EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 20, 2013

Dempster ruined a great night at Fenway

Bill Burt
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — It isn’t often I feel bad for Alex Rodriguez. Almost everything that has come his way, in terms of negative publicity, has been deserved.

He’s a steroid with legs; a great athlete who couldn’t deal with not being the greatest athlete (i.e. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens).

He’s one of the most uncomfortable superstar athletes I’ve ever been around. He’s not mean, just ... not real.

But after Ryan Dempster’s fourth pitch to the Yankees third baseman in the second inning -- the other three were within inches of hitting A-Rod -- the one that him on his elbow pad, I found myself thinking one thing: “Who the hell is Ryan Dempster?”

And yes, I felt bad for A-Rod.

I have to applaud Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who if he had his druthers would cut ties with A-Rod immediately if it was allowed. Girardi, who has had a tough season with injuries and controversy while stumbling in fourth place, went after the umpire as if his wife was being beaned.

Girardi was upset the Dempster wasn’t thrown out and that the Yankees were allowed to police the game themselves, which means C.C. Sabathia wouldn’t be allowed retribution on Dustin Pedroia’s elbow or David Ortiz’s butt.

With Dempster directing the ship, the Red Sox, leading 2-0 at the time and appearing ready to end the Yankees season on this night, did the opposite and woke up the Yankees. Instead of leaving Logan Airport 9.5 games out of first, they played like champions after the plunking and instead left the park only 7.5 games behind.

Everything changed after that selfish act by Dempster, who is 130-133 lifetime. The Yankees woke up. Worse, the Yankees started caring about A-Rod, which according to the New York tabloids was a miracle event.

The Red Sox really needed the win on Sunday night. They have been playing with fire lately, going 3-7 over their last 10, 10-10 over their last 20 and 15-15 over their last 30.

They needed a win from a pitcher, making $13.25 million this year and next, who has offered little in hope for the immediate playoff future at 6-9 with a 4.77 earned run average.

That’s no way to head into September, particularly when the undermanned Tampa Bay Rays appeared ready to be a American League Wild Card contender.

But Dempster had to do the “right” thing for all of us and all of baseball. He needed to be guy who put A-Rod in his place for apparently “ratting” out one of the biggest superstar cheaters of them all (is that really ratting?) -- Ryan Braun.

Dempster should not only be suspended a few weeks for intentionally being a super, tough guy, but he should be suspended by the Red Sox for sheer stupidity.

There is a time and a place for self-policing, but Sunday Night Baseball, in the second inning of a 2-0, was not the place.

The sixth or seventh inning of an 8-2 game? Have at him. Throw in his direction once and move on.

The message would have been sent. Dempster would have been a hero with the rank and file major leaguers who despite A-Rod.

But Dempster isn’t that smart or that good. He isn’t good enough to plunk the first batter of an inning of a big game and get the out of the inning without retribution.

The irony is that Dempster, who by all accounts is a decent, team-oriented guy, was trying to raise money for his charity -- his daughter Riley who has DiGeorge Syndrome -- competing with Yankees reliever David Robertson, who was raising money for his charity.

Well, that competition and great story blew up in Dempster’s selfishness.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.