Dallas Braden 4/22/10 – “It’s a shame because that guy is a tremendous talent a superstar in every sense of the word and he plays for a very classy org who always do things first class the right way every time. And for him to not understand the baseball etiquette of running across that pitchers mound is right next to terrible and inexcusable. I’m not a speck on his radar and that’s fine, but he will know I was out there, and he will know not to do that again because there will be repercussions if he does that again.”
A large smile crept across my face as I saw the video clip and listened to Braden tell Alex Rodriguez what is what. At least there was still one pitcher in baseball willing to stand up for himself before he won a Cy Young award or an ERA title. Ever since baseball began keeping statistics for every game in the late 1800’s the sport has vacillated between offensive and defensive eras. The early years or “dead ball” era saw very few homeruns and poor defense. Afterwards Babe Ruth stormed on the scene and boosted the offensive output of the league. By the 1960’s the scoring outputs were so low that the league felt compelled the lower the pitchers mound. A more moderate period followed which game way to the offensive era we have seen since the early 1990’s. In this more modern era ballparks have shrunk to a fraction of the size they were at the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, or Candlestick park back in the day.
It seems that every move including a complete aversion to calling the high strike has led to more and more offensive output. In the very recent past a few rules involving ejections and warnings after what the umpire deems intentional acts have gone too far. The pitcher has been emasculated to the point where only Cy Young award winners are willing to stand up to the game’s best hitters, but any rookie who hits a deep fly ball feels comfortable flipping his bat and trotting to first base. Dallas Braden showed me that pitchers can still be noticed and recognized and feared. They just have to be more willing to step up and do it. The best pitchers of the last decade or so all had a mean streak to them. Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez all struck fear in the hitters because of their big fastballs and willingness to throw the ball inside. Even control artists Maddux and Glavine were willing to throw a pitch inside with a purpose ever now and then. Hitters now have body armor covering every part of their body and are totally willing to hang with their elbows two or three inches over the inside corner. It seems the only safe place for a pitcher is the small dirt mound they call home. Alex Rodriguez thought he could show Dallas Braden up by walking slowly across the mound on his way back to first after a Robinson Cano foul ball. I think he might flinch on an inside fastball the next time he faces Braden and once again the pitcher will have the upper hand