National Columnist

Ryan Dempster tried to send a message to A-Rod, and that's OK

So, Ryan Dempster hit A-Rod on purpose? Good for him. (USATSI)
So, Ryan Dempster hit A-Rod on purpose? Good for him. (USATSI)

Ryan Dempster threw at Alex Rodriguez the other night, and kept throwing at him until he hit him, and baseball suspended him for it and the Yankees hated it and I loved it.

That's OK to say, right? That I loved the way Dempster went after A-Rod?

That doesn't feel like an admission, because you "admit" things that are somewhat embarrassing or scandalous. Liking what Dempster did to A-Rod isn't embarrassing and it better not be scandalous, no matter what CC Sabathia says. Liking what Dempster did to A-Rod feels sensible. Because what Dempster did to A-Rod looked sensible.

It looked right.

You and I both know the reason baseball became such a dirty game: The players let it happen. First, they cheated. That's the obvious part. Then came the overt support for the cheaters, which the players' union provided by stonewalling baseball's efforts to test for steroids, then HGH. Then came the unspoken support for the cheaters in the form of tolerance.

A guy like Melky Cabrera cheated his ass off last season, and that was no victim-less crime. All those hits and runs came at the expense of pitchers, some of whom -- most of whom, you'd like to think -- weren't cheating. He was caught in 2012 when he was leading the National League in hitting at .346 after 113 games. Any idea how many times Cabrera has been hit by a pitch in the last two seasons, either 2012 when he was hitting 71 points above his career batting average or here in 2013, after being outed as a cheater?

Zero times.

Not one pitcher has hit Cabrera, not in either of the last two seasons. Not one pitcher has policed the game, as they like to say in clubhouses. I'm not talking about beaning the guy. I'm not talking about throwing a pitch at his head. I'm talking about the kind of thing pitchers do all the time, burying a fastball in an offending player's butt. It happens. Part of the game, all that.

For some reason, doing what Dempster did to A-Rod -- what nobody has ever done to Cabrera -- isn't part of the game.

Why is that? Honestly, why not? Players get plunked for a lot less offensive stuff than what A-Rod has done. (If this is where I'm supposed to use the term "allegedly" or note that he hasn't been suspended or even failed a drug test that we know of, forget it. That would be some Pollyanna nonsense right there, and after writing this on the Philadelphia Eagles on Wednesday, I'm all out of Pollyanna.)

Earlier this season Pirates pitcher Bryan Morris plunked the Mets' Jordany Valdespin one day after Valdespin committed the egregious error of hitting a home run and enjoying it. Because that's "showing up" the other team, and showing up the other team must be policed.

Same goes for cheating for a decade or more, however long A-Rod's been doing it. That should be policed. Ryan Dempster of the Red Sox played policeman and plunked A-Rod. Rodriguez himself called it "silly," and maybe it was. How come it took Dempster four attempts to hit Rodriguez? That's silly.

A-Rod also called it "unprofessional," as if he'd know. Go slap a ball out of a fielder's glove, A-Pro. Scream at another fielder to make him drop a pop-up. You idiot.

A-Rod was guilty 10 years ago -- without failing a drug test, I may add -- and he sure seems guilty now. While A-Rod has the right to fight the charges, we have the right to our opinion on his guilt or innocence. Dempster has the right to his opinion as well, and you know what? His opinion matters more than yours or mine. Dempster is playing the same game as A-Rod, competing for the same prizes, and also (assuming he's clean) is among the players unfairly dealing with the guilt-by-association fallout from guys like A-Rod (and Cabrera, Ryan Braun and so many more).

Dempster lashed back? Good for Dempster.

Here is where I'll mention the other "proof" offered as Dempster's motivation for hitting A-Rod: Some dude's tweets. After Dempster hit A-Rod on Sunday, a hockey writer in Ottawa tweeted twice about the time he met Dempster in Detroit this season, or maybe it was last offseason, or perhaps it was New Years' Eve of 2007 -- the writer didn't say -- and Dempster complained that A-Rod had blown him off at some function or another. And then Dempster volunteered to the hockey writer that he'd get even by hitting A-Rod the first chance he got.

People believed those tweets. Why? Because they read it on the Internet, I guess. Dempster meets some dude and confesses his plan to bean one of the most famous athletes in America? Believe that if you want.

Me, I'll believe in the nobility of Dempster's act, whether he threw at A-Rod for cheating or for being a rat whose people turned in other cheaters to take the heat off Rodriguez. Whatever the case, Dempster wasn't trying to hurt anyone, and he didn't. He was trying to send a message, and he succeeded.

Big-time veteran baseball writers disagree with that message -- one from USA Today, and even that knucklehead Jon Heyman here at CBSSports.com -- as did Red Sox teammate David Ortiz ("I didn't like it") and two of the best pitchers in the American League. Detroit's Max Scherzer said, "I really don't understand why it happened, trying to take a shot at somebody." And Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia stuck up for his teammate like so: "You don't throw at a guy four times. He violated every code in every way."

Spare me with that "code" crap. Please? Apparently baseball's code says it's OK to throw at Jordany Valdespin for enjoying his home run too much. It's OK to throw at Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, as Phillies starter Cole Hamels admitted he did last season, for playing the game with too much exuberance. It's OK to throw at Marlins outfielder Brett Carroll for stealing second in a 7-0 game in the fourth inning, as White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen admitted he did in 2010.

But it's not OK to throw at a cheater who has been cheating for years?

It's not?

That was OK, Ryan Dempster. It was OK with me, anyway. And it'd be OK with me if someone from the Rays did it to A-Rod this weekend.

Some messages can't be delivered enough.

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