Respect for the grand old game eroding

Maybe it was an inadvertent misstep that led President Obama to fail to mention Alex Rodriguez's name during the Yankees visit to the White House on Monday -- or maybe the teleprompter just skipped a page -- but if Rodriguez wants to be respected, the best advice he can be given is to learn to respect others.

This is the guy, remember, who had it leak out in the midst of the 2007 World Series that he was going to exercise the option to void what remained of his contract with the Yankees (which led to his new deal). What the heck? His team wasn't in the World Series that year, anyway.

And that wasn't the first time A-Rod put his own needs ahead of an organization. Tom Hicks, the man who is attempting to sell the Texas Rangers, was able to cover the Rangers' share of Rodriguez's 10-year, $242 million deal signed before the 2001 season, despite Hicks' bankruptcy problems.

It's the working stiffs with the Rangers, the ones who had their future caught up in a Hicks-created retirement plan, who are left with nothing to show for their efforts.

Not that it would matter to Rodriguez. He lives in his own little world, and he is oblivious to anyone else. After Rodriguez's recent misadventure of running over the pitcher's mound in Oakland on his way back to first base from third base on a foul ball -- which Rodriguez claimed he didn't realize was a misstep -- maybe it would be wise to give him a refresher course on some baseball no-nos.

It should be noted that Oakland pitcher Dallas Braden's public whining about the Rodriguez snub was almost as ridiculous as Rodriguez's inability to properly navigate his way around the bases.

Word of advice to Braden: Don't issue threats, just do. Don't make a public scene about being insulted and threaten retaliation if it ever happens again. Just take note of what happens, and next time the hitter steps to the plate, send him a message.

For example, back in June 1972, San Diego rookie Derrel Thomas was going through his lengthy digging in at home plate to lead off the bottom of the first inning against St. Louis for what would be his first big-league at-bat against eventual Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

"Gibson walked halfway toward the plate,'' recalled Dave Garcia, the Padres' third base coach at the time, "and said, 'If you are going to dig, dig six feet.' The first pitch was at Thomas' neck. From that point on Derrel never did dig in against Gibson.''

It works, or at least it did for Gibson. Thomas went 0-for-4 in that game in San Diego, and hit .200 in his career against Gibson.

Rodriguez's act of arrogance in Oakland wasn't his first ( and most likely won't be his last) inability to show respect to the game and its participants.

Among other things, there was that May 30, 2007 game in Toronto when Rodriguez, on second with two outs, is alleged to have yelled "Mine,'' prompting Toronto third baseman Howie Clark to step back from underneath the ball, allowing it to drop and permitting a run to score.

And there was that moment in the 2004 ALCS against Boston when Rodriguez slapped at Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove as he ran to first base, knocking the ball free. Rodriguez advanced to second -- while the Red Sox protested -- only to eventually be called out.

"I thought it was a brilliant play and we almost got away with it,'' Rodriguez said.

But then it's not all Rodriguez. There seems to be a general eroding of the old-school respect for the game.

There are now almost nightly highlights that show a player charging the mound after being hit by a pitch. Don Baylor was hit by more pitches than anybody in the history of the game who did not wear padding, and yet he charged the mound only twice. As a manager he would warn his own players not to charge the mound.

"It's a selfish emotion,'' he said. "You charge the mound and you get suspended for five games. How does that help your team if you can't play for five games?''

Instead, Baylor and players such as Hal McRae sent their message in a more emphatic manner. They would slide hard into the second baseman or shortstop on a play at second base, and let the middle infielder take the message to the pitcher in between innings.

McRae and Baylor played against each other most of their careers, but it wasn't until the mid-90s, when Baylor was managing Colorado and McRae was the hitting coach in Philadelphia that the two spoke for the first time.

"We were never teammates,'' McRae said. "I wasn't going to spend time talking to the other side when I was a player. I always respected the way he played, but he was always on the other side.''

And back then, umpires would be sitting in the stands with the ballpark gates opened, taking down names for fines to be issued if opposing players were seen speaking to each other.

That was then.

This is now.

Wednesday afternoon, less than an hour before the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies played the final game of a three-game series at Coors Field, there were Rockies pitchers Franklin Morales and Juan Rincon, in uniform, standing in front of the Arizona dugout, laughing and chatting with Arizona pitcher Juan Gutierrez and outfielder Gerrardo Parra.

Maybe what it all boils down to is, quite simply, Rodriguez is the high-priced poster boy for an age of self-indulgence.

If so, he wears the label well.