Monday, May 10, 2010

Morning: Dallas Braden as Heroic Figure

I woke up this morning, and it still happened. Two days after writing a long post titled "Dallas Braden as Tragic Figure" (and thanks to Deadspin for linking, by the way), the Stockton son of a bitch threw the 19th perfect game in major league history.

Un-be-fucking-lievable. And he did it in front of his grandmother on Mother's Day, after his own mom passed in 2001 of melanoma when Braden was a high school senior. In the picture above, he's kissing his mother's wedding ring while he hugs his grandmother. You can watch the video of all 27 outs, and his celebration with his teammates and grandma, here. Pretty awesome, pretty touching.

Of course, A-Rod could not be left out of this latest development. First, Braden's grandma unleashed this quote: "Stick it, A-Rod." It was made in jest, apparently. Then, reports came in from the visitor's locker room in Fenway:

As Braden celebrated the feat, Sunday night's Yankee starter, A.J. Burnett, was alone in the Fenway clubhouse and watched Braden on TV. As Braden hugged Lindsey, Burnett said out loud, to no one in particular, "Grandma, don't cross my mound."

For his part A-Rod kept it low-key:

On Sunday, Rodriguez, speaking to reporters before the Yankees' game in Boston, had only praise for Braden. Asked about Braden's perfect game, Rodriguez said, "I've learned in my career it is much better to be recognized for all the great things you do on the field. Good for him, he threw a perfect game. And better yet, he beat the Rays."

When told that the grandmother told him to "stick it," A-Rod had a classic one-word response: "Uncle."

Braden didn't mention A-Rod in his postgame comments, and wouldn't take the bait from reporters. Not surprising, considering he probably wanted to focus on his own accomplishment, and considering As GM Billy Beane nipped that shit in the bud after Braden's latest outburst.

Beane, who was on a scouting trip in Mississippi on Friday, ended Braden's publicity tour in a brief but emphatic phone call with his starter. Reached later on, Beane said, “The player has been spoken to, and hopefully the matter should be over.”

Last thing, then I'm done with Dallas Braden until he comes to Yankee Stadium or uses his 87mph heater to throw another perfect game: before this happened, it was nice how the Yanks stepped up to defend their star. Klapisch, in the linked article, gave a couple examples and then summed up the new clubhouse attitude among the Bombers.

Other Yankees, however, took up the fight for the third baseman.

“He's a clown,” CC Sabathia said of Braden. “Guy says he's from the 2-0-9, what the [bleep] is that? That's where I'm from and I don't know what he's talking about. Two-oh-nine. He needs to just calm down - put that in the paper. That's just tired.”

“I don't know why he keeps bringing it up,” said Derek Jeter. “Go ask him, because I have no idea why he's talking about it again.”

“Braden is wrong and Alex is right,” said general manager Brian Cashman. “The more Dallas talks about it, the sillier he looks.”

Indeed, Braden's comments smacked of a player who'd fallen in love with his fleeting celebrity, which infuriated A's officials.


The Yankees are sending an unmistakable message to the industry's A-Rod haters: It's no longer open season on No. 13. The days of the Red Sox trashing A-Rod, as they did in 2005, are over. If you're looking to provoke Rodriguez, as Braden clearly did, chances are you'll get the entire roster's response.

This kind of massive defense would never have happened under Torre, and is yet another reason why the Yanks are fortunate to have his tenure in the rearview mirror.

By the way, I must have very shitty friends, because only ONE person alerted me to the possible perfect game. And he did it on g-chat, so I didn't get the notice until it had already happened. This is inexcusable. This has happened 19 times in like 130 years. If there's a perfect game possibility going into the 8th, YOU TELL ME. YOU FUCKING TELL ME.

Okay, so, guess what? The Yankees played Boston this weekend, and won two of three. Fascinating, right?

The big story for me is Josh Beckett, but I'm going to have to get into that a bit later. Also, the umpire on Saturday called for a rain delay when Sabathia was one strike away from finishing the 5th inning and becoming eligible for the win. That's a rough tomato right there.

On a semi-related note, my girlfriend has a newfound love: keeping the scorebook for Yankee games. Before she met me, sports were not on her radar. In fact, I don't think she'd ever watched a full event in her life before last July. She still can't get into football* or basketball, but for some (awesome) reason, she loves baseball. About a month ago, she asked me to buy her a scorebook. I thought it was a joke, and then I thought it would be a fleeting hobby at best, but so far she's averaged at least 2-3 games per week. Kind of amazing.

*The only time she musters any response to football is when a QB kneels at the end of a game to run out the clock. She considers that really, really unfair.

The few friends who have seen this book around the apartment assume that it's another example of me taking sports too seriously. When I tell them it belongs to the girlfriend, they become immediately convinced that I'm some kind of horribly controlling boyfriend who makes her do it against her will. Not the case. I did tell her once that if she proves herself as a real Yankee fan, I'd buy her a Teixeira jersey (so far, she only has the t-shirt), but this goes beyond normal fandom.

However, she also falls asleep by 10:00 most nights, and rarely makes it through a long night game. So when she found out that a pitcher needs 5 innings to be eligible for a win, she decided that a bookkeeper only has to make it through the 5th for the game to be "offically scored." Last night, ESPN aired the Sox-Yanks game, and it didn't start until 8:15. By the 5th inning of a very slow night, she was getting drowsy. Watching her struggle to finish the job through Boston's offensive explosion, pitching changes, and interminable foul balls was really something. She goes so far as to keep balls and strikes, and in the moments when she began to nod off, she'd come to with a start and ask me for the count. It was high drama seeing if she'd persevere until the last out (of the 5th). She made it, but it wasn't easy. Toward the end, when I started heckling her that she couldn't stay awake, she gave me a sleepy look and said "I'm earning my jersey."


**She still hasn't earned a jersey. That carrot is gonna dangle for a good long while.

More about the Sox series later.

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