Whatever message Ryan Dempster was trying to send, it served as a sort of wake-up call for the Yankees. Who would have guessed that the rallying point for one of the biggest games of the year would be Alex Rodriguez?
“Honestly, I had like 15 of my teammates come up to me and said, ‘Hit a (freaking) bomb and walk it off,’” Rodriguez said. “They were pissed off and so was I.”
And so was Joe Girardi, who gave one of the finer on-field arguments I’ve ever seen.
“It can’t happen,” Girardi said. “You can’t just start taking pot shots because you disagree with the way the system is set up. … I want (the players) to come out (of the dugout). As I’ve said all along, you may not agree with the way Major League Baseball is handling this or that — that’s everyone’s opinion, and I respect that; I’m OK with that — but that’s your teammate, and we don’t allow people just to get plunked.”
Of course Ryan Dempster said it wasn’t intentional, but as Brett Gardner said: From the moment that first pitch went behind Rodriguez, everyone knew what was going on. Rodriguez hasn’t been a unifying figure, but he was tonight. He also delivered the line of the night when asked whether Dempster should be suspended.
“I’m the wrong guy to be asking about suspensions,” he said, prompting laughter all around.
Things felt easier after this one. The Yankees clubhouse was lighter. At one point, while ESPN’s highlights played on the clubhouse TV, Vernon Wells walked by and said to no one in particular: “Drama!” It was as if the whole scandal had mildly transformed. It still has its dark side, no question, but for a night it became an unexpected way to unify the Yankees.
Rodriguez was hit, and the team stood up for him.
“To me, it all starts with Joe Girardi,” Rodriguez said. “His support has been incredible. I love the guy. He has always been there for me. His reaction is another example of how much he supports me, and all my teammates. But we’re really focused right now. We have to win every game, every series, and just play with a lot of urgency. But I think Joe set the tone for us today.”
“Ryan Dempster has hit six guys in the last 320 innings. He threw the first ball behind (Alex Rodriguez), intentional. He threw the next one inside, he didn’t hit him, intentional. At some point Brian O’Nora has got to give him a warning. And he should’ve thrown him out of the game is the bottom line. Everyone knows it was intentional and I don’t understand why he’s left in the game and then to give us a warning? Brian and I have a long history together back in A ball, Double A, and I respect him. But that was wrong.
“And the one thing you can’t do is you can’t start changing the system because maybe you don’t like it. Ryan Dempster has been a player rep and has been very involved in the union. He knows these guys, this is what they decided to do, so you can’t change it just take your pot shots. And you’d have to have your head in the sand with the comments that came from the other side not to know that something might be up. I thought it was handled very poorly and I was upset about yesterday because calls went against us that changed the complexion of the game. Then you have this. It’s just flat wrong.”
CC Sabathia: “I thought it was bootleg, but Alex went deep and we won the game. … I don’t think that’s up to him to determine (whether Rodriguez should be punished). To throw a guy because he’s going through what he’s going through. Maybe it was something different, but I don’t think it’s up to Dempster to police that.”
Brett Gardner: “The first pitch went behind him, and then obviously after the first pitch goes behind him, Alex knows what’s going on. The next pitch is waist-high and in and Alex just stood there. It almost hit him. Then the next pitch hit him. It was obvious what was going on. … I’m not sure how I would feel if I was on a different team, but Alex is my teammate and obviously I’m glad to have him back in the room.”
Alex Rodriguez: you like me or hate me, that was wrong. It was unprofessional and silly. Kind of a silly way to get somebody hurt on your team as well. … Especially when (the first pitch) is behind me — this guy has pretty good control — I thought it was over at that point. I thought the umpires would handle it at least, make sure no one gets hurt in that situation.”
Joe Girardi: “You can’t start throwing at people. Lives — people have had concussions — lives are changed by getting hit by pitches. Whether I agree with everything that’s going on, you do not throw at people and you don’t take the law into your own hands. You don’t do that. We’re going to skip the judicial system? It’s My Cousin Vinny.”
• Rodriguez acknowledged after the game that he’s begun the process of filing a grievance against the Yankees. He also spoke for a while about yesterday’s comments from his lawyer. “What my lawyer says, he said,” Rodriguez said. “I’m going to stand behind it.” I’ll have more on Rodriguez’s take on his fight with the Yankees in the morning. For this moment, the important takeaway is the grievance. We’ll focus this post on the game itself.
• Eduardo Nunez has a tight right hamstring. It essentially happened on that sixth-inning single when the ball hit off the Monster and Nunez slid awkwardly into first base. “It was tight before, but on that play, I felt it more,” Nunez said.
• It’s still hard to tell whether this is a serious injury. Nunez said he hopes to play on Tuesday, but also said his hamstring was still “very tight” after the game. He’s hoping a day of treatment tomorrow will be enough to get through it. “Probably know a lot more tomorrow and Tuesday,” Girardi said. “Even in here, he said he could still play. He stole two bases, he said, but a lot of times that’s adrenaline and you’ve really got to see. I don’t think it’s something real, real serious, but could it be a Grade 1? I guess. We’re not going to know for a couple of days.”
• Rodriguez acknowledged — how could he not? — that he might have given a little extra to his home run celebration. “I was just really excited,” he said. “Maybe a little bit.” He gave a big hand clap at first base, seemed to be talking as he rounded the bases, and then stood for a while when he got to home plate. Rodriguez said he wasn’t really saying anything to Dempster during his trot. “He couldn’t hear me anyway, as loud as they were booing me,” Rodriguez said.
• Sabathia said his biggest problem was getting the ball in against righties. “I felt pretty good,” he said. “Throwing the ball pretty well and I felt good. I just got behind some guys and wasn’t able to make pitches, but I’m glad we got the win.” I’ve heard Sabathia much more down on himself in the past than he was tonight.
• Did the warning affect the way Sabathia pitched? “Not at all,” he said. “It never does. It’s up to the umpire to make the judgment if the thinks that I’m throwing at a guy, but it never really affects the way I throw.”
• Huge triple by Gardner to score three runs and put the Yankees in front against a lefty. “He’s come up with big hits for us,” Girardi said. “I mean, Gardy’s a gamer. He’s been that way ever since we’ve had him. He plays hard and runs into walls and steals bases and gets beat up, but he doesn’t shy away from the moment.”
• Gardner was also the most aggressive Yankee on the field after Rodriguez was hit. Did any of the Red Sox saying anything back to Gardner? “I don’t think they’re going to say anything,” Gardner said. “Their guy was in the wrong.”
• Girardi said he had no problem with there being no ejections for the other three Yankees who were hit tonight. Those were clearly unintentional. I believe all three came on breaking balls.
• Girardi said he’s hoping Dempster will be suspended, and suspended in a way that forces him to miss a start. If there’s not punishment, it seems to open the door to pitchers being able to take shots at Rodriguez. “You can’t allow it to happen,” Girardi said. “People have talked about, you don’t allow people just to be thrown at because you don’t like them or you disagree with something. You can’t do that.”
• The ejection was the 23rd of his career, 20th as a manager and 19th as a Yankee. He’s been ejected twice this season, both against the Red Sox.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “Extremely proud. They rallied behind (the hit by pitch). It got us going. We scored runs, we ended up getting big hits by a lot of guys. Alex hit a home run, Gardy has a big triple. It’s a great win for us.”
Associated Press photos