All in all, last weekend wasn’t a great one for the Fenway faithful, as the suddenly streaking Yankees came to town and took 2 of 3 from the Red Sox. One can safely say that we missed a chance to bury the Yankees a little bit deeper; but it’s alright and we shouldn’t get carried away with despair or panic as the Sox remain firmly in the playoff picture, and if you glance at the BetFair exchange sports book, Boston has the 3rd best betting odds to win the World Series (at 8/1), while the Yankees aren’t really even in the picture (40/1). While last weekend SHOULD have been about winning any and every game (as usual), it very quickly became about A-Rod and Ryan Dempster.
Let’s get one thing straight: A-Rod is a pariah in baseball, and it’s no surprise that his first visit to Fenway since receiving a massive 211 game suspension from the MLB (and then appealing it, ensuring he’d still be allowed to play this season) resulted in an barrage of boos. There’s really nothing more to say on A-Rod. He has, apparently, cheated the game multiple times, and he’s now being allowed to play for the hated rivals while making an absurd amount of money doing so and ruining the purity of Kate Hudson for the rest of us. (Seriously, every time I see her face now, my mind’s eye sees his giant purple lips too.)
But let’s get another thing straight: it’s on the MLB, and not Ryan Dempster, to level the playing field. Are we surprised that Dempster took it upon himself to plunk A-Rod? Not at all. It was probably only a matter of time before this happened, and it’s part of the game of baseball even when you’re not talking about the generation’s most polarizing player in the midst of the game’s biggest rivalry. What was surprising, was that Dempster did it on the last of 4 inside pitches. What was then disappointing was that A-Rod ultimately scored a run that inning, and came back a few innings later to blast a homer off of Dempster and defiantly, arrogantly, whoop and cheer himself while rounding the bases.
Back to Dempster: if you caught this game on Sunday Night Baseball, you know that Dempster absolutely, 100% meant to hit A-Rod. And you know what? That’s fine. As mentioned, it’s part of the game. What’s not fine, or shouldn’t be, to Red Sox fans, is that he took 4 pitches to do it and then couldn’t back it up on the mound, and that days later he’s suspended and fined and now the Yankees are red hot.
You throw inside to make a statement, and Dempster made that statement with his first pitch – one that actually went behind A-Rod. After 2 more inside pitches (that I honestly think were just poor attempts at hitting the inside part of the strike zone), he finally said “screw it, this guy has a 3-0 count and he’s getting on base one way or another” so he plunked him, in what was by then a tedious and repetitive exercise. Girardi was correct in his post-game presser: the baseball IS a weapon (which makes him yelling “YOU’RE GOING TO GET IT!” at Middlebrooks a bit ironic) but it should be a weapon used to get outs and Dempster definitely didn’t do that. No one is suggesting that Demp stooped to A-Rod’s level (that would take years of drug abuse and lying) but we should be a little bit disappointed, rather than bemused, at how it all went down.
In any case, let’s count our lucky stars that the Sox had some of those weird West Coast off-days and could maneuver their pitching rotation so that Dempster’s suspension ends up hurting more on paper than in reality.