Seldom in the course of sporting events has so much been written about something so trivial. Daily News blowhard Bob Raissman made a solid contribution to Dumb Things Written About Alex Rodriguez in Sunday’s paper.
Raissman selected pitcher Dallas Braden as his Dude of The Week: “For protecting his turf by standing up to Alex Rodriguez after he crossed the mound and stomped on the rubber… Naturally, only Braden’s most inflammatory sound bite made it to air. It didn’t do justice to the overall message he delivered… ‘A-Rod should maybe watch his captain a little more often. It doesn’t start and end with him over there at third.’… Braden showed his respect for the game, a desire to play it right, and a knowledge of proper protocol… “
As for Dweeb of the Week, Alex Rodriguez, “He knew exactly what he was doing when he showed up Braden by crossing his mound.”
Yeah, Bob, we noticed Braden’s respect of the game when he stood on the mound shrieking like an idiot not only after A-Rod ran back to first but at the end of the inning. That throw of his glove into the dugout that knocked stuff all over the place was also respectful.
Listen, Dude — I mean Dweeb — the truth is that you have no idea whether Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio or any other player in the history of the game ever touched the pitcher’s mound. The truth, Bob, is that you wouldn’t have noticed Rodriguez touching the mound if not for Braden’s cheap theatrics, and you wouldn’t have written about it unless it game you a chance to titillate your audiences with another gratuitous swipe at A-Rod.
For a saner take on this nonsense, check out Ben Shpigel in Saturday’s New York Times.
Shpigel goes a long way toward righting several years of slanted A-Rod coverage with some spot-on analysis:
“As Rodriguez steams toward 600 career home runs, he is accumulating a list of on-the-record insults that no one in the sport can match. It has become a fashionable phenomenon to bash Rodriguez, something as popular as the Rally Monkey or the Phillie Phanatic. And it appears to be that way for all sorts of reasons, some of them his own doing — his weird flair for testing baseball’s boundaries, his lavish contracts — and some, well, just because he is who he is. When baseball season starts, it’s open season on Rodriguez.”
Other writers may have pointed this out, but if so, I hadn’t noticed: “… Dallas Braden… as a 26-year-old pitcher with 50 career starts, would fall into the demographic of Rodriguez critics who are hardly great players themselves but were quite wiling to knock him, people like the former pitcher Matt Mantei (he called Rodriguez a “big-timer”) and the catcher Paul Lo Duca (He said Rodriguez was “disrespectful”).” In other words, second-rate ballplayers who saw a chance to grab some headlines for themselves by looking for a reason to cheap-shot A-Rod.
Shpigel scored another point, on White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who ripped Rodriguez for playing on the Dominican team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic (“He’s not a Dominican! I hate hypocrites!”). “Guillen is Venezuelan,” Shpigel dryly notes, “not Dominican. Why he was so annoyed at Rodriguez was never fully clear. But then, Rodriguez has a way of setting people off. No one does it better.”
I wish Shpigel had gone all the way and pointed out that Curt Schilling, A-Rod’s loudest basher among ballplayers (and, to be fair, the closest to Rodriguez in terms of stature as a player) was one of the most disliked players in the National League both at Philadelphia and Arizona before becoming the darling of the Red Sox-centric Eastern Seaboard media. Curiously, this is a subject that has so far eluded Boston and New York area writers obsessed with Rodriguez.