Monday, August 19, 2013

Spite and Stupidity Don't Start With the Same Letter by Accident

Ryan Dempster finally has one record to point to in his utterly routine major league career. Turning Alex Rodriguez into a sympathetic figure and losing a ballgame for your team in a pennant race in the bargain sets a mark for Biggest Fuck-Up, Single Game that should stand for decades unless glue-sniffing becomes the next fad in baseball substance abuse.

Dempster's terrible twos level behavior of throwing at A-Rod during the latter's first at-bat was a disgrace to his sport and to the idea man is a being capable of rational thought, let alone ethical thought. The Red Sox pitcher's fit of pique was such an all-encompassing failure, it's hard to know where to begin to denounce it.

Let's start with the obvious -- moral failure. A-Rod stands accused of some very bad baseball crimes, using performance-enhancing drugs, which many players resent, and being a rat stool pigeon about other players using PEDs, which ALL players resent. Meddling in the business of others is about the worst offense in the game's fortunately unwritten code of behavior.

Throwing a pitch to hit a batter on purpose is worse. That's assault with intent to commit bodily harm. Doesn't matter if Dempster didn't throw at Rodriguez's head. There's no part of the human body built to take contact with a major league pitch. Dempster should have been immediately ejected, and I suspect the only reason he wasn't was that ordinarily competent ump Brian O'Nora was so flabbergasted, he reacted with the rote bench warnings instead. Dempster should be suspended. If he isn't that'll be Bud Selig's moral failure.

So much for ethics. Let's descend to the lower level of practicality. Dempster is a middling starter for whom pitching appears to be a tremendous effort. Win or lose, watching him work is akin to watching convict labor break rocks under an August sun in southern Mississippi. He is nowhere near good enough to have the luxury of putting a leadoff runner on base as a political statement. Sure enough, the Yanks promptly erased the Red Sox lead in a game Dempster's team certainly would've appreciated winning.

There's also the effect of Dempster's assault on the Yankees to be considered. Not the least aspect of A-Rod's wretched situation is that among the players and with whom he is least popular are his teammates and his team's fans. When the ESPN cameras panned the Yankee dugout during the post-plunking rhubarb, the facial expression of the magnificent Mariano Rivera was a revelation. "Man," it said, "I really won't miss this shit next year."

With one spectacular act of unfair play, Dempster rallied both groups to A-Rod's side, at least for one night. Since Rodriguez is a mental wreck with an unhealthy dependence on the good opinion of others, this was just the thing to make him and his bat feel better. It's possible that could have a subsequent impact on the American League East.

Baseball is not a morality play. Good and Evil do not reveal themselves through the medium of the Astros and Marlins. The mistaken belief the sport does exemplify something beyond its wonderful self is one of the most important ingredients of the whole A-Rod fiasco. People, even ballplayers, can do wrong and not be doing evil. Dempster was wrong, just as A-Rod has been wrong, and you can't call one out without the other.

So I don't think the massive homer A-Rod hit off Dempster in the sixth inning tells us the slightest bit about each man's moral fiber. All it did was reveal the enormous gap between a Hall of Famer, even a terminally screwed-up, corrupted Hall of Famer, and a mutt.


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