Dear Mr. Braden,
Congratulations on beating the Yankees Thursday afternoon and ending their winning streak at six games.
Now shut up.
You sound like a fool.
When you yelled at Alex Rodriguez for taking a shortcut (not a "detour") across the diamond, back to first base after a long foul ball by Robinson Cano in the top of the 6th inning yesterday, well, you intimidated exactly nobody. Alex Rodriguez was already the best player in the major leagues when you were still growing hair in awkward places of your anatomy. He doesn't care what you think.
The Yankees don't care what you think. The fans don't really care what you think. Frankly, I doubt that your teammates are buying this crap about how you own the mound, but they're contractually obligated to back you up even if you start pontificating about how aliens from the planet Snorg are responsible for everything from the Kennedy assassination to the fact that the cost of postage stamps seems to rise every 20 minutes. (Whoops, there they go again! Damn Snorgians!)
Nobody has ever heard of this rule before except you. Well, not nobody, exactly, but nobody seems to take it quite as seriously as you do. I have seen lots of quotes from you about how A-Rod should go out to the bullpen if he wants to run across a pitcher's mound. You do understand that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right? Rodriguez was trying to save time, as he doesn't want to piss off another umpiring crew. Well, maybe not.
You also argued that you, "don’t go over there and run laps at third base." You are an American League pitcher. You almost never have any reason to be at third base, so the point is moot. You also said,
"I don’t care if I’m Cy Young or the 25th man on the roster, if I’ve got the ball in my hand and I’m on that mound, that’s my mound."
Fair enough. The rules should be the same for everybody, but of course this rule is largely new to many of us. ESPN's Baseball Tonight crew, including Rick Sutcliffe, who spent 18 seasons in the major leagues and won a Cy Young award before you were potty trained, and has spent much of the last 15 years as either a major league coach or a TV commentator, had never heard of it. You'd think a guy like that would know, right?
Or maybe there's something about this issue in writing somewhere. I have a book, given to me for Christmas, called The Code: Baseball's Unwritten Rules and its Ignore-At-Your-Own-Risk Code of Conduct. It's not a very good book, honestly. Most of what I've read so far has been a lot of anecdotes about how hitters shouldn't show up pitchers and pitchers shouldn't show up hitters and you have to pitch inside but don't hit a batter in the head and expect to get hit if one of their guys got hit and blah, blah, blah. Seriously, it goes on and on like that for almost 300 pages.
But nowhere in those pages does it say a single word about how nobody is allowed on the pitcher's mound during an inning or during a game. Other than, you know, the dozens of people from both teams who come out there during mound conferences and pitching changes, plus the umpires and the grounds crew and what not. But definitely NOT Alex Rodriguez, under any circumstances.
When asked where you picked up this particular tidbit of baseball etiquette, you mentioned American Legion Ball, and that your coach told you that, as the pitcher, you are (I am not making this up) "the center of the universe" when you're out there on the mound. Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds? Everybody knows that Rickey Henderson is the center of the universe. Duh.
Seriously, though, we all know you need to be a little arrogant to make it in your business. Nice Guys Finish Last and all that. But even if you actually think you're the center of the universe, you don't say so out loud. You sound like an idiot.
My two year old son is just now learning that he's not the center of the universe, and it's a painful lesson at times. You should have figured it out a long time ago, and that silly tantrum you threw on the way back to the dugout just reinforced the fact that you need to grow up. If your mommy was watching, she would have given you a timeout, mister.
The only argument I've heard that actually makes much sense of this bizarre incident was Rob Neyer's as he rightly pointed out that when you were cursing at Rodriguez on national television, the mound was, in fact, NOT yours. Not any longer. The inning was over, and the mound therefore belonged to CC Sabathia. Apparently, CC Sabathia is the center of the universe, and given the gravitational pull a guy that size must have, that's not so hard to believe.
But you, with your 17 career wins, are most certainly not it.
Mostly, I get that you think your team deserves a little more respect. You guys did, in fact, finish last (nice guys or not) in 2009, so if saying stuff like this helps get your teammates fired up, then so be it:
“Maybe it doesn’t come across his mind to do that to the Oakland A’s, but maybe it does enter his mind to not do it against the Boston Red Sox, or to not do it against another team. So what I did was, I aided him with that. I don’t throw 95, so the point might not get across from me, but any kind of disrespect like that…it’s got to be handled."
But you know what really works? You know what will really inspire your teammates?
Build on that 3-0 record you've compiled so far this year. Help the Oaklands to a division title and, oh, I dunno, maybe a playoff series victory for once. That, and only that, will get you and your teammates the respect that your fragile little ego apparently needs.
In the mean time: Shut up and pitch.
Travis M. Nelson,
The Boy of Summer