It’s not too rare to hear a player call out an umpire, an opponent, a coach, or other personnel in any sport. But to call out a 12 time All-Star who will likely own the career home run record is profound. Dallas Braden called out Alex Rodriguez when A-Rod ran over his mound as he was running from third to first after a foul ball. Braden, clearly more in tune with the unwritten rules of baseball, yelled at Rodriguez and blasted him in the post-game press conference, calling him disrespectful towards the game and more. 17 days later, Braden threw a perfect game, leading to his grandmother attending the game to say, “Stick it, A-Rod.”
According to Rodriguez, he was shocked at what happened; “especially from a guy that has a handful of wins in his career … I thought it was pretty funny actually.” Clearly, A-Rod didn’t care much for Mr. Braden, and the feeling is mutual. So the question becomes, would Braden have said that if Yankee teammate Derek Jeter was the one who ran over the mound. There are two simple answers. First off, Jeter wouldn’t jog over the mound; he respects the game enough to not do that. Second off, we can tell by his family (specifically his grandmother) that he would have yelled at anyone, be it A-Rod, Jeter, or Albert Pujols.
While a high school senior, Braden’s mother passed away, leaving him to live with his grandmother. Because of this, his grandmother and Mother’s Day means even more to this young pitcher. So on this special day, he showed up big time, proving his doubters wrong, and putting his name out there as one of the better young pitchers in the game.
Fighting is nothing for Braden; he’s had to claw his way to the top of the baseball world. Braden didn’t have the hype that many players have gotten, and he was drafted in the 24th round by Oakland. Drawing comparisons to Jamie Moyer and a lesser version of Mark Buehrle, Braden has never had elite velocity or a hard breaking pitch. But after five years in the minor leagues, he finally secured the second spot in the rotation, beating out highly touted prospects Brett Cahill, Vin Mazarro, and Josh Outman. Now, he’s one of the more fiery players in the game.
So the new kid on the block picked on the bully. Is this more about Braden not shrinking to any foe, or how the bully just doesn’t get the respect that his production would indicate he deserves?
A-Rod has been, well, a lightning rod for attention. Between slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in the 2004 ALCS, Yelling at Toronto Howie Clark while rounding third base, and now crossing Braden’s pitching mound, Rodriguez has deservedly acquired a poor reputation among players and the media.
Baseball, as opposed to football and basketball, is a game of tradition. Swagger and showing up opponents is widely frowned upon in baseball whereas in the other two, it is all too common. For example, Rangers’ prospect Engel Beltre stepped up to the plate in the 10th inning and smashed the ball over the right field fence for a walk-off home run. As he rounded the bases, he turned around and taunted the opposition and jogged backwards. From there, a fight broke out and pandemonium broke loose. If Kobe Bryant knocks down a game winning shot, his team goes crazy and they yell at the other team, but that never, ever happens in baseball.
You have to respect the game of baseball. You have to honor its traditions, rules, and even its unwritten rules. The team is bigger then the player. Outside of Stephen Strasburg, you’ll never go to a game just to see one player, whereas you may go to a basketball game just to see LeBron James or Dwayne Wade. Baseball doesn’t sell players; they sell teams and, again, tradition.
A-Rod is one of those rogue players who is oftentimes concerned about his personal image and stats. As Braden puts it, “He’s an individualistic player. He plays for the name on the back of the jersey, not the front. I don’t know if he’s noticed, but he doesn’t have a name on the back over there so he should play for the name on the front.”
To Braden’s point, A-Rod and other players like him need to respect the game more and show etiquette. Since Rodriguez is the poster boy for arrogant players who disrespect the game, it is his job to change his behavior, which can only lead to others’ change. “He should probably take a note from his captain over there and realize you don’t cross the pitcher’s mound in between an inning or during the game.” says Braden. “I was just dumbfounded that he would let that slip his mind — being someone of such status. I don’t care if I’m Cy Young or the 25th man on the roster”
So after the A-Rod/Braden feud and Braden’s subsequent perfect game, two things are for certain: A-Rod and players like him need to clean up their act and we need more people like Dallas Lee Braden. In closing, Mr. Braden has offered Mr. Rodriguez a quote to ponder: “I was always told if you give a fool enough rope, he’ll hang himself, and with those comments, he had all the rope he needed.”