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A-Rod an example of eroding respect for game

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Tracy Ringolsby

Tracy Ringolsby is a Hall of Fame baseball writer. He is in his 37th year covering Major League Baseball, is a co-founder of Baseball America, and is in his fourth year as pregame and postgame analyst for Colorado Rockies games on Root Sports.

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DENVER

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 during the clinching game 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 even in the World Series that year.

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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. The next time A-Rodsteps to the plate, send him a message.

That's what Bob Gibson did in 1972 when a San Diego rookie named Derrel Thomas elaborately dug in for his first big-league at-bat against the Cardinals' Hall of Fame-bound pitcher.

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"'If you're going to dig, dig six feet,'" Dave Garcia, the Padres' third base coach at the time, recalls Gibson telling Thomas. Then Gibson threw the first pitch at Thomas’ neck.

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!’’ on a pop-up, 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.

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Rodriguez thought he got away with using a performance-enhancing drug from 2001-2003, but when he was exposed in the spring of 2009, he had to 'fess up. He admitted he made a stupid mistake, but then quickly threw his ``cousin’’ under the bus instead of taking responsibility for his own actions.

He explained that it was the ``cousin’’ who purchased the ``boli,’’ as Rodriguez called it, in the Dominican Republic and told him the substance that was injected into Rodriguez by the ``cousin’’ would give him an energy boost but nothing more.

At least ``Tommy,’’ his personal attendant, was exonerated from wrongdoing. Remember Tommy? When Rodriguez was with the Texas Rangers, he wasn’t about to accept anything but total attention from the clubhouse folks so he had his own attendant with him at all times. He initially took ``Tommy’’ to New York with him, but after a year, Tommy’s ballpark presence ended.

It has to eat at Rodriguez now to have to play alongside Derek Jeter. Those who were around him in both Seattle and Texas say the easiest way to set Rodriguez off would be to say something complimentary about Jeter. And during Rodriguez’s first spring with the Rangers, in an Esquire article, he made a case for himself as the best shortstop in the game, pointing out, among other things, that Jeter wasn’t a leader and ``only’’ hit second, not in the middle of the order like Rodriguez.

But Rodriguez is hardly alone in not showing 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 other like-minded players would send 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.

But that was then.

This is now.

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.

Tagged: Yankees, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter

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