This Needs to Stop

Alex Rodriguez

Other than FIFA, the MLB is the world’s most archaic league. No professional sports league in North America is as slow at adapting to modern changes than Major League Baseball. It took a lifetime in and a half for Bud Selig to finally install an expanded replay system.

While the importance of history in the game of baseball cannot be underscored, its rich history prevents the league from moving forward. The illogical phrase preventing change of “this is how it has always been done” rings truer in the game of baseball than it does anywhere else.

Last night, Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster gave us his variation of the ever-constant vigilante justice we see in baseball. Dempster took it upon himself to send a cryptic message to Alex Rodriguez. He threw one pitch behind his knees, two pitches far enough inside for a half-blind person to understand what was going on and finally plunked A-Rod high and tight.

It was an unprecedented moment in MLB history.

I can’t lie. I smiled after seeing that 4th pitch bean baseball’s most polarizing figure since Barry Bonds retire. My baseball coach in high school, Dave Empey, was Ryan Dempster’s coach and is still his friend to this day. When I saw that 4th pitch fly into A-Rod’s elbow, I could hear Dave, in his old, cranky voice telling us in one of his pre-game speeches, “Ryan Dempster was a man!” Granted, Ryan Dempster doesn’t have to bat in the American league.

However, the biggest takeaway from this incident has to be the MLB’s ignorance of the vigilante justice that has been as integral to the game of baseball as the Kardashian’s are to late-night TV writers. Players and fans accept it, as we do with so many other things in society, because “that’s the way it has always been done.”

The vigilante justice pitchers impose when they bean an opposing does make some sense. Human beings are wired for revenge. An eye for an eye, right?

In this day and age though, that foolhardy acceptance of such a simple concept needs to change before someone gets hurt.

There has been no hotter topic than the issue of concussions in sports over the past few years. The NFL and NHL have gone out of their respective ways in attempts to minimize head injuries. The games have changed as a result of it.

The MLB is happy with vigilante justice. It means that, for the most part, they don’t have to deal with the straining process of determining suspensions. Accepting and recognizing it as simply a part of the game ensures that they don’t have to be the bad guy. Say what you want about Roger Goodell, but he has no qualms with being the bad cop.

Although the concept of vigilante justice does make some sense, when you break it down, it’s about as ridiculous as a monkey wearing a cowboy hat and riding a dog. Players hurl a rock hard object, the baseball, at the bodies and sometimes heads of opposing batters at speeds of 90-100 mph from 60 feet away. It may be considered justice in the game of baseball but, in a court of law, that sounds a helluva lot like assault with a deadly weapon.

Yet the majority of players and fans still seem to be fine with it.

Ryan Dempster continued to pitch. Joe Giradi was ejected for standing up for what was right. Curt Schilling said on the radio this morning that he couldn’t believe that C.C. Sabathia didn’t take it upon himself to stand up for his teammate.

Baseball mentality at its finest.

The MLB has been lucky. Despite the countless number of balls that have flown intentionally and unintentionally at the heads of players, no one has been seriously injured or killed. This may sound crazy but the ‘law of being due’ ominously looms over the game like a dark, stormy cloud. With the amount of balls that are purposefully flung at delicate human heads, it’s only a matter of time before someone sustains a life threatening injury.

It just takes one ball to hit the wrong spot, helmet or no helmet.

Major League Baseball has to get a better handle on this. Pitchers who intentionally toss balls at players should be suspended. A zero tolerance policy. It takes something to the degree of what Ryan Dempster did yesterday for the MLB to hand out one of those 6 game, 1 start suspensions.

Those 6 game suspensions have to be the bare minimum. Even though I still smirk when I think about Dempster’s best Batman impersonation, he needs to be made an example of. I know he won’t be but he should be. It can’t be up to the pitchers to do the dirty work. It’s not fair to the pitchers and it’s even less fair to the often time’s innocent (star) players who have to bear the brunt of the pitcher’s dirty work.

I don’t think I can count on my fingers how many times Bryce Harper has been thrown at in his very short MLB career.

Like so many things in life, significant penalties are the only way to change the culture. It’s the only way vigilante justice in baseball can be reined in. We can’t continue to stand idly by and tolerate players putting their lives on the line every time a team feels the need for retribution.

This is an important issue that is constantly swept under the rug by that dreaded nostalgic mantra. I get it. That’s how it has always been done.

But, come on. Let’s not wait until something tragic happens.

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Justin Verlander. The V is for Victory

Bull. Horse. Stud. Ace.

Those words could all describe Justin Verlander and last night he proved that he isn’t just one, but all of those adjectives wrapped up into one freakishly hard-throwing individual.

