On April 22, 2010, Dallas Braden returned to the dugout at McAfee Coliseum, in Oakland and threw his glove against the concrete wall in protest of an unwritten rule in baseball. What prompted the protest? Moments earlier New York Yankees third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, had walked across the pitchers mound after going from 1st to 3rd on a foul ball hit by Robinson Cano. The story garnered discussion across the blogosphere and usual outlets, MLB.com and ESPN.
In what could be seen as a response, Braden’s next appearance on the mound was even more attention attracting than his last, as he threw major league baseballs 19Th perfect game. According to nydailynews.com, Braden’s grandmother who was in attendance at the game said that A-Rod could, “Stick it.” A-Rod responded to reporters after his club’s game on the same day with a terse dictate, “I don’t want to talk about him anymore.” in reference to Braden.
The Braden-A-Rod saga is representative of a dialog between big time hitters and big time pitchers, which the pitchers are winning. A pleasant turnaround on the diamond this spring is the return of the dominant pitcher.
As of Sunday, May 23, 2010, Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, boasts an ERA below 1.00 (.99 according to yahoo sports) and a record of 8-1 in nine starts. In his only loss he game up only two earned runs, what many consider the margin of error for any starting pitcher. Jimenez has long been considered a great young pitcher with ace potential, but the season he is putting together is quietly being discussed as having the potential for being the single greatest season by any pitcher. With a no hitter in this seasons resume Jimenez is bringing even casual fans curiosity to the diamond.
In our nations capital, the perennial cellar dwellers, The Washington Nationals have been able to buck the trend of years past and post a record of 23-22 one game above .500 according to Yahoo sports. What is even bigger news is the anticipated debut of rookie phenom Stephen Strasbourg, expected sometime in the next few weeks. Strasbourg was the first pick in last years draft and signed with the Nats for a record 15.1 million over four years according to ESPN.com baseball beat writer Jayson Stark. The buzz is so strong for Strasbourg that when the Washington times cut sports writer Mark Zuckerman last December, he raised money to start natsinsider.com, to cover his beloved team.
Strasbourg may be the future, but the Nats success this season owes a nod to the past as well, with veteran pitcher and Cuban defector Livan Hernandez having a quiet renaissance and leading the Nats staff in earned run average. Consequentially, Hernandez, nicknamed “El Duque” is also among The National League leaders in E.R.A. at 1.62 in 8 starts.
With the season less than a third over and big hitters typically making a slow start, it is unwise to proclaim the power hitter dead, but it is not unreasonable to expect the blend of young talent and veteran smarts in both leagues to signal a pitchers era that will be robust and promising right around the corner.