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updated: 8/20/2013 12:51 AM

Don't vilify Dempster for plunking A-Rod

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  • New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, center, is tended to by a trainer after being hit by a fastball from Boston starter Ryan Dempster.

      New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, center, is tended to by a trainer after being hit by a fastball from Boston starter Ryan Dempster.
    Associated Press

  • Boston Red Sox's Ryan Dempster plunked Alex Rodriguez in the back in the second inning of Sunday's game.

      Boston Red Sox's Ryan Dempster plunked Alex Rodriguez in the back in the second inning of Sunday's game.
    Associated Press

  • Video: Rodriguez upset after getting

 
 

Monday's backlash against Ryan Dempster was stunning.

The former Cub/current Red Sox pitcher was vilified for throwing at Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez the night before.

To be honest, I thought Dempster would be awarded a Major League Baseball good-guy award for hitting A-Rod with a pitch. Yet listening to sports radio and TV -- yes, that's my life -- the airwaves were filled with criticism.

I also phoned a baseball-fan friend in Florida and before I could bring up another subject, he referred to Dempster as an unmentionable.

Naturally the Yankees, led by manager Joe Girardi, are outraged that Dempster wasn't ejected from the game for hitting Rodriguez.

The anti-Dempster response would have been universal except for one person.

Me.

I regret that pitchers no longer are applauded for policing the game however and whenever they see fit. Old-timers remember the tough guys and youngsters might have heard their names: Nolan Ryan, Stan Williams, Don Drysdale, Sal "The Barber" Maglie and Bob Gibson.

A batter's bean would be buzzed if he took his time getting into the batter's box. His pants would get dirty the next time up if he had hit a hard shot past the mound. Heck, he would get a free shave if his facial hair was too long.

The man with the ball was the man in charge and silly little umpire warnings weren't necessary to settle disputes.

Gibson or some other enforcer would throw at someone, go to the plate the next inning, be brushed back, glare toward the mound and that would be the end of it unless the dugouts emptied into a basebrawl.

OK, so that's one of the problems. Pitchers don't hit in the American League anymore, Dempster didn't come up to bat, and the Yankees couldn't return the message.

Tough toenails. That's the way it is. Pitchers don't hit in the AL. So what? That doesn't mean a Dempster can't drill an A-Rod on principle or just for the fun of it.

Throughout history a lot of pitchers have hit a lot of batters for lesser offenses than simply being Alex Rodriguez. It's not like Dempster targeted Cal Ripken Jr., Dale Murphy or one of the game's other golden boys.

Dempster hit freaking Alex Rodriguez, for gosh sakes.

If you can't throw at A-Rod, whom can you throw at? He transformed himself from superstar to super villain and in so doing painted a bull's-eye on his horse's petunia.

Dempster didn't even throw at Rodriguez' head. The pitch hit A-Rod in the back, or maybe at worse the ribs, traditionally a polite place to plunk a batter.

This particular pitcher essentially announced that this particular batter is a cheating, lying scoundrel who shouldn't be allowed to play right now.

Hurrah for Ryan Dempster. Never mind that he belongs to the players' union that bargained the appeal process that lets Rodriguez play while his suspension for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs is pending.

As long as A-Rod insists on continuing to take the field he'll be subjected to fans booing, the media digging up more dirt and pitchers throwing at him.

This isn't Little League we're talking about here. It's the big leagues played by big boys who carry out grudges that don't have to make sense.

All that's required is a pitcher with the ball in his hand not appreciating for whatever reason the guy with the bat in his hand.

Congratulations to Ryan Dempster for doing to Alex Rodriguez what countless other pitchers would love to do.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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