A-Rod shows more class than Torre

LOS ANGELES -- Very often, Alex Rodriguez has been self-centered, egotistical, petty and even infuriating.

Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, he was something he rarely is. Big. Mature. Noble, even.

Certainly, he came off as a bigger man than Joe Torre, who is twice his age and many times more experienced and worldly.

All weekend, Torre talked about how he had no hard feelings toward Rodriguez, how he hoped that Rodriguez held none toward him and how he would "certainly go over and shake his hand.''

Torre talked and talked and talked. But Rodriguez was the one who acted.

And whether you think it was staged or not -- Rodriguez was seen huddling with Yankees media relations director Jason Zillo up the right-field line before suddenly turning and bolting with his hand outstretched toward Torre -- the fact is, A-Rod made the first move.

Heck, A-Rod made the only move. And for that, he deserves some credit.

True enough, he not only made no effort to greet Torre on Friday, when many of his teammates -- and not only the expected ones like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, but guys like A.J. Burnett, who never played for Torre -- lined up to pay their respects to the man who won four world championships with the Yankees in five years, but A-Rod almost willfully turned his back on him, at one point stretching for an extended period with his rear end pointed in Torre's direction.

He said, rather unconvincingly, that he "didn't see'' Torre on the field that night. But, of course, Torre was impossible to miss.

But so, too, was A-Rod, and at no point did Torre make any move to greet him, either.

Considering the difference in age and maturity, and the fact that it was Torre who co-wrote the book which contained embarrassing passages about A-Rod, it certainly seemed to be Torre's place to approach Rodriguez, rather than vice versa.

But Torre never did that. And his disclaimer -- "Well, he was busy'' -- to explain why he and A-Rod managed to not cross paths came off as disingenuous and even a little snarky.

On Sunday afternoon, as A-Rod approached Torre at a full gallop from five yards away, smiling and extending his right hand, Torre seemed surprised and maybe a bit flustered. He quickly recovered, waving his hands and backing away in mock alarm as Rodriguez struck a good-natured fighting pose.

Then, the two men shared an awkward handshake, followed by a brief conversation only they were privy to.

Silly? Maybe. Overblown? Definitely.

But easy, especially for A-Rod? Most definitely not.

For a player who is widely disliked among the media and the fans -- a recent Forbes magazine poll showed him to be the most disliked player in baseball and one of the 10 most disliked athletes in the world, and he is roundly booed in every visiting stadium -- it was a touching and unexpectedly gracious moment.

"I felt in my heart it was important to not let things linger, and to build on what I've tried to build here the last two years, and take some steps forward,'' he said. "It felt good, because you don't know when's the next time Joe and I are going to see each other. So right then and there I decided to be a gentleman and do the right thing.''

He was a gentleman, something he hasn't always been. And he did do the right thing, something he all too seldom has done.

For that, he has taken his share of criticism -- from me, and plenty of others who know him and cover him.

But if you're going to knock him when he does something wrong, you also must praise him when he does something right.

A-Rod had a big weekend in Los Angeles. He won one game with a home run, and helped set up a huge comeback by his team with another.

But the most impressive thing he did over the course of those three days took just one hand, not two.

One hand, and a great deal of courage and humility. He didn't only beat Joe Torre on the field, but off it, too.

Wallace Matthews is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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