Joe Girardi’s Message to His Team: Support A-Rod

Giardi made sure his team stuck up for A-Rod.
Giardi made sure his team stuck up for A-Rod.

It was coming at some point. The hatred for Alex Rodriguez is palpable throughout all of baseball. Players hate that their MLBPA dollars are going to his defense. And with the Red Sox and Yankees playing this weekend, it was all but certain that A-Rod would get plunked at least once. After two clean games, Ryan Dempster took it upon himself to take up the task. In the second inning, with no one out and no one on base, Dempster threw the first pitch behind Rodriguez’s back, then threw two more balls and, with a 3-0 count, hit him in the back. Sox manager John Farrell can claim otherwise as much as he wants, but the pitch was certainly intentional.

Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora warned both teams immediately, but did not eject Dempster. The benches briefly cleared, but the players never came together. Yankees manager Joe Girardi was incensed. He got in O’Nora’s face, screaming at the umpire and throwing his hat in disgust. Girardi was quickly ejected, but his point was clear: Alex Rodriquez is a member of the New York Yankees and players stick up for their teammates. After rumors surfaced last week that A-Rod had turned over evidence that implicated other MLB players in the Biogenesis scandal, including teammate Francisco Cervelli, it was fair to wonder how even his own teammates would treat him. Rodriguez has always been an outcast in the clubhouse, but if he had snitched on a teammate, would players even support him when he inevitably got beaned?

The answer is yes. The dugouts and bullpens cleared briefly, but the main action was Girardi’s tirade against O’Nora. He knew Dempster hit A-Rod on purpose and wanted the Sox starter ejected from the game. But the real reason for his explosion was to show his team that no matter what A-Rod has done, he’s still the starting third basemen for the New York Yankees and as such, they will defend him. They can ignore him in the clubhouse and after the game, but on the diamond, teammates protect each other. Period. Girardi sent that message loud and clear.

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Pedroia Demonstrates His Leadership

Anyone who hasn’t seen David Ortiz’s outburst last night should watch immediately:

The count was 3-0 when Ortiz stepped out of the batters box and asked for time. Home plate umpire Tim Timmons refused, Baltimore pitcher Jair Asencio threw a pitch high and Timmons called it a strike anyways. It should’ve been ball four. A few pitches later, Ortiz struck out and had some words for Timmons as he headed back to the dugout.

Then Big Papi lost it. He took three huge swings with his bat against the telephone in the dugout. The plastic box that encases the telephone was destroyed with pieces of it and the bat flying in different directions. It was a pretty dangerous move by the Sox slugger. He nearly hit Dustin Pedroia with his swings and the flying plastic went off all over the place.

Immediately, Timmons ejected Ortiz, who came storming back on the field and had to be restrained by multiple Red Sox. In the dugout afterwards, Pedroia can be seen getting in Big Papi’s face, clearly upset about Ortiz’s dangerous tantrum.

Pedroia is just about the only player on the team that could get in Ortiz’s face there and have the right to do so. Big Papi is a team leader, a community leader and the face of the Boston Red Sox. He knows how important he is to this ballclub, but he also has a temper and has gotten mad at umpires over the years. It’s completely okay to get upset every once in a while – it happens to everyone, including Pedroia. But it’s not okay to take wild swings at a telephone in the dugout in close proximity to your teammates. That put not just Ortiz’s health in jeopardy, but also a number of other players. It was entirely unacceptable.

But, as I said, Ortiz is also a team leader and most players have so much respect for him to allow him a temper tantrum of that magnitude. Some players may even think he’s earned that right. He hasn’t. No player has and Pedroia told him so. Pedey is also a team leader and will be the face of the Red Sox for years to come after signing a seven-year deal last week. The deal takes him until he’s 38 years old and some people are a bit concerned about the length and significant amount of money tied up in it. But there’s a reason the Sox splurged on him. Pedroia is more than just one of the top second basemen in baseball. He’s also a great leader and clubhouse presence. He knew Ortiz was out of order and it was his job to tell him so. His teammates notice that. Young players notice that. They notice that he lets other players get upset about calls and is fine with it, but when a player’s tantrum puts other players’ safety at risk, it’s not okay. Not even when that player is David Ortiz.

After the game, Pedroia was asked about the incident and demonstrated his leadership once again:

It’s a good win. We have to build on that. Guys get frustrated. It’s part of the game. I just wanted to make sure David didn’t get too bad where he gets suspended or any of that. … He’s the biggest part of our lineup. We can’t afford to lose David for even one game.

That’s it. The issue is over. It’ll be on SportsCenter for a while and talked about on Monday. But Pedroia put it to bed here. He told Ortiz what he did wasn’t okay. He made sure the slugger didn’t get suspended by going after Timmons. He spoke to reporters after the game and focused on what matters: winning. The two probably cleared things up more in the clubhouse, but that stays there, as it should.

That, in a nutshell, is why Pedroia is so worthy of his new contract. Even though he’s in a slump right now, his leadership is still immensely valuable and a major reason why this Red Sox team has done so well this year. Don’t forget that when evaluating his new deal.

Punching (and Padding) Doors

Ryan Sweeney broke his pinky finger

Update: Here’s Sweeney talking about the injury before today’s Sox game: “I’ve talked to a lot of guys. Everybody’s thrown their helmet or thrown their bat or hit something.” As I said, players hit things out of frustration. It’s a human reaction. Let’s protect them.
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As Sox fans now by now, Red Sox backup outfielder Ryan Sweeney is likely out for the year after fracturing a knuckle in his pinky finger. Sweeney was frustrated after going 0 for four Monday night and took out his rage against a door. The door won.

Now without a doubt, it was a dumb move by Sweeney. But it was also unlucky. Players punch things all the time. That door has punched many times this year. Just look at what Valentine said after the game:

“The door he had actually hit was dented, so it wasn’t the first time. He must have went at it in the wrong direction, because there’s been multiple whacks at it.”

First off, if players are punching the door enough to dent it, it’s time to pad the thing already. Baseball can be extremely frustrating and players need a place to take their frustration out. Anybody who has played the sport can attest to that. There are plenty of times when you come back to the dugout and just want to punch something. In a little league season with a game every few days, that frustration dissipates in between games. In a 162 game season where that frustration has the chance to build game after game, often it can explode.

So here’s an idea: knowing this, why not protect players? We can call them dumb all we want, but frustration boiling over is a human trait and we see it happen all the time. Think how many times you see SportsCenter show players throwing a water cooler or smashing a bat or something like that. I’m sure it happens frequently down the tunnel and in the locker room too, as Valentine indicated by saying the door has been punched before. How about we pad these things then? Or even better, put a punching bag there, put a punching bag in the dugout. Give the players something to take their frustration out, not something int he weight room, but something immediately as they come off the field. It’s not going to stop all the dumb injuries, but it can certainly help. (Image Via)