Rodriguez’s employer is the New York Yankees, who still owe him $114 million on a 10-year, $275 million contract. Major League Baseball, which says it has an abundance of evidence that A-Rod was obtaining illegal performance-enhancing drugs from a Coral Gables, Fla., “anti-aging clinic,” recently suspended him for 211 games, by far the harshest penalty of the steroid era.
Under the basic agreement between Major League Baseball and its players union, A-Rod has appealed his suspension and is allowed to play until an arbiter decides whether the penalty is fair. This appeared to rankle Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster the other night.
Mr. Dempster has what’s known as excellent control. That means when he throws a baseball, he generally knows within a margin of an inch or two where it’s going to wind up. His first pitch to A-Rod almost hit him in the knees and sailed behind the hitter. The second and third pitches were inside, then on a 3-balls-and-no-strikes count, Dempster’s fastball smashed into Rodriguez’s ribs.
The umpire issued a warning that the next batter hit with a pitch would result in the pitcher and his manager being removed from the game. This prevented Yankees pitchers from retaliating by hitting a Red Sox hitter and rightfully infuriated New York manager Joe Girardi, who was thrown out of the game for arguing strenuously with the ump.
Days later, baseball fined Girardi $5,000. It fined Dempster only $2,500 and suspended him for a mere five games, which was OK with him and the Red Sox because starting pitchers play only once every five days. Tacitly, the league was informing its pitchers that it’s OK to hit A-Rod with a pitch any time they want.
Rodriguez got a modicum of revenge later in the game by hitting a massive home run off Dempster that helped the Yankees win. But A-Rod is today a marked man — marked by more than the bruise on his ribs.