Maybe he wanted to be the hero, the martyr, the trendsetter by sending a message to all of baseball that steroid users are not welcome in this game. But the union Ryan Dempster supports believes that Alex Rodriguez should be playing baseball right now because he’s exercising his right to appeal a 211-game suspension.
Dempster may have won over Boston fans and maybe Dempster got all kinds of high-fives and accolades in the Red Sox clubhouse. Maybe it will be portrayed as Good beating Evil and maybe Dempster’s iPhone will be lit up with texts saying, “Attaboy, Ryan.”
But the intelligence of plunking Rodriguez Sunday night wasn’t sound.
We understand that neither Dempster nor Sox manager John Farrell could say what really happened in the second inning when Dempster threw one behind Rodriguez’s legs and then plunked him on the left side with a 3-and-0 pitch.
No pitcher will admit he threw at a batter. No manager is going to throw his pitcher under the bus. And so, straight-faced, both Dempster and Farrell told their white lies.
Did Dempster hit A-Rod intentionally?
“No, I was just trying to pitch inside,” Dempster said.
Dempster pointed out that A-Rod had been prior to Sunday.
“I think he’d been hit by Chris Sale, I watched that game [Aug. 6]. I was more disappointed I couldn’t hold a 6-3 lead,” Dempster said.
A-Rod said afterward, “If you like me or hate me, that was unprofessional. That was silly.”
Asked whether Dempster should be suspended, Rodriguez said, “I’m the wrong guy to be asking about suspensions. I’ve got a lawyer I can recommend.
“Every player is too valuable. I’m too valuable to be thrown out of the game. So is every guy on our team. But I thought we handled it the right way. I was pissed off. I thought that it was over at that point. I thought the umpires would handle it, at least, to make sure no one gets hurt in that situation.
“I had 15 teammates who said, ‘Hit a bomb and walk it off.’ They were all pissed off.”
Dempster said he wasn’t surprised that warnings were issued to both sides by plate umpire Brian O’Nora.
“The first one [behind Rodriguez’s legs] got away. I thought maybe there would be [warnings] but then Brian did an unbelievable job the rest of the way. More guys got hit and pitched inside. The first one was supposed to be a sinker down and in.”
Nobody is siding with A-Rod in this PED scandal. Not one person. He is a circus, a distraction, and all Dempster did was put him front and center once again.
“Much like Ryan has done many, many starts, he’s established his fastball inside to top hitters. We saw what happened when he doesn’t establish his fastball in. Rodriguez extends his arms and hits it out of the ballpark to center field,” Farrell said of A-Rod’s sixth-inning home run.
Asked if Dempster hit Rodriguez on purpose, Farrell said, “I don’t know that he hit him on purpose. I don’t think he did.”
Farrell said he stood by his comment, and when asked if he understood Joe Girardi’s reaction that got him thrown out of the game —
Dempster also missed the headline, the most important part of this whole story: The incident fired up the Yankees and the Red Sox lost the game, 9-6.
What was served by this act by Dempster? That he and other players hate A-Rod? They already hate him.
Is A-Rod the first guy to take steroids? Did pitchers plunk Barry Bonds because he took steroids? Or Mark McGwire? Or Sammy Sosa? Did they plunk Melky Cabrera after he returned from his 50-game suspension?
Unfortunately for Dempster, the hit by pitch eventually cost him a 2-0 lead. Curtis Granderson doubled, Eduardo Nunez singled home Rodriguez, and Lyle Overbay’s sacrifice fly scored the tying run.
Rodriguez was accompanied to first base by the Yankees trainer, and he had support from his manager and the teammates who poured onto the field from the benches and the bullpen. He was not a man on his own island.
Rodriguez, who went 3 for 4 with two RBIs, got some payback when he homered off Dempster to open the sixth inning in a dramatic moment, a shot to the center-field bleachers that couldn’t have been hit any harder. Rodriguez enthusiastically ran the bases and then as he touched home plate raised his hands in David Ortiz fashion.
He also broke a 2-2 deadlock in the third with a ground out.
If you want to send a message to A-Rod, get him out. Don’t put him on base. Don’t allow monster home runs. Don’t put your team in peril in an important game.
Dempster exited with the bases loaded in the sixth and a 6-4 lead. The ovation he received was modest. Drake Britton then gave up a go-ahead, bases-loaded triple to Brett Gardner.
It’s interesting to note that no other pitcher who has faced A-Rod since his return had made an obvious attempt to plunk him. The pitch that Sale threw that hit A-Rod legitimately got away from the White Sox lefthander.
The day after Ortiz went out to dinner with A-Rod, Dempster clearly took matters into his own hands. If you want to applaud him for it, it’s your right. But it wasn’t smart. The Red Sox are involved in a pretty heated divisional race and they’re playing the Yankees, who have been a hot team.
The Red Sox were ahead, 2-0, at the time, but Dempster hasn’t been pitching so well that he can afford to put runners on base.
Every time A-Rod does anything against the Red Sox we’re going to hear how the cheater is going to impact the race.
Don’t let him impact the race. It’s not rocket science.
As one of my readers e-mailed during the game, concerning the Dempster/A-Rod incident, “Win first.”
How about think first?Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.