It’s been a weird couple of weeks for Alex Rodriguez. The extravagantly paid slugger is in the midst of appealing a 211-game ban while a dozen of his peers are already serving Biogenesis-related suspensions. He stands accused of not only taking performance-enhancing drugs, but possibly selling out a teammate to take the heat off his own back. His uneasy relationship with Yankees management has deteriorated to the point that he barely speaks with GM Brian Cashman, who said that they are in a “litigious environment” and that it was a distraction. Last night, during the Red Sox-Yankees game on ESPN, some wondered why A-Rod hasn’t simply been cut from the team to avoid all the headaches.
Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse for A-Rod, enter Ryan Dempster. The Red Sox pitcher faced the lustily booed lightning-Rod (boom, pun) in the second inning, and the at-bat went as follows: threw behind A-Rod, threw hard inside, threw hard inside, hit him on the arm and back. Here’s the pitch that “cleared” the bullpens and potentially sparked a new era for A-Rod and the Yankees (via @CorkGaines):
Oh, Ryan Dempster. A-Rod was already one of the greatest villains in baseball history. Here’s what you don’t need to do to someone like that: give people a reason to rally around him. And rally the Yankees did. Yanks’ manager Joe Girardi went apeshit when Dempster wasn’t tossed. We’re not professional lipreaders, but this definitely looks like “That’s bullshit, fucking pussy!”
Even worse for the Red Sox: A-Rod ended up scoring later that inning, helping the Yankees get back two runs after a shaky C.C. Sabathia gave up two of his own in the first. The Yankees didn’t retaliate by throwing at anybody — they let their bats do the talking: A-Rod hit a homer in the sixth to spark a go-ahead rally, and the Yankees went on to win 9-6. Here’s A-Rod’s whole night, from the beaning to the bombing:
Look, I’m a little biased as a Yankees fan. But Dempster’s move was classless and provided a spark for a team that desperately needs one going down the home stretch. A-Rod himself acknowledged that his team was behind him after the 2nd inning: “Joe’s reaction was amazing. Every single one of my teammates came up to me and said, ‘Hit a bomb and walk it off.'”
If A-Rod continues to hit well and in clutch moments (he’s hitting .319 through 47 at-bats) and the Yankees surge into the playoffs, what then? Yankee fans and management alike are already a little confused as to how to feel about him. It was easy to hate A-Rod last year when he was stinking up the joint in the playoffs. But if he becomes a rallying point for a team that has been mired in mediocrity for about four months?
It won’t make a difference, of course, if an arbitrator rules that he should serve a suspension. But as final acts go, this one could be legendary.
Photo via Getty