Why we feel free to hate A-Rod (cont.)
All this came up again this week when Oakland pitcher Dallas Braden took great offense to A-Rod running across the mound after a foul ball. To be more specific, Robinson Cano fouled off a pitch with A-Rod on first. It looked like the ball might drop fair and so Rodriguez rounded second and was headed to third when it plopped a few inches foul. A-Rod had to go back to first base, and so he ran straight across the field, using the mound as a shortcut. He ran right by Braden and stepped on the mound and kept on running to first base.
Braden was almost comically enraged by this bit of ceremonial indiscretion, and raged at length on the subject -- even trying to hurt A-Rod where it hurts by saying that maybe he should "watch his captain a little more often." My Yankees friend, undoubtedly, appreciated that. Most other players I've heard or read seem to find the whole thing amusing, but some have called A-Rod's mound-clomp bush league or against the spirit of the game or a clear violation of baseball's unwritten rules.
Now look: Baseball almost certainly has more unwritten rules than any other sport in the world -- probably more than all other sports combined. I think it is part of the character of baseball for those rules to be "unwritten" -- this goes along with it being a "police yourself" kind of sport. So, you don't:
Step on the foul line
And many, many others. So if someone had asked me, "Is it OK for a hitter to walk/stomp on the mound after a foul ball," I'm sure I would have said, "Probably not." In the convoluted maze that is baseball protocol, your best bet is ALWAYS to guess that something is against the unwritten rules. And, sure, I can see why a pitcher would get mad about a hitter running across -- the mound is his castle. I don't think anyone should come in my car and mess with the radio. I don't think anyone should come in my house and sit in my chair ... you know, like that.
But to be honest, I also have never heard that "don't cross the mound" rule. I wasn't a great baseball player by any stretch, but I played a lot of it -- and I never heard the rule. I don't claim to be the most insightful baseball analyst going by any stretch, but I've covered a lot of baseball and talked to a lot of baseball people -- and I never heard the rule. And I am quite sure that through the years, I have seen numerous players walk either right by the mound or right over it ... some to pass along a little message or joke to the pitcher, some (A.J. Pierzynski comes to mind) to be irritating, and some simply because it's a direct route. I don't know if I have seen any of them actually step on the rubber like Braden claims A-Rod did. And I would not doubt for one minute that A-Rod did the run-across to be annoying or intimidating. I don't know why he did it -- but it's certainly possible that he was sending one of those goofy and childish coded A-Rod messages, like the time he yelled "Ha!" when running by someone trying to catch a fly ball.
Still, it seems to me the key factor here is: It's A-Rod. And all that entails. I mean, let's face it ... if that was Albert Pujols running across the mound, and that was a pitcher who has accomplished as much as Dallas Braden griping about it -- say Anibal Sanchez or someone -- it seems to me there would be a whole lot of "Shut your fat face, kid," talk going on across the country.
But it's not Pujols. It's A-Rod. And because it's A-Rod, there are suddenly a lot of people saying: "Yeah, you can't just run across the mound -- everybody knows that!" Because it's A-Rod there are people admiring Dallas Braden for standing up to the big bully who dared stomp on his new carpet. Because it's A-Rod, the story is lively and the coverage is intense and the opinion seems to be at least leaning Dallas Braden's way. Hey look: Another reason to despise A-Rod! Dallas Braden got it right in this way. In this world of ours, you can't go wrong standing against taxes, the declining levels of our schools and Alex Rodriguez.
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