Alex Rodriguez is one of two types of player: A guy who’s profoundly ignorant of much of the Code, or a guy who actively disdains it.
Today in Oakland, with Rodriguez on first base, Robinson Cano hit a foul ball so high that A-Rod had time to round second and get partway to third before it landed. Rather than going back the way he came, however, Rodriguez cut straight across the diamond and directly across the pitcher’s mound.
It’s a direct violation of one of the lesser unwritten rules, and A’s pitcher Dallas Braden noticed.
After the inning ended, Braden lit into A-Rod on the field, eventually being greeted by a dismissive wave from the superstar. “I was dumbfounded that someone of his status would let that slip his mind,” Braden told Jeff Fletcher of FanHouse after the game. “He understands that. I was just trying to convey to him that I’m still out there. The ball is in my hand. That’s my pitcher’s mound. If he wants to run across the pitcher’s mound, tell him to do laps in the bullpen.”
It’s a rule that’s been around a long time.
“That mound is the pitcher’s home, his office, and he doesn’t want anyone trampling over it,” said longtime outfielder Dave Collins. Luis Gonzalez called the mound “the Twilight Zone,” describing it as something to stay away from.
Like any rule, a small handful of guys go out of their way to crap on it, if only to be annoying. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that A.J. Pierzynski is one of those players. According to multiple sources, he makes a habit of the practice, coming close enough to the pitcher to brush him on his way back to the base or the dugout.
“He’s gotten hit a few times because of it,” said Tim Raines, Pierzynski’s former coach with the White Sox. “He’s been hit more than once.”
“You’re always going to run across some guy who will fly out, round first, and cut as close as he can to you, just to either mutter something under his breath, just to piss you off as a pitcher,” said Jamie Quirk. “He’s gonna get as close as he can to you; he won’t bump you, but he’ll try to piss you off.”
Is Rodriguez that kind of guy? It’s difficult to tell. The evidence against him, however, certainly does nothing to help his case.
Update: There has also been some controversy about whether Braden even has the stature to challenge A-Rod. That issue is addressed here.
Update II: Here’s the video:
Update III: To hear audio of both players’ interviews, go here.
Update IV: Author Allen Barra took issue with some of the points presented herein. In this post, I attempt to set him straight.
Update V: I discussed some of these issues in a Q&A with the New York Times.
Update VI: Turns out this issue is garnering some attention for the unwritten rules.
Update VII: Braden hardly set the standard for young players speaking out of turn (if, in fact, that’s what he did).
Update VIII: Catch video of Braden’s opinions on the affairs here.