swollendome

Early Sunday evening, I was attending to my long-honored tradition of the “naptastrophe.” My Sunday morning FOX Sports Radio show necessitates the early alarm, thereby putting me into a late-afternoon stupor that requires what some would consider a “long nap” and others would consider a “catastrophic” system failure. Thus, the “naptastrophy” was born.

I digress.

I awoke to my phone bleeping at me about the big story out of Sunday night – Ryan Dempster plunking Alex Rodriguez during the Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park. I immediately scrambled to my Twitter feed and the inevitable GIF that would come out of the event.

My first reaction was this. Why the hell did it take Dempster four pitches to hit Rodriguez? Was he having a “Hamlet” moment? Had he found a moment of inner turmoil and debate?

The response in the Twitterverse and some of the sports talk radio world was nothing, in my opinion, short of sad. There was an awful lot of Cheering In The Press Box? Many openly applauded the move and called for it to be repeated throughout the remainder of the regular season.

I could only shake my head. The open support for the HBP — ON FOUR PITCHES – was ridiculous. The, fans gave Dempster a standing ovation for his efforts (after Rodriguez later homered and with a bloated stat line). But after watching the sequence several additional times, I had to wonder. Did he think Rodriguez was going to walk away from the batter’s box after the first three pitches? Does the pitch sequence time out in line with the “Jaws” theme?

Whatever your feelings about Rodriguez, the appeal process and the CBA allows him to be on the field. I’m sure that many players, Dempster included, are none too excited to see Rodriguez there. I understand the arguments. I do. But the CBA has rules and penalties in place. As of now, Rodriguez is in the appeal process. He did not accept the ruling handed down like the other 12 players and settled in for a long fight.

Rodriguez has the right to build his case, a case that has become a soap opera between the Yankees, Bud Selig and Major League Baseball, doctors, lawyers and Rodriguez himself. Sunday night’s Dempster HBP was the latest episode and with Monday’s “Today” show interview between a lawyer and Matt Lauer added a new wrinkle.

It comes down to this:

— Joe Girardi is charged to win games for the Yankees.
— The third base position produced nothing for the Yankees and Rodriguez is eligible.
— While a longshot to leap multiple teams, the Yankees are only 6 1/2 games out of a Wild Card slot.
— Rodriguez will play, draw a check and perhaps numbers that get him to a contract bonus. His appearance loads his account for the drawn-out legal process.

Does Rodriguez become a sympathetic character? The fact that the Commissioner’s Office under Bud Selig isn’t exactly a sacred, revered institution doesn’t make that an impossible notion. Hardcore baseball fans talk of cheating history, the magic of baseball days gone by and those numbers that are etched into our brains. I understand their angst. Those numbers, and players’ pursuits of them, were the storylines that linked seasons together and made players “our guys.”

The 1998 season and subsequent seasons played out like a movie. Fans suspended disbelief and packed stadiums. Writers, broadcasters and the world at large watched wide-eyed as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa (later Barry Bonds) slammed home runs by the truckload. Major League Baseball enjoyed the nightly highlight reels, ticket sales and a soaring, renewed interest in the “Great American Pastime.” You can’t unring the bell.

—–

It’s a long, sordid story and a race that will never find a finish line. Rodriguez is Public Enemy No. 1 and the subject of everyone’s ire and derision. Based on the allegations, it’s a title that he’s earned.

I don’t know what grand statement Dempster made here. Rodriguez came back to the batter’s box and hit a home run that trumped that earlier at-bat.

Those that cheered his efforts had to be disappointed when Dempster didn’t flat-out say, “Yes, I wanted to hit him” in the post-game pressers. He didn’t own it. Dempster talked about pitching inside.

Oh, wait. The Red Sox sit one game ahead of the Rays in the AL East. And, admitting to hitting Rodriguez on purpose would draw Dempster a 10-game suspension. That’s two starts and, wait for it, a significant amount of cash deducted from Dempster’s paychecks.

And he wouldn’t want to give up those checks, right …. after breaking the rules? And, he’d appeal the suspension through the CBA to reduce the number of games lost to his team and the dollar amount sacrificed, right?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.