Four pitches defined Ryan Dempster's career with the Red Sox.
So, silently, did most of baseball.
Dempster became most beloved Canadian athlete in Boston not named Patrice Bergeron.
The Red Sox appeared fated for failure in the wake of Dempster plunking A-Rod because A-Rod took Dempster deep in the sixth inning that night. And the Yankees staged a mini-comeback for the 9-6 victory.
The "Curse of the Dempstino" was born.
As we noted at the time:
If/when [A-Rod] loses his appeal, does Dempster get his ERA back? Pitching to A-Rod or giving him any thing to hit [in the sixth inning] was the real mistake Sunday. . . 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.
Six months later, A-Rod remains the real villain from that night, while Dempster rests securely on the right side of history and left side of A-Rod's back.
Sunday in Fort Myers, Dempster walked away from a guaranteed $13.25 million for 2014, telling the Red Sox he wasn't up to par for this season.
He didn't officially "retire" but was definite about not coming back anytime soon. When he talks about wanting to spend more time with his family, you actually believe it.
"Given where I'm at with my health and how I feel personally, it's in the best interests of both myself and the organization to not play this year. I don't feel like I could compete or produce like I'm accustomed to."
Translation: "I won't half-ass it this season, even for $13.25 million."
Pretty cool and self-less, even after earning $89.1 million playing a young boy's game. After state and federal income taxes, that $13.25 million ends up being more like $8 million. Still, an impressive amount of coin to give back when you're not at 100 percent. Sort of the type of thing we all imagine ourselves doing on our best day.
Contrast that to what A-Rod had to say after his PED/Biogenesis suspension was upheld after he went through the grievance system, instituted by the collective bargaining agreement and backed by the players' union, which he eventually sued.
"The deck has been stacked against me from day one. This is one man's decision that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable."
Translation: "You'll have to pry that $25 million from my cold, dead, steroid-bloated hands."
Following that Sunday night in August, hysteria flowed from State Run Media, parts of State Owned Media, much of talk radio and across the three and four-letter sports networks. The Full-Time Contrarians and brash-talking cynics [the same ones who screamed while guaranteeing us there was no way the Red Sox could beat
Tampa Bay Detroit St. Louis] saw doom sown in the seeds of Dempster doing what so many in and out of baseball knew and believed was overdue and deserved.
Here's one conveniently forgotten fact as the "Curse of the Dempstino" dawned across New England. In the seven games before that wild Sunday night at Fenway Park, New York had gone 5-2. In the seven games following that night, the Yankees went 5-2.
So much for A-Rod inspiring the troops.
Dempster's delivery message was awkward, for sure. The first pitch thrown in A-Rod's general direction flew behind him. Three pitches later, on a 3-0 count, Dempster found his range and harmlessly [at least in terms of intent to injure] hit A-Rod on his armor-plated elbow pad and ribs.
Welcome to Bean Town. *1
The Fenway crowd rose to its collective feet in wild appreciation for Dempster's action. Not a single pitch was thrown by the Yankees in "retaliation," despite predictions by Curt Schilling on ESPN. That's pretty much all you need to know about what fans and players thought of Dempster's actions at the time. Manager Joe Girardi was tossed before A-Rod trotted to first. It was almost as if the Baseball Gods were punishing Clueless Joe for not following the Karmatic Party Line.
Only David Ortiz, who is a close friend of A-Rod's [no one is perfect] spoke passively and slightly negatively about Dempster's four pitches of infamy.
The vitriolic condescension came from all quarters, lecturing anyone who would listen, read or watch about how boorish Dempster's actions were and how flawed as human beings the rest of us were for enjoying what he did so much.
"Macho fool costs Red Sox pennant."
Well, fast forward to now. The Red Sox officially began spring camp this weekend as World Series Cup champions. A-Rod has been surgically removed like a nagging hemorrhoid from baseball until 2015, having given up his foolish attempt at litigation against everyone but Topps. Even Derek Jeter bolting the Bronx before he comes back, wanting no part of that circus in Tampa and elsewhere a year from now. The hundreds of baseball players who supported Dempster with their silence following his Plunkage saw their initial thoughts about this incident justified when A-Rod, out of options, turned on them and sued his own players' union.
Dempster's time with the Red Sox was brief and uneventful otherwise. He went 8-9 with a 4.57 ERA for Boston. He made 29 starts before sliding to bullpen. He made one World Series appearance, getting the final out of Boston's Game 1 blowout.
His final moments as a member of the Red Sox at Fenway Park were immortalized on social media via images of Dempster throwing batting practice to his pals and anyone else wanting to take some swings in the wee hours of Halloween morning.
Special stuff, indeed.
Almost as special as those four pitches to A-Rod last August.
[*1: Internet/baseball nerd disclosure alert: We are aware that the term "beaning" indicates hitting someone in the head with a pitch, but "Bean Town" is too good to pass up in this context,]
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