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Even though Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games by the MLB, he is still playing because he has exercised his right to appeal that suspension as a “first-time offender.” Due to the complications in the case, it is likely that A-Rod will play the rest of the regular season. This may seem outrageous to some, but the fact is that even though his performance enhancing drug usage has been known for a long time, Rodriguez has never before been suspended under the PED policy.
While Red Sox players such as John Lackey and Jonny Gomes chose to speak out publicly against Rodriguez playing, Sunday night’s starter Ryan Dempster decided to let his actions speak for themselves. When Rodriguez stepped to the plate for his first at bat in the bottom of the 2nd inning, Dempster threw a fastball behind his legs. That wasn’t enough revenge apparently, as Dempster then threw a 3-0 heater square into A-Rod’s side. Umpire Brian O’Nora then emphatically warned both dugouts, much to the dismay of Yankees manager Joe Girardi. See how it all played out here: A-Rod gets hit
We all knew this had to happen. But I’m going to take an unpopular opinion as a Red Sox fan here. I dislike what A-Rod stands for as much as anyone and I’ll admit I was initially thrilled by him getting hit. However, throwing the first pitch behind him was enough. Yeah it wasn’t a plunk, but it was clearly intentional and sent the message loud and clear. Dempster had his one shot to hit A-Rod and he missed. Girardi definitely had a legitimate beef, there is no way Dempster should have been allowed to stay in the game after trying to hit Rodriguez multiple times and eventually succeeding. Had he been ejected in the second inning, the Red Sox bullpen could have been set back for days by being forced to finish almost an entire game.
I was actually really impressed by how the Yankees handled this. They took the high road and decided to let their play do the talking. While Girardi’s tirade and the clear outrage of a few players (in particular Brett Gardner) showed that the Yankees had their teammate’s back, they opted not to plunk a Red Sox player in retaliation. It was fascinating to see the team’s reaction, especially since the entire Yankees front office staff has criticized A-Rod throughout the process. But as a result, the Yankees’ bats woke up and won the battle where it counts: on the scoreboard. A-Rod started it off by shutting up Dempster the best way he knows, hitting a solo home-run which made the score 6-4 and lead to a 5 run inning, giving the Yankees the lead for good.
Let’s think about everything that has gone wrong for the Yankees this year. For the majority of the season, they have been without Derek Jeter, A-Rod, Curtis Granderson and former Red Sox all-star Kevin Youkilis. Star first baseman Mark Texeira and front-of-the-rotation starter Michael Pineda will most likely not play a game this season. Hall of fame closer Mariano Rivera is in his 40s coming off a torn ACL. At one point, first baseman Lyle Overbay was their clean up hitter. That is the same Lyle Overbay that was released by the Red Sox during Spring Training. Yet despite all of this, the Yankees have managed a record of 64-59. With over a month left to play, they are only 7.5 games behind Boston and just 6 games out of a wild card spot.
Now A-Rod and Granderson are back. Jeter is also close, but his back up Eduardo Nunez was a nightmare for Sox pitching Sunday night himself. They also re-aquired Alfonso Soriano, who is currently among the hottest hitters in baseball, and picked up the struggling former 40 home run basher Mark Reynolds, who happened to go deep against the Red Sox on Friday. If they managed to stay in the hunt without all that star power, imagine what is going to happen now that they are returning to full strength. This team is more than capable of making a historic late-season run.
I’m afraid that Ryan Dempster gave them all of the motivation they need to make it happen. Now that there are two wild card spots, the Yankees have an even better chance to make the playoffs. No one wants any part of that Yankee line-up come playoff time and I’m not counting them out of that hunt until the math says they’re out. Let’s hope Dempster’s message didn’t come at the expense of reviving the most dangerous line-up in the league.