When Ryan Dempster made us like Alex Rodriguez

Jared Wickerham

With everything that's happened to (or by) Alex Rodriguez in the last year or so, you could almost assume there would be a redemptive moment. Of sorts. What you might not have assumed is that Sunday night's game in Fenway would feature what might be one of the 10 greatest moments in Rodridguez's phenomenal-but-star-crossed career.

It did, though. Here's Josh Lewin in Slate this morning:

When Rodriguez stepped to the plate in the second inning, Dempster threw his first pitch behind the batter’s legs, drawing raucous cheers from the Fenway Park crowd. After two more pitches that were just a bit inside—and with the crowd rhythmically chanting "You’re a cheater"—Dempster hit A-Rod in the left elbow with his 3-0 pitch, to the great delight of the Red Sox faithful.

Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora did not toss Dempster from the game, instead pointing showily to the pitcher and both dugouts to indicate that everyone was being warned—that any future shenanigans from either team would not be tolerated. This enraged Yankees manager Joe Girardi, because the Yankees had done absolutely nothing except send Rodriguez to the plate (which, honestly, they’d have preferred not to do if they had any choice). In the end, Girardi was the one who got ejected from the game after a classic yelling-at-the-ump-two-inches-from-his-face hissy fit. And the Fenway crowd predictably started chanting, "Yankees suck! Yankees suck!"

And people wonder why ESPN shows the Red Sox and the Yankees whenever they possibly can...

Look, I'm neither a Yankees fan nor an Alex Rodriguez fan. I think you know this about me. So I must offer my heartiest of congratulations for Ryan Dempster for making me cheer for Alex Rodriguez. When he hit that home run in the sixth inning off Dempster -- the longest home run by a Yankee this year, by the way -- I jumped out of my chair and pumped my fist and screamed YES!!!!

Okay, so I didn't actually do that. It takes a lot to get me out of my chair. But I was glad, because I am a fan of poetic justice.

Joe Girardi was right to be incensed. Brian O'Nora had to do something when Dempster hit Rodriguez. He did the wrong something. He should have summarily tossed Dempster out of the game, because throwing low-90s fastballs at human beings should not be tolerated, and in this case there was roughly a 0.36-percent chance that Dempster's four inside fastballs were accidental.

I get it: Dempster wanted to make a point. Consider his actions a form of civil disobedience. But if you're gonna do the crime, man, you gotta do the time. O'Nora shoulda thumbed Dempster out of the game immediately. Which would have left the Red Sox needing seven-plus innings out of their bullpen, and in a lousy position to win.

Enter poetic justice, as Rodriguez did hit the sixth-inning homer and the Yankees did mount a furious comeback to win, dropping Boston's lead in the East to just a single game over the second-place Rays.

Again, congratulations to Ryan Dempster and maybe to Bud Selig, too. They've done what two weeks ago seemed practically impossible: They've turned Alex Rodriguez into a sympathetic figure. Of sorts.

More from Baseball Nation:

Grant Brisbee’s Weekend Recap!

When "reason" led a sabermetrician to suicide

Look out: Commissioner Bud just found out about Tropicana Field

Your favorite replay system? It’s not perfect, either.

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