I'm not sure if you noticed or not, but baseball's spring training got going the other day. That means a new baseball season is only a few weeks away, thank goodness.

However, before we get to Opening Day St.Patrick's Day will be here. And, as is the custom now, that means Major League Baseball will be promoting its special St. Patrick's Day line of merchandise. You can get a green version of pretty much every team's cap and tee shirt, if you like.

Obviously there's a demand for such products, which I think is great. The die-hard baseball fan can satisfy their need to display where their baseball loyalties lie, but also exhibit their pride in their Irish heritage. I have a few green Mets shirts myself.

Yesterday I got my annual e-mail from the Mets asking me to "gear up and go green" for St. Patrick's Day. Loads of the usual green caps, green tee shirts, shamrock covered boxer shorts. Who doesn't need some of that?

What struck me, however, was that included among the green caps and shirts and boxers was an Irish flag. Only this Irish flag has "New York Mets" printed on it along with the Mets logo in the middle of the flag on a green shamrock background. And the real kicker, there's an MLB trademark stamp in the lower left corner.

First of all, I want to ask Major League Baseball who owns the green, white and orange flag that you've stamped your trademark on? MLB is not shy about demanding that others respect their logos and symbols. Mostly, however, I want to ask MLB who gave you the right to deface the national flag of Ireland?

I couldn't find any similarly defaced American flags on MLB's web site probably because MLB is fully aware that to do so is a violation of the flag code of the United States. Title 4, Chapter 1 § 8 of the United States Flag Code stipulates that "No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America."

The flag code further specifies that the "flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature." Furthermore, the flag code says the "flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever." I think that's pretty clear and fully explains why you don't see the Mets' logo or MLB trademark stamped on Old Glory.

If the American flag is deserving of such respect then so is the Irish flag. The Irish Government's Guidelines for the use of the National Flag are less detailed, but pretty straight-forward. "The National Flag should never be defaced by placing slogans, logos, lettering or pictures of any kind on it, for example at sporting events." {Note the Irish government's boldface.}

I know there are many people in both America and Ireland who think nothing of violating their country's flag code, but MLB should be not be following suit. And, lest you think it's only the Mets whose logo can be found on the Irish flag, similar versions exist with logos of the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and others.

Interestingly, one team that doesn't have an Irish flag with their team's name and logo on it is the Philadelphia Phillies. They have a special St. Patrick's Day flag, but it's not the national flag of Ireland.

Maybe being the home of the American flag makes Philadelphia more conscious of the respect that a national flag should receive or maybe someone in the Phillies' organization recognized what was right and wrong here. Either way, I grudgingly have to tip my green, shamrock-covered Mets cap to the hated Phillies.