WHEN TONIGHT'S game at Citizens Bank Park ends, a Phillies player may, if he chooses, walk into a room off the main clubhouse and help himself to a draft beer in a plastic cup.

As recently as 2 weeks ago, that wouldn't have been particularly remarkable. That, of course, was before a St. Louis coroner's report found that Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock was legally intoxicated when he ran his Ford Explorer into a parked tow truck, killing himself instantly.

The reaction across baseball has been swift. About a dozen teams have considered taking beer out of their clubhouse and off their charter flights with the Cardinals, Nationals, Orioles and Cubs among the teams that have already enacted the ban. The A's did it last year after pitcher Esteban Loaiza was arrested for DUI.

Well ...

It's always better to be safe than sorry. Truthfully, though, this is a move that is largely symbolic. The fact is that players don't hang around the clubhouse very long after games anymore. Hancock didn't get loaded at the stadium, he went to a restaurant a few blocks away. And a player who wants to have a drink isn't going to have a problem finding a place where beer - or something stronger - is readily available.

Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty sounded almost apologetic in making the announcement. "It's something we felt we had to do," he said. "Some guys are unhappy with that. And I understand that."

Look, teams are under no obligation to provide free cocktails for the hired help. But let's be honest. A handful of players having a couple of drinks after a game could be a problem. But thousands of fans pounding beer all evening isn't?

If teams were really that concerned about drinking and driving, they wouldn't sell beer at all. Now that would make a statement. That will never happen, of course. There's too much money at stake.

That's just common sense. Which is what teams should use when they're deciding whether to make beer available in the clubhouse.

The hot corner

-- The Blue Jays are in last place, leading to speculation that John Gibbons could be the first manager fired. "There have been a lot better men than me fired, so I can't let it consume me," he said stoically.

-- The Blue Jays are in last place, leading to speculation that could be the first manager fired. "There have been a lot better men than me fired, so I can't let it consume me," he said stoically.

-- It's unknown whether Toronto will conduct a fire sale, but the Phillies, Braves, Dodgers and Orioles are among teams that have had scouts at recent Blue Jays games.

-- Reliever Ron Villone has a clause in his contract that allows him to become a free agent Tuesday if the Yankees don't call him up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he has a 1.66 ERA.

-- The Rockies' Byung-Hyun Kim struck out eight in his most recent rehab start, which amounted to an audition. The Tigers, Orioles and Mariners are said to be interested.

Around the bases

-- Braves third baseman Chipper Jones fired back after being ejected by umpire Bob Davidson on Sunday. "Bob Davidson feels like thousands of people in the park come to see him. He's always been like that. He's a joke among the players," Jones fumed.

-- Braves third baseman fired back after being ejected by umpire on Sunday. "Bob Davidson feels like thousands of people in the park come to see him. He's always been like that. He's a joke among the players," Jones fumed.

-- To help make up four games against the Mariners lost to snow in April, the Indians will play a doubleheader at Seattle on Sept. 26. In the first game, they'll be the home team, in the second they'll be the visitors.

-- Braves manager Bobby Cox

is only three ejections short of the career record of 131, held by John McGraw, but says he isn't looking forward to breaking it: "It's kind of embarrassing."

On deck

CHEERS: For Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Not many people thought it was such a swell idea when righthander Jason Marquis was signed to a 3-year, $21 million free-agent contract after the Cardinals dropped him and his 6.02 regular-season ERA from their postseason roster last October.

CHEERS: For Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Not many people thought it was such a swell idea when righthander Jason Marquis was signed to a 3-year, $21 million free-agent contract after the Cardinals dropped him and his 6.02 regular-season ERA from their postseason roster last October.

Now that he's 5-1, 1.70, that's looking like a pretty astute move.

The Cubs targeted Marquis early, too. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild actually started working out with him before he signed.

JEERS: For Orioles broadcaster Rick Dempsey. Laura Giuliani, wife of slumping Baltimore outfielder Jay Gibbons, was invited to the booth during Saturday's telecast to promote a fundraiser to help fight domestic violence.

"Laura, will this kind of help Jay in the domestic- violence area? If he doesn't start getting a few more hits, you might grab him around the neck and rough him up a little bit," he began.

Giuliani was clearly taken aback, but Dempsey still didn't catch on. "Well, I'll domestically violate him if he doesn't start getting some more hits," he continued.

Yikes. Dempsey apparently hasn't been disciplined. Could that be a sign that nobody's watching?

BY THE NUMBERS

6: Players named Ryan used in the Nationals-Cubs game on Sunday. That would be Church, Zimmerman, Langerhans and Wagner for Washington and Dempster and Theriot for Chicago.

7: No. 2 hitters used by the Cubs this year.

15.43: First-inning ERA of Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman. After that, it's 1.18.

31: Giants games before a San Francisco first baseman hit a home run. Rich Aurilia did it Monday.

41: Consecutive stolen bases for Ichiro, setting the American League record. The major league record is 50, set by Vince Coleman.

51: Straight plate appearances without a walk for Yankees rightfielder Bobby Abreu, the longest streak of his career.

UP NEXT: The surprising Milwaukee Brewers will put their best-in-baseball record on the line beginning tonight when they play the Mets at Shea Stadium. After a 10-game homestand during which they outscored opponents, 59-19, the Brew Crew will now play 13 of their next 16 on the road, including a series at Philadelphia beginning Monday. Manager Ned Yost drew a laugh when asked about the "daunting" stretch coming up. "There's no daunting. We're not daunted," he said.

Weeklings

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Astros first baseman Lance Berkman, on why he wasn't disappointed by the announcement that Roger Clemens signed with the Yankees instead of returning to Houston: "With this Rocket situation, there are two kinds of people: People that are not surprised, and morons. Where else was he going to go?"

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Astros first baseman Lance Berkman, on why he wasn't disappointed by the announcement that Roger Clemens signed with the Yankees instead of returning to Houston: "With this Rocket situation, there are two kinds of people: People that are not surprised, and morons. Where else was he going to go?"

PLAGUE OF THE WEEK: Cicadas, locustlike insects that feed on the roots of trees, are about to invade Chicago. The cicadas come out once every 17 years, but groundskeepers at Wrigley Field say they expect minimal damage to the fabled ivy on the outfield walls.

PRACTICAL JOKE OF THE WEEK: When the Mariners' team bus got back to the team hotel in New York, third baseman Adrian Beltre was asleep. So his teammates tiptoed past him and the driver, who had no idea he still had a passenger, headed back to the garage in Queens.

Beltre woke up only about a block away, but was still plenty steamed. "I thought I heard some whispers or something and I just ignored it," he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Then later I opened my eyes and I was like, 'Hey, bus driver! Stop!' "

TECH NOTE OF THE WEEK: The Athletics have announced that fans will be able to download tickets to their cell phones beginning today. The bar code will be delivered to the phone and scanned at the gate.

Finally

Baseball can be pretty sophomoric at times. Just take a look at the New York Mets.

Baseball can be pretty sophomoric at times. Just take a look at the New York Mets.

Slumping David Wright decided earlier this week to shave his head. One thing led to another and, before you know it, every player except Jose Reyes as well as general manager Omar Minaya was buzzed.

Not every player was thrilled with the show of unity. "Can't we just wear our pants high?" asked David Newhan, who had the most to lose, before submitting.

Others took it in stride. Billy Wagner, told he looked ugly, just shrugged. "But I'm still rich," he pointed out.