That was one magical day for
Braden became the 19th pitcher to throw a perfect game when he beat Tampa Bay, the team with the best record in baseball, 4-0, on Sunday. Among those 19, only
Robertson, the most unlikely pitcher ever to be perfect, was making only his fifth career start when he threw his perfect game. He was 26 -- the same age as Braden is -- and would go on to a middling 49-80 career record, making for the fewest career wins of any pitcher who threw a perfect game.
Braden should have a better career than did Robertson, but can he become the next
"Because of his slight build, that's the only question as to whether he is going to be a really good pitcher," Oakland general manager
"This kid's not afraid. He's absolutely fearless. He's a great athlete and he's got that changeup. People ask me if he still throws a screwball, but he doesn't. It's more of a fade changeup. His fastball is 87, 88 and he throws it for strikes.
"Last year he was our Opening Night starter, and one of the reasons why we picked him was because he is fearless. He's got a lot of Wolverine in him."
Braden has a very strong sense of who he is and where he is from. He takes pride in his roots in Stockton, Calif., the city
The indomitable will forged in Stockton already has served him well. Braden was raised by a single mom,
Braden was a 24th-round draft pick in 2004 (726 players were picked ahead of him, including his batterymate Sunday,
"It's my drive foot," he said this spring. "That's exactly what it feels like all the time: pins and needles. It's just a matter of blocking that out and telling myself the pain isn't there so I can pitch."
"I have an insurmountable respect for the game," Braden said. "For anyone to take what I said out of context was disappointing -- that I was going to throw at anyone or challenge anybody to a fight. This game is so much bigger than me or any one player. I would never do anything to disrespect the game."
The pitching record of Buehrle, who also threw his perfect game against the Rays, stood at 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA immediately after his perfecto last year. (Braden is 4-2 with an almost identical post-perfecto ERA of 3.33.) But the perfect game was not a springboard to bigger things for Buehrle. He struggled after that, going 2-7 with a 4.78 ERA over the remainder of the season.
Still, Buehrle finished with a 3.84 ERA, leaving
Can Braden finish the year with an ERA under 4.00? Can he go on to win 137 games in his career? Baseballreference.com lists 10 pitchers who were most statistically similar to Braden through their age 25 seasons. Three of the pitchers are still active:
Is Braden the next Buehrle or the next Boskie? The odds would seem to be against Braden carving out a Buehrle-type career. Then again, what do the odds mean when you're a 24th-round pick from America's Most Miserable City and own a fastball that can't break 90, a surgically repaired shoulder and a foot with a severed nerve -- and one of only 19 perfect games in history? Go ahead: you tell Braden he can't do it. It's one thing to mess with his mound; it's quite another to mess with his dreams.