Big league smarts or bush league stunt?

RONALD BLUM

, Last Updated: 10:00 PM ET

Fans were buzzing Thursday over whether Alex Rodriguez broke baseball's unwritten code by making a remark that distracted a Toronto infielder and allowed a ninth-inning popup to fall for a run-scoring single.

Troy Glaus, Toronto's regular third baseman, said the last time he saw that move was in the baseball comedy "Major League 2."

"The only reason anyone is talking about the play is because IT WORKED!" actor Charlie Sheen, who portrayed pitcher Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the "Major League" movies, wrote Thursday in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "I'm only upset, that in my 15 years of playing this game, I didn't think of it."

Barry Bonds agreed that the Blue Jays shouldn't get steamed.

"That's Toronto's fault. Catch the ball," he said. "Get over it."

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen also backed Rodriguez.

"I don't blame him. I would have done it, too," said Guillen, a three-time All-Star shortstop. "I don't care what people say. Why not do it? You have to do everything to win games."

Others thought A-Rod was out of line.

"I don't know how you can get away with that, unless you're a Yankee player," Giants Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel said.

Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said, "I wouldn't want my player doing it." St. Louis infielder Aaron Miles called it "out of bounds."

Whether it's the status of his friendship with Derek Jeter, his travels with what New York tabloids have labeled a "mystery blonde," or speculation whether he will opt out of what's left on his $252 million contract after this season, A-Rod's actions are dissected daily. That's perhaps true even more these days with New York languishing in last place in the AL East.

The stumbling Yankees were ahead 7-5 with two outs in the ninth at Toronto on Wednesday night, and Rodriguez was on first base when Jorge Posada popped up. A-Rod ran hard and shouted near third baseman Howie Clark, who was playing his first major league game of the season.

"I just said, 'Hah!' That's it," Rodriguez said.

"I heard a 'Mine' call, and so I let it go," said Clark, who thought he was being called off by his shortstop. Clark backed off and let the ball drop as Rodriguez got to third.

Toronto went on to lose 10-5.

That set off a storm, with Toronto claiming A-Rod's utterance went over the sport's unwritten ethical line.

"He's allowed to say I got it. I got it," said former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who recalled a similar play when he was with Triple-A Montreal in the late 1950s or 1960.

"I was coaching first base in Miami -- two outs in the top of the ninth inning. We were losing by one run. We had a guy on second base," Lasorda recalled. "There was a foul ball. Gene Oliver was going over to catch it. I said, 'I got it! I got it!' He pulled back and the ball dropped. He's screaming at me. And the next pitch a guy hit a home run, and we won the game."

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was steaming.

"Maybe I'm naive, but I thought it was a bush league play," he said.

Vizquel, San Francisco's 11-time Gold Glove shortstop, agreed with Gibbons. Vizquel said he once tried to trick an opponent on a grounder, and the umpire told him he couldn't do that.

"You can't scream at him. Even if he does, you have to realize who's talking to you," Vizquel said.

Nothing in the Official Baseball Rules governs what players can say, although the possibility of future retaliation usually sets limits. The Yankees don't face the Blue Jays again until July 16 in New York.

"In a lot of cases, it's an unwritten rule that players respect each other and do what's best for the game," umpire supervisor Rich Garcia said.

Deception always has been a part of baseball. It even cost Atlanta a World Series title in 1991, when Lonnie Smith was faked out by Minnesota second baseman Chuck Knoblauch and shortstop Greg Gagne, and failed to score what would have been the go-ahead run on Terry Pendleton's eighth-inning double. The Twins went on to win in extra innings, then took Game 7.

"That probably goes into a different category because players feel that it's up to them to discern, whereas if you're looking up at a popup, you can't discern whose voice is whose," said broadcaster Bob Costas, who wasn't sure whether A-Rod's mouth move was allowed. "There are certain things that apparently are OK and then there are some other things that by some self-defined code are not."

In Game 6 of the 2004 AL championship series, A-Rod was cited for an on-field move that umpires said was against the rules. He slapped the ball from Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove and was called out for interference. Boston's Kevin Millar called it "unprofessional."

This one was less clear.

"Sometimes it happens in the heat of the moment," New York Mets third baseman David Wright said. "It's not like pimpin' a home run. You don't stand there and watch them. Obviously, Alex Rodriguez has been around the game a long time. That play, it's not as firm as the other unwritten rules."

Even families were divided.

"I think it was bush league," Frank Rafferty said in the upper deck at Shea Stadium. "He was trying to win the game, but he'd be screaming if someone did that to him."

His 11-year-old son, Nick, brought his glove and wore a Mets hat.

"I thought it was pretty fun," he said. "I never really thought about doing it myself."

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AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker, AP Sports Writer Pat Graham and AP freelance writers Ian Harrison and Chuck Murr contributed to this report.


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