“I really don't want to extend his extra 15 minutes of fame.”
So said Alex Rodriguez on Friday night, when asked about Dallas Braden’s comments on the unwritten rule of baseball that A-Rod supposedly broke when he ran across Braden’s mound during an A’s vs. Yankees game.
A-Rod wasn’t alone when it came to the cheap shots.
On Pardon the Interruption last week, Michael Wilbon asked J.A. Adande, “Is this a feud you could really care about?”
“No,” Adande responded, “Because who’s Braden?”
Then, on Sunday, Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game—only the 19th in baseball history. The MLB has been in existence since 1869, and as I have just completed my AP U.S. history exam, I can tell you with confidence that 1869 was four years after the conclusion of the Civil War.
To put that in perspective, the mother whom you just gave gifts to for mothers day wasn’t born yet, nor was her mother, nor was her mother. There was no basketball, no highways, no iPods, and no XBOX 360.
Braden didn’t pitch a perfect game against mediocre teams such as the Kansas City Royals or the Pittsburgh Pirates either. He accomplished the feat versus the Tampa Bay Rays, the team with the best record in all the majors.
Let’s be honest though. The majority of baseball fans are only happy Braden accomplished the perfect game and took revenge against Rodriguez because A-Rod is on the Yankees, also known as the evil, empirical, revenue-sucking team that is set to appear on ESPN from now until eternity.
If this feud had started between Braden and an average batter on a sub par squad, that story would’ve ended long ago. Heck, no one would even remember why Braden decided to bean the guy the next time they faced off. But that’s what makes this story so unique.
Before Sunday, Dallas Braden was just another pitcher (albeit with a cool name) trying to establish himself as a legitimate threat to opposing batters. He was destined to play for the next six or seven years, peak at age 30, and retire with plenty of interesting stories to tell his grandsons someday.
After Sunday, Braden became something more. He will forever have a place in baseball history, joining an elite list of pitchers who, for one magical, logic-defying day, literally wouldn’t accept anything less than perfection.
And here’s my crazy theory: Braden’s blowup with A-Rod triggered a mental makeover that led to his performance. He wanted to show he was something more than a punch line for sports talkers across the radio waves. He wanted to extend his “15 minutes of fame” indefinitely, and in the process, shut up one of the greatest ball players to ever play the game.
Maybe someday his gem will be looked back on as completely out-of-the-blue, lucky, and an aberration on the list of other perfectionist pitchers. Or maybe Braden’s greatness is here to stay. I predict it’s the latter.
One thing’s for certain: the phrase to be uttered for the next week across every sports talk station, every sports-oriented TV show, and every water cooler conversation will be along the lines of, “I was wrong about Braden.”
“We don’t do much talking in the 209 [Braden’s area code growing up].” That was Dallas Braden’s conclusion to his war of words with Alex Rodriguez at the end of last week. We laughed it off. A-Rod laughed it off. Bud Selig probably laughed it off. But in a strange turn of events, Braden was right—he let his game do the talking. Guess he gets the last laugh now.
For those of you scoring at home, Dallas Braden—1 Alex Rodriguez and America—0.
Note: I feel especially involved in the craziness of Dallas’s perfect game, because I added Braden to my fantasy baseball team 30 minutes before his start on Sunday. I don’t know what made me do it, but I feel pretty darn smart.
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