Ryan Dempster - America thanks you.
For a while during Sunday night's 9-6 Red Sox loss to the Yankees, you were the most beloved Canadian this side of Neil Young, Shannon Tweed or Patrice Bergeron.
Dempster did what many other pitchers in baseball have wanted to do - he planted a 92 MPH fastball in the back of Alex Rodriguez. Fenway Park and the internet went wild. There's no way Dempster could have hit A-Rod's spine since we know he doesn't have one.
Welcome to "Bean Town."
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Dempster couldn't get through six innings. But that had much more to do with the fact that he gave up a home run to A-Rod to start the Yankees' four-run uprising in the sixth - and eventually walking the bases loaded - than it did with him nailing A-Rod in the second.
If it took Dempster planting one in A-Rod's back for him and the Yankees to wake up this season, then they
suck lack character more than we thought.
The Yankees were dead and buried before A-Rod's blast and showed no life nor willingness to defend their teammate after Dempster's dirty work.
His performance Sunday - 3 hits, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored and a HR - just adds further fuel to the ire of anyone who invests time, emotion or money to watch baseball. He also reached on a Dustin Pedroia error that was ruled a hit in the eighth just to aggravate everyone's agony. He continues to elevate his team and impact the pennant race despite baseball's longest PED suspension ever.
If/when he loses his appeal, does Dempster get his ERA back? Pitching to A-Rod or giving him any thing to hit was the real mistake Sunday. Dempster should appeal any suspension until at least November to coincide with the decision on A-Rod.
The plunking came a day late, since John Lackey was voted most likely to nail A-Rod, but it was hardly a dollar short. Dempster went after A-Rod not once but twice during the second inning.
The Fenway crowd has been on A-Rod all weekend, but no one had come after A-Rod like this since he began playing on the day his 211-game PED suspension was handed down by MLB. Chris Sale of the White Sox had nipped A-Rod in Chicago last week, but that one was an accident.
There was nothing that appeared accidental about what Dempster did Sunday night. On his first pitch, he threw low and behind A-Rod's knee, and the ball simply missed. But on 3-and-0, Dempster planted a fast ball right under A-Rod's arm in his upper torso.
The crowd roared its approval. Yankees manager Joe Girardi stormed out of the Yankee dugout screaming at home plate umpire Brian O'Nora for Dempster to be tossed. Instead, Girardi was ejected and the game resumed. Both sides were warned. Dempster stayed in the game, which turned out to be disastrous for the Red Sox.
The A-Rod HPB led to a two-run inning, but the cost seemed well worth it for Red Sox fans, and most likely the Red Sox players and those across baseball, as well. It was no doubt a win-win for the Tampa Bay Rays, who beat Toronto 2-1 in 10 innings Sunday.
A-Rod led off the sixth with a 446-foot juice bomb that found Jim Rice territory in the center field bleachers. It was the 649th* home run of A-Fraud's career.
Dempster was removed, four batters too late, with the bases loaded and one out before Brett Gardner had A-Rod's six and cleared the bases with a triple off Drake Britton to give the Yankees a 7-6 lead. It was a big night for A-Rod, the Chevrolet Player of the Game, who also drove in a run on fielder's choice that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the third.
Dempster would have been better served had he hit A-Rod again in the sixth. He would have been ejected with a 6-3 lead and runner on first. And Britton, or whomever came in to relive him, would have had a much cleaner slate to work with.
To say A-Rod was inspired to go deep in the sixth after being hit in the second makes no sense since he batted in the third. Was he not trying to go deep with two runners on in the third? Actually in his case, maybe yes. "Everyone one of those guys came up to me a said hit a bomb off him and walk it off," A-Rod told ESPN after the game.
ESPN analysts John Kruk and Curt Schilling were upset that Dempster went after A-Rod twice, after initially missing him with the first pitch. Kruk saw an impending baseball apocalypse after A-Rod was hit, while Schilling predicted retaliation later in the game that never came.
Red Sox manager John Farrell told ESPN's Buster Olney that Dempster was "establishing his fast ball in" on A-Rod. "We didn't feel in our dugout that was anything intentional." Schilling called that a very "[Terry] Francona-like" answer and was "protecting a pitcher he knew intentionally threw at a hitter."
The eight-place trophy crowd no doubt saw negative value in what Dempster did. But this wasn't about anything beyond sending a message that way too many players across baseball wanted someone to send, never mind the passion and anger of Red Sox fans.
The Red Sox had already ensured that this series against the Yankees would not be a total disaster with Lackey's performance Saturday. It's easy for those who don't play, who don't keep clean, who haven't cheated, to sit back and say that Dempster is a "macho idiot."
And it's not all idiotic "macho" Red Sox fans who were happy with what went down when A-Rod went down Sunday night. The Yankees and A-Rod aren't even speaking these days. A-Rod's attorney has threatened to sue the Yankees over how they handled his injury last season. The loudest cheers after Dempster hit Rodriguez Sunday night likely came from Yankees GM Brian Cashman and team president Randy Levine.
Baseball is game for many of us. It's a livelihood for the Dempsters of the world, who rest on baseball's margins with a 4.77 ERA and just two wins in his past 12 starts. Players like Dempster have to feel cheated whenever A-Rod, or Ryan Braun, or Jhonny Peralta or Nelson Cruz take them deep. He has enough trouble against players who are clean.
Dempster denied throwing at A-Rod on purpose and Farrell backed up his pitcher, while Girardi said Dempster should be suspended for what he did. Meanwhile, A-Rod continues to play while waiting for "due process" to play out during baseball's longest drug suspension in its history.
Hypocrisy at every turn.
Barry Bonds walked 2,552 times in his career, including 232 times in 2004. Many of those were of the intentional variety. Does anyone think Dempster was better off pitching to A-Rod in all his juiced glory instead of around/at him? Certainly not anyone who saw Rodriguez's shot in the sixth.
Sometimes the best way to beat the cheaters is four balls high and outside. Once in a while, they need one in the back or off the rear end. In the words of Henry Hill, "everybody takes a beating sometime."
As Dempster and the Red Sox learned in the sixth, all it took was one meatball and A-Rod launched a chemically-enhanced blast that ended up in the center field bleachers. That's the pitch Dempster wanted back Sunday night, not the one that he aimed at A-Rod. It one of the few times Dempster [5.1 innings, 9 hits, 7 ER] found his target all night.
Given the tepid immediate reaction of the Yankees after Dempster's plunking, save for Gardner, they probably smiled inside while keeping their calm. C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees starter, benefited from all the mayhem despite allowing 12 baserunners. He went 5.1 innings, but left as the pitcher of record on the winning side as the Red Sox let him off the hook on several occasions.
No matter, any reports of the demise of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry were very premature - or very 2012. Schilling predicted a Yankees' resurgence like the one Boston had in 2004 after the A-Rod-Varitek game. Unless the Yankees plan on trading Nomar Garciaparra, it's hard to see that happening.
Did the Red Sox awaken a sleeping giant Sunday, as Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto may or may not have said after Pearl Harbor? Check back in about six weeks.
But we're using World War II analogies, so the bad blood is definitely flowing between Boston and New York. The teams meet seven more times this season.
Yes, kids, the hate has returned.
And a piece of it ended up in the back of A-Rod Sunday night.
* - Asterisk just because we can.
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