In all my countless years watching sports I've never felt the way I did last night after watching Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster deliberately nail Alex Rodriguez in the back with a 92 mile per hour fastball. I had witnessed several batters intentionally popped but it was within the context of the game, to get a hitter to back off the plate, to retaliate for the other team's player being hit in the previous inning, or to intimidate a guy who had blasted a home run in his previous at bat.
But this was way different.
As for Dempster, I can't get inside his mind and he said he was just trying pitch inside. But I believe, because it seemed so obvious, that he fired the ball at A-Rod for a whole host of reasons that went well beyond a typical bean ball attempt. I believe he took it upon himself-perhaps with Red Sox planning-to send a slew of messages to baseball's present-day pariah. Among them:
- I don't like you. The Red Sox don't like you. Baseball doesn't like you.
- I think you're a sleazebag.
- I don't like that you're been cheating all these years for using performance enhancing drugs.
- I don't like that you have repeatedly lied about it.
- I don't like that you are distracting the baseball world by putting so much attention on yourself and your appeal, especially when we, the Red Sox, are having a great year and leading the division over the Yankees.
- I don't like that you are being brash in defending yourself.
- I don't like that you have permanently stained professional baseball and made more people suspicious that many major league baseball players.
- I don't like that you have had a competitive advantage against all pitchers and hitters who have not used PEDs.
- I don't like that by doing so you have helped yourself become one of the richest baseball players, drive the fanciest cars, live in the biggest house (s?), have more disposable income than virtually anyone in baseball.
- I don't like that by cheating you have taken millions of dollars away from players who were not using PEDS and therefore could not perform up to your level. I don't like that you stole their lunch money.
This was personal. It went well beyond the Red Sox Yankees rivalry. This was a pitcher personally, publicly and directly telling off A-Rod that what he has done is despicable, classless, unfair, and uncool. In unequivocal terms he delivered the message to A-Rod that he doesn't go for selfish guys who only care about themselves, their stats, and their money, and are willing to do whatever it takes to meet their self-centered goals.
Had this not been A-Rod, I would think differently about what Dempster did. I am generally not in favor of pitchers throwing deliberately at hitters because it's dangerous. It could literally end a player's career; in many ways the batter is defenseless if a pitcher sets out to hit him. Not to be discounted, furthermore, is the pain of getting popped with a 90 degree fastball and potential injuries that could sideline the player.
But A-Rod deserved to be hit. In fact, he deserved, and should receive, a lot more backlash than just that for being such a stain on baseball. He is the antithesis of a role model. Young baseball players look at him and learn exactly the wrong lesson, that if they cheat they can get ahead and make tens of millions of dollars. Young kids learn that in any profession cheating can translate into tens of millions of dollars. This world will be a worse place if more kids grow up angling to circumvent the system. Why? Because the system will continue to be compromised and, if it progresses far enough, destroyed. Fairness in competition is one of the founding principles of our society.
There will always be cheaters, people looking to make it big without playing by the same rules as everybody else. But they need to be minimized and suppressed to sustain a legitimate meritocracy. A-Rod is a cheater of the highest order. When the Red Sox crowd cheered when he got hit, I for a moment felt a bit sorry for the guy. Poor guy, I thought. He has to endure the pain of a hardball punishing his back and a stadium full of fans cheering that it happened. How sad. But that sympathy only lasted a second or two because I thought about who this man really is. By cheating he had, in a real sense, thrown hundreds of cheap fastballs at his competitors and hit them, causing them pain. He hit homers off pitchers because he had an unfair advantage, hit more homers than other hitters and therefore got paid more money. He is bush league to his fingertips.
This insufferable guy deserved to get hit. Although as a rule something to be avoided, revenge is sometimes appropriate. It would be one thing if he only cheated, which is reprehensible in itself. But he has been defiant and is paying millions of dollars to slick lawyers so they can figure out some way to get his 211 game suspension reduced so he can keep playing baseball, which he says he loves to do.
No one cares how much he loves to play baseball. Everyone wants him to never play again. But it's all about what Alex wants and always has been. Everybody knows it. And nobody likes him.