The issue between Dallas Braden and Alex Rodriguez began on April 22. Facing the Yankees at home, Braden delivered a pitch to Robinson Cano with A-Rod already on first. The pitch was fouled off, and A-Rod, after rounding second, crossed the pitcher's mound on his way back to first, infuriating Braden in the process.
Braden picked up a victory that day, and after the game, he made no secret of his issue with A-Rod.
"I don't care if I'm Cy Young or if I'm the 25th man on the roster," Braden told the media. "If I've got that ball in my hand and I'm out there on that mound, that's not your mound. If you want to run across the mound, go run laps in the bullpen. That's my mound."
A-Rod, of course, dismissed Braden's rant with a flippant remark about Braden's "handful of wins," and later, he quipped that he wouldn't want to interfere with the pitcher's 15 minutes of fame.
That was more than two months ago, but the A's haven't forgotten about the drama. Instead, they're helping to return it to the forefront as the two teams prepare to do battle once again, marketing green T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, "Get off my mound."
It's a little ridiculous for the A's. Not only does it bring to light what was, in retrospect, an embarrassing war of words between Braden and A-Rod, but in addition, the team refuses to pull the shirts off the stands, even after Braden disapproved the desperate marketing move:
"It's just not cool. It's just a serious, gross lack of tact. At the end of the day, I hope I do not become associated with that kind of approach. … They're trying to generate revenue, trying to get butts in the seat, I can see that. It's almost like, at what cost do you do that? They didn't have permission. They were told on multiple occasions, that, no, it's not a good idea. It's not going to be approved. They just kind of put the horse-blinders on and ran with it."
Braden is obviously embarrassed by the shirt. Probably because he created such a circus after the initial conflict in April, in what was obviously a moment of vulnerability after a loss.
And now, despite the fact that Braden has made his feelings clear, his ball club has simply shrugged and decided to proceed as planned.
"We regret that Dallas has expressed concern in regards to the 'Get Off My Mound' T-shirts that are being sold throughout the stadium," the A's said in a statement. "The organization created these shirts in response to numerous fan requests and made them to generate interest in this series. … We will speak privately with Dallas about this to clarify our position and make sure we have a clear line of communication going forward."
This is not a T-shirt that's being sold at a hot dog stand outside the ballpark. It's a shirt that is being sold in the official team store. It is endorsed by the team, whether Braden likes it or not.
This is like the Patriots endorsing those "I Hate Peyton Manning" shirts for sale on Yawkey Way, or like the Red Sox applauding the "Yankees Suck" chant. It was puzzling even before Braden publicly chastised the club; now, it's a bit disturbing.
When it becomes OK for the A's to capitalize off the embarrassment of a player, there's a problem. And the fact that the organization seems to be blind to that is an even bigger one.
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