Friday, May 7, 2010

Morning: Dallas Braden as Tragic Figure

There was no game last night, but that doesn't mean there was no news. Dallas Braden, the pitcher who took severe umbrage when A-Rod walked across his mound, has escalated the war of words. In that link, scroll down to #2 and you can read the best quotes from Braden's post-game interview. There are some dandies, and on its face it seems like quite the over-reaction.

Yesterday, being interviewed by local reporter Mychael Urban, he took things a step further. You can watch the interview below.



The three significant quotes:

*When asked if his words about repercussions meant that he'd settle things with "knuckles," Braden had this to say:

Quote 1: "Well, I mean that's pretty much the long and short of it.

"On a serious note, obviously there's things that are going to have to happen just out of respect for my teammates, out of respect for the game," Braden added. "I think he's probably garnered a new respect for the unwritten rules and people who hold them close to their game."

*After being confronted yet again with A-Rod's crack about being surprised to hear complaints from someone with so few wins, Braden had a rejoinder:

Quote 2: "There's two ways that I can comment on that, and I'll give you both of them," Braden offered. "One, 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. Two, I didn't know there was a criteria in order to compete against A-Rod. I didn't know that."

*Last, he went on to insult A-Rod some more.

Quote 3: "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."

So. That's an intense little development. The knee-jerk reaction is as follows: Braden is a jerk and an idiot who takes things farrrrr too seriously, and just threatened a player unnecessarily.

But strangely enough, my lingering reaction is to feel sorry for him. Here's why:

1) I don't think Braden is stupid. I think he's prideful, and more than a little insecure. You can notice the latter in small ways, like the way he keeps his lips closed when he's not speaking, and holds them rigid when he is, in order to hide his bad teeth. And the pride is evident. Listen to how he talks about the '2-0-9,' and the way he identifies with a background of grit and toughness.

To Braden, A-Rod is royalty, while he's a working class guy whose struggle to succeed started long ago and will probably never end. I honestly believe that A-Rod was off in his own little world when he jogged across the mound. I don't think it was intentional, and I'm convinced he had no idea what he was doing. It was as simple as taking the shortest distance between two points. A-Rod is dumb, but he's not malicious.

To Braden, though, that little trot was the equivalent of a sneering prince in a velvet-lined carriage spitting on a beggar as he rode through the streets. It was an unforgivable insult that had everything to do with class. When A-Rod felt backed into a corner by the media and unleashed his "so few wins" quote, it obviously did not help; in fact, it fed directly into the narrative that Braden had concocted.

2) That interviewer, Mychael Urban, is a manipulative creep.

His performance is masterful. I've watched it four times now, and Urban keeps getting better every time. Notice how he starts things off, by saying "I was on the air the day it happened, and I said 'I just fell in love with Dallas all over again.'" Urban knows that the best way to ingratiate himself with an insecure person is through flattery. Then he talks about his own pitching days, and says he would have done the exact same thing. In other words, "I'm just like you."

And Braden isn't smart enough to see that no, Urban is not just like him. Urban is a media vulture like all media vultures, even if he used to play baseball, and even if he speaks with a twang. But in less than ten seconds, the CSN correspondent has used flattery and validation, and already Braden is smiling and nodding, and feels at ease. Then Urban goes for the kill:

"After the game, when you said there would be repercussions- and I don't want to put words in your mouth- but I said, where Dallas comes from, the 2-0-9, they don't settle things with message pitches. They settle them with knuckles. Is that what you were talking about?"

Unbelievable. Let's count the ways Urban succeeds.

A) He phrases the idea of fighting (which, it needs to be said, Braden has never mentioned, and which Urban invented out of thin air) as his own. Like, "here's my idea, is that what you meant?" Agree with it or not, he's saying, but it certainly wouldn't be unreasonable if that's what you meant. It's a tactic designed to ease Braden into a controversial position he never advocated.

B) He appeals to Dallas' pride in his upbringing, even referencing 'the 2-0-9' like it's a badge of honor, which is something that Braden clearly believes.

C) He projects toughness and pride onto the pitcher. "They don't settle things with message pitches." He knows exactly what makes Braden tick, and he's willing to exploit it.

Poor Dallas falls for it hook, line, and sinker. When Urban finishes his "message pitches" line, Braden winces in agreement. And after "they settle them with knuckles," Braden nods vigorously and smiles. The result? He delivers the money quote, #1 above. "That's pretty much the long and short of it."

And a day later, the video is everywhere, the Daily News is implying that Braden is going to fight A-Rod, and Mychael Urban's name is ubiquitous. All because he led a vulnerable pitcher by the nose, using his own insecurities and pride against him. The sad part is, Braden still probably doesn't know it. He probably thinks Urban is his friend, and when people watch that video and think of him as an idiot and a rube, he'll blame it on them, and become more insecure, and more prideful, and more prone to being exploited by the likes of Urban. "I think you're right," says Braden at the end of his quote. "We don't do much talking in the 2-0-9."

