Oakland Athletics: Dallas Braden, the Ultimate Competitor, Retires At Age 30

After having not thrown a Major League pitch since April 16, 2011, Dallas Braden has now officially decided to call it a career according to a report by Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle.

Braden had hoped to continue his career and audition for teams this offseason, though a MRI revealed irreparable damage to his throwing shoulder.

“There is nothing left in there, it’s just a shredded mess,” Braden told Slusser. “I left my arm on the mound at the Coliseum, and I’m OK with that.”

“I wasn’t in a position to repeat my delivery, to pitch with any intention,” he explained to The Chronicle. “That’s OK, I understood the odds I was facing. You have to face your mortality one day, and I have been so blessed in this game. If I take 10 minutes to be hacked off about it, it would be nine minutes too long. You can’t ask for more than I’ve been given, coming where my grandmother and I are coming from.”

Braden, 30, finishes his career with a 26-36 record and a 4.16 ERA, though his numbers don’t tell the true story of his career.

Through his five big league seasons (or really four and some change considering how short his 2011 campaign was), the Stockton native developed into a dependable third or fourth starter who embodied the grittiness the team has displayed over the past several seasons. Beyond his contributions on the field, Braden’s leadership was also at least partially responsible for the early career transformation of Gio Gonzalez into a front of the rotation starter, and changing a mindset of a team that they could compete with the best of the best. The transformation may not have been complete until Bob Melvin took over midway through the 2011 season, but it can certainly be argued that Braden began that transformation with his veteran tutelage of a young A’s group.

His most memorable moment will always be throwing baseball’s 19th perfect game on Mother’s Day in 2010. Pitching in front of his Grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, Braden tossed his perfecto against the Tampa Bay Rays and then shared in an on-field embrace with his grand mother.

Braden told Slusser, “That game will always define the one solid day of work I had and the fact that I got to share it with my grandmother, only a few people appreciate the magnitude of that. That was living the dream.”

A few weeks earlier in a game against the New York Yankees, Braden let his competitive attitude show when he barked at Alex Rodriguez as the now-embattled slugger crossed across his mound. Dallas famously barked at ARod to “Get off my mound!

The controversy began when Rodriguez went from first to third base on a foul ball and then crossed back to first across the center of the diamond and jogged over the top of the mound. Following an inning-ending double play, Braden exchanged words with Rodriguez, voicing his anger before angrily exiting the field.

Braden said at the time:

“He should probably take a note from his captain over there and realize you don’t cross the pitcher’s mound in between an inning or during the game. I was just dumbfounded that he would let that slip his mind — being someone of such status.”

“I don’t care if I’m Cy Young or the 25th man on the roster, if I’ve got the ball in my hand and I’m on that mound, that’s my mound … He ran across the pitcher’s mound foot on my rubber. No, not happening. We’re not the door mat anymore.”

Rodriguez added:

“He just told me to get off his mound. I was a little surprised. I’d never quite heard that. Especially from a guy that has a handful of wins in his career … I thought it was pretty funny actually.”

The point of Braden’s rant at the time, “we’re not the doormat anymore.”

It’s one of the more memorable moments of Braden’s career, and perhaps one that he’d rather live down for all I know, but it was the perfect embodiment of how he played the game, unwilling to back down from anyone. The A’s over the past few seasons since his departure have maintained that attitude, willing to go toe-to-toe with the “Big Market” teams despite their seeming limitations.

It’s certainly a career cut to short, though by comparison to his old nemesis, ARod, Braden will be the one who goes down with some fanfare and a positive and lasting memory in the game.

That guy with just “a handful of wins in his career” still will have opportunities within the game as either a coach or a broadcaster, as where Rodriguez may forever find himself on the outside wishing he could get back in.

While he will likely never see his number retired or find himself enshrined in Cooperstown, to the die-hard Oakland fans, section 209 at the Oakland Coliseum will always be known as his, and his contributions will be remembered forever by this generation of A’s fans.