When Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate in the second inning of last night’s Red Sox Yankees matchup, the words sympathy and redemption were not on most people’s minds. But a 2-0 pitch from Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster may have changed that.
Before we even discuss the events that took place in Fenway Park last night, let’s first think about how we have gotten to this point.
Like many other players over the last decade, Alex Rodriguez has cheated the game of baseball. He has continually lied, and deserves the suspension he will eventually serve. Not many inside or outside the game of baseball would dispute that.
But why has A-Rod become the pariah of baseball? Why do so many fans and players single him out as “the guy” who is the worst of all, when so many others have broken the rules in the exact same way?
The answer is that baseball fans, non baseball fans, and even Yankees fans have decided that we simply do not like this guy. And you know what, that’s ok, we don’t have to like A-Rod, and quite frankly, we probably shouldn’t. But regardless of how you feel about A-Rod, that does not give Ryan Dempster, or anyone else the right to fire a 92 mph fastball at his ribs. I know a lot of people take the stance that its been happening in the game since the beginning, and it’s part of baseball tradition. I disagree. Advocating violence against anyone, simply because we don’t like them, is never ok, and intentionally throwing a baseball at someone is a violent act, period—regardless if you agree or disagree with the act itself.
What amazes me more than anything is that the herd mentality, or rather, the mob mentality, that the majority of fans have against A-Rod. We have made a decision, and that decision is that hurting this player physically is ok. The hypocrisy this reveals about us is incredible. We see grainy Youtube videos of a young boy bullying a school bus driver and we rally around her, as we should, because no human being deserves to be treated that way. But it’s not this way in sports. The lessons we try to teach our children about bullying somehow do not apply inside the lines. Just take to twitter if you don’t believe me. See the things people say about A-Rod, and you’ll be blown away with the genuine hate against this man. Alleged murderers like Aaron Hernandez do not get treated this bad.
Now back to the game.
I don’t expect Red Sox fans to like Alex Rodriguez, so to hear him booed mercifully is no surprise, that’s just how fans are. But to hear the pure vitriol for A-Rod was interesting considering the Red Sox have some very prominent stars over the years who are also known PED users. One of them, David Ortiz, is the face of the Red Sox, and could not be loved more by the Fenway fans. But remember, we have decided we like Ortiz, he’a a personable guy, unlike A-Rod who always leaves people feeling as if he is reading from a script.
When A-Rod stepped to the plate last night, the Fenway crowd was in a fenzy, chanting “You’re a cheater” to start the second inning. Dempster’s first pitch to Rodriguez, an 89-mph fastball, sailed behind him, nearly catching him on the left leg.
After two more inside fastballs, Dempster’s 3-0 pitch nailed Rodriguez between his left elbow and his ribs.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was furious, not only because one of his players was being treated as a piñata, but because home plate umpire Brian O’Nora issued warnings to both sides, even though it was painfully obvious that Dempster’s beaning of A-Rod was intentional.
“You can’t start throwing at people,” Girardi said. “Lives — people have had concussions. Lives are changed by getting hit by pitches. Whether I agree with everything that’s going on, you do not throw at people and you don’t take the law into your own hands. You don’t do that. We’re going to skip the judicial system? It’s ‘My Cousin Vinny.’ “
What was most surprising about the scene was that even the umpires seem to treat Rodriguez differently. I have been watching baseball for over 25 years and I have never seen such a blatant intentional beaning of a player where the pitcher was not tossed. Sure, sometimes a ball can slip away, but this was different, very different, and everyone on the field, in the stands, and watching at home knew that; whether they loved the fact that Dempster hit A-Rod or hated it, the intention was clear, and the umpires actions after the fact were incredibly distasteful.
For a lot of people, watching the scene that unfolded actually brought sympathy to Alex Rodriguez, which in itself is hard to believe. And then came the redemption that even the most hard core A-Rod haters had to think was an incredible baseball moment. In the sixth, Rodriguez belted the second pitch he saw from Dempster in the inning into the center-field seats to cut the Red Sox lead to 6-4. The Yankees would go on to take the lead and would not relinquish it.
Shortly after the home run, Dempster – who took the loss, going 5 1/3 innings and giving up seven runs – was taken out of the game and received a standing ovation from the packed house at Fenway.
“What is wrong with people?” Girardi said. “You cheer when someone gets hit? I’m going to say it again: What if that were your son? What if your son got hit? Breaks an arm, gets hit in the head, has a concussion. I would be embarrassed.”
I’m not trying to tell you how to feel about Alex Rodriguez. As I said earlier, A-Rod deserves the suspension he is going to get, but that doesn’t mean we should get to take matters into our own hands the way Ryan Dempster did last night. As a baseball fan who does not care much at all for Alex Rodriguez, I have to admit that when A-Rod took Dempster deep in the sixth I was sporting a very wide smile, and for the first time in a long time, found myself cheering for Alex—something I never thought I would do again. I think this was what a lot of us felt last night, which means that Ryan Dempster’s wild west justice may have not have been as effective as he had planned.