Dallas Braden takes these things seriously. When he first called out Alex Rodriguez in April for running across the Oakland Coliseum pitcher’s mound, many—especially those who knew nothing of him—assumed that the outspoken young pitcher was merely a hot-head, looking for attention.
Now: not so much.
The A’s, looking to capitalize on the mound controversy in advance of the Yankees’ return to Oakland on Monday, printed T-shirts for sale in the Coliseum, reading, “Get Off My Mound,” with the silhouette of a left-handed pitcher that can be assumed to be Braden.
The A’s were no doubt hoping that the shirts would be hot sellers while raising some ire in the visitors’ clubhouse. What they didn’t figure on was catching heat from the home team.
It was Braden himself who found the shirts most offensive.
“I think we all understand where they are coming from, but it’s just a serious, gross, lack of tact,” Braden told Jeff Fletcher of FanHouse on Monday. “At the end of the day, I hope I do not become associated with that kind of approach.”
Braden said that his opinion on the shirts was not solicited, and that the Major League Baseball Players’ Association twice denied approval for them.
For Braden, the issue was about respect—of the league’s highest-profile player on the league’s highest-profile team overestimating his ability to take liberties on a baseball diamond, especially against a little-known pitcher on the small-market A’s.
The T-shirt has nothing to do with that.
Secondly, Braden and the rest of the A’s understand the meaning behind the cliché “let sleeping dogs lie.” The issue had faded, if not disappeared entirely once it became apparent that the injured Braden would not pitch against the Yankees. The shirt brought it roaring back to headlines around the country.
“That’s probably not smart,” said Oakland’s Jack Cust in the San Francisco Chronicle. “We don’t need to fuel anything with A-Rod, not with his ability.”
“There isn’t a guy in this locker room that wanted those T-shirts made,” added A’s reliever Brad Ziegler in the FanHouse report, reiterating the fact that it’s rarely in a team’s best interest to unnecessarily incite the opposition.
Braden took things a step further, sending an assortment of memorabilia from his perfect game to Rodriguez, including a ball, a T-shirt and a poster, inscribed, according to the Chronicle, “Dear Alex, here’s the poster you requested. I think you’re right, it will look great over your mantel. … I know you realize it’s all in fun.”
Still, the Yankees took notice of the T-shirt (the one made by the A’s, not the one delivered by Braden). Although A-Rod said all the right things—joking that he hoped for a cut of the profits, and that one of his teammates went so far as to put one on—the fact that the shirt permeated the New York clubhouse only increases the possibility that it could be used as extra motivation against the A’s.
That’s something even Oakland’s marketing department probably wouldn’t appreciate.