million over five years. The Astros shouldn’t go beyond that number. He’s simply not worth it. All it means is that Tim Purpura would have to be more creative. He could try to trade for Vernon Wells or Carl Crawford. He could make a run at J.D. Drew.