He should have just said "I'm your puppet, baby. Make me sing."

Urban moves on to A-Rod, knowing his fish has taken the bait. He points out that the third baseman claims to never have heard that unwritten rule. "About not walking across the other guy's island...and that's what it is, right? It's your island. Stay off my island!"

Again, Braden is nodding emphatically. "That's right," he says twice. It's sad, because he thinks he's defending himself, and he thinks Urban is the ally who's helping him clear his name, when the exact opposite is true. Urban goes on to recite A-Rod's quote about Braden having few wins, and makes sure to mock the third baseman in order to bring Dallas even further into his corner. "You've either heard the rule or not, it doesn't matter how many wins the cat has," he says.

"Right," says Braden again, just before delivering quote #2 about A-Rod being the fool with enough rope to hang himself. Urban succeeds wildly in drawing out another memorable, incendiary line to ensure that his story makes it national. But like a shark smelling blood, he's not finished.

"And one other thing about him," says Urban, "I'm guessing you didn't like him before this happened." You can hear the smirk in his voice, approving of Braden's response before it even comes, casting Braden as the good guy who really must have no choice but to admit that yes, A-Rod is not his favorite ballplayer. What else can Braden do, in the face of such logic, except utter quote #3.

So after all that, check out the lede on the Daily News:

Dallas Braden clearly isn't over Alex Rodriguez treading on his mound. The Oakland pitcher gave an interview to CSNBayArea.com Wednesday in which he indicated that there could be a fight the next time the A's and Yankees meet.

MLB.com:

If you thought the little feud between Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden and New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez was over, you're wrong.

NY Post, in an article titled "A's scrub to A-Rod: Let's Use Fists in Round 2":

Based on what Dallas Braden has done in the big leagues, he should concentrate on becoming a better pitcher instead of going after Alex Rodriguez and foolishly challenging the Yankee slugger to a fist fight.

Yet, the As pitcher can't keep his large mouth shut when it comes to Rodriguez.

USA Today, in an article titled "Oakland A's pitcher Dallas Braden to A-Rod: Get ready to fight."

Oakland Athletics starter Dallas Braden still is peeved at New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez's antics from two weeks ago, and hinted Thursday in a TV-interview there could be a fight the next time they meet in July.

You can say a lot of things about Urban (fawning, ambitious, seedy), but you can't say he failed.

I guess media manipulation and sensationalism isn't anything new, but as a microcosm, this whole incident is pretty staggering. From beginning to end, poor Braden was nothing but a marionette. He doesn't want to fight A-Rod. He never did. He's not even that bad a guy, just a little prideful, a little insecure, and maybe a bit obsessive. His interview with Urban, though....that was some modern Othello-Iago shit. The whole thing is kind of a shame, and I'm left feeling like Braden is an unfortunate pawn in a game he can't begin to control. It leaves him looking like a fool, and if he doesn't already wish that he'd ignored A-Rod's supposed slight, that day will come.

11 comments:

  1. You sir, like Gay-Fraud are an East Coast Loser...

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  2. A bi-curious douche with insecurities as big as Dallas Braden, that is what Anonymous is.

    Really good piece, Seth.

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  3. Sorry, but Gay-Fraud is just too much. I prefer either A-Fraud or Gay-Rod. Don't overdo it. And thanks, Quint.

    -S

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  4. throughout this whole mess i've never thought dallas braden was anything less than awesome. i hope he shuts the yanks down again in july with his rad changeup. let the slimeball media suck on that.

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  5. this post completely changed my perception of the incident - good writing

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  6. Poor A-Rod, he chooses to look down on the one guy who can come out of nowhere and throw a perfect game. As if baseball needed another exhibit in the case of A-Rod being a class A douche.

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  7. A-rod is 6'4' and 240 lbs ,enough said about granden the jerk !!!

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  8. i'm glad they did not celebrate on the mound when braden threw the no,no

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  9. Looking at the exchange of words on the field the day this all began, the quality of comments in the media since, and the box scores from today, I'm scoring this match as Dallas Braden 3, Alex Rodriguez 0.

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  10. I've always preferred "A-Hole" for his nickname.

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  11. Yeah, well after years as playing the dual role of insider buddy of the players and knows better than anyone else critical dick as the A's MLB.com reporter, he moved on to comcast bay area, and is as shitty as ever.

    Ever read his book on the the Ol' Big Three? Go back and find the 2004 game by game results on line and just give every couple of games a one sentence summary and you have 80 percent of the book.

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