What a poor strategy by the Boston Red Sox. The Sox are in a tight race in the American League East against the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles. Having split the first two games of a three-game set against the fourth-place New York Yankees, the Red Sox had a chance to take the series and maintain their lead over Tampa with a win Sunday night.
It was a time to knuckle down and play some serious baseball. Instead, pitcher Ryan Dempster chose to send a pointless message to steroid-bloated bad boy Alex Rodriguez. On a 3-0 count in the second inning, Dempster drilled Rodriguez in the ribs.
The Fenway crowd loved it but the Yankees were infuriated. Manager Joe Girardi stormed from the dugout and was ejected from the game. Both benches emptied.
The Red Sox went on to blow a 6-3 lead. The Yankees’ rally was led by a huge home run to deep center field by Rodriguez, who went 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs on the night.
There’s a lot of bad blood between Rodriguez and the Red Sox that goes beyond the standard Sox-Yanks rivalry. There was the Varitek mitt-to-the-face incident in 2004, then Rodriguez’s swatting the ball from the glove of Bronson Arroyo in the playoffs.
Now, Rodriguez, fighting a 211-game suspension for violating league rules on performance-enhancing drugs, is the least popular player in baseball. Rodriguez is deservedly drawing boos everywhere he plays. Stories out of New York say he’s not even very well liked on his own team. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman won’t even talk to him.
So why on earth would Dempster give Rodriguez the opportunity to be a hero? Why let him be the catalyst that brings a struggling Yankees team together?
The Yankees trail the Red Sox as of Tuesday by 8 games with 35 left to play. Will a fired-up Yankees team make a run at the Sox? More improbable things have happened in Red Sox history than this. If the improbable happens this year, look to Dempster’s ill-considered plunking of Rodriguez as the moment it began.