Justin Verlander wasn’t his 0.92 WHIP or 2.40 ERA self last night but that’s what made his start that much more impressive. Like any real ace would, Verlander battled through 8 gruelling innings against an all-star team line-up masking as a Major League team.

For me, Justin Verlander was more impressive last night than he has been at any point this season. That includes the no-hitter I watched against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Like many true aces do, Verlander struggled through the first inning. No surprise there. It also was no surprise that Verlander started to dominant as many true aces do in October. But a 7th inning double by Brett Gardner tied the game up at 4’s. A very good start turned into something rather ordinary for the Detroit Tiger stud.

But the Tigers roared back in the bottom of the 7th retaking the lead. Working on a modified 3 days rest, Justin Verlander came out for the 8th even though his pitch count was above 100.

Amazingly, that wasn’t the only thing that was above 100 late in the game. A tired Verlander was topping out at 101 mph with the game on the line. He was throwing harder than he did all game in the 7th and 8th innings. The TBS broadcast put up a graph early in the 8th inning showing Verlander’s velocity progression of the game, inning by inning. Naturally, Verlander’s speed gradually increased each inning with a major spike in the all important 7th inning.

He reached back like only a true ace can.

It didn’t matter though. The Yankees still touched him for 2 runs in the 7th inning.

After his team clawed back for a run in the bottom half of the inning, he fought back like only a true ace would.

The tiredness was apparent in the 7th inning. It was apparent in the 8th inning. No biggie though because it was of the utmost importance that Verlander finish out the 8th inning. Setup man Joaquin Benoit had pitched 2 innings the night before. Jose Valverde had thrown over 30 pitches in game 2 as well. With a 1 run lead against the New York Yankees in the pivotal game 3, Verlander had to come out for the 8th.

In 8 innings, Verlander bent but he didn’t break. He threw a scoreless 8th and gave way to Valverde and his ongoing save streak.

Mentally, Verlander looks to be as tough as they come. Facing the Yankee ace, C.C. Sabathia, who threw 106 pitches in 5.1 innings, Verlander was clearly unphased after putting his team in a hole early in the game.

He did this all under the immense pressures of October baseball. The immense pressures of being considered the game’s best pitcher. The immense pressures of possibly being the first pitcher in a long time to win the MVP. The immense pressures of playing the hated and storied New York Yankees.

A man isn’t measured by what he does when things are going well.

Wins for pitchers are slowly diminishing in value, and with good reason I might add. However, Justin Verlander last night truly won this game for the Tigers. He didn’t no hit his opponent like Roy Halladay or casually waltz through the Yankees like Cliff Lee did in recent history. What he did was take the bull by the horns and, when his team staked him to the game’s final lead in the bottom of the 7th, he came out and did what he had to do in the 8th.

In the process he not only put his team up 2-1 in the ALDS but he also brought Jose Valverde one step closer (no pun intended) to being able to say “I told you so” to everyone for his ridiculously stupid and not quite as clichéd guarantee.

Quite a player indeed.

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How Can You Not Laugh?

What now Jonathan?

Actually, I’m pointing and laughing.

The AL East hatred of the Yankees and Red Sox almost goes hand in hand. If you don’t live in either city, it’s likely that you have developed a passion for rooting against these two perennial powerhouse teams. Every year it’s like having The Joker and Two Face separately wreak havoc on the dreams of the 28 other Major League teams.

This is arguably the most epic collapse in the history of Major League Baseball. I say with immense pleasure that it was a treat to watch it unfold before my eyes.

It’s not sadistic. It’s only natural. I would even go as far to say that it would be wrong to sympathize with the Red Sox as well as the city of Boston.

If it isn’t the big payroll, it’s the snail’s pace, toolish looking closer, the powerhouse roster or the Boston fan that pisses you off even though you can’t quite figure out why. There are an endless amount of reasons to get satisfaction out of a Boston Red Sox collapse.

Why stop at the baseball team though?

I don’t just hate the Boston Red Sox. I’m jealous of the city.

It’s difficult to sympathize with a city that has as many championship teams as Boston has. Every single one of their teams has won a championship in the last 5 years. I, much like many of you, have gone my entire life without witnessing a championship from one of my hometown teams.

*Note: I was 1 and 2 years old at the time of the Toronto Blue Jays championships, which I hardly think counts.

At the same time, I have to say that I am stoked to see the Rays pull it out, especially in the fashion of a walk-off dinger. They deserve it. They deserve it because of all the personnel that they lost in the off-season. They deserve it because they don’t need $200 million to create a winning team.

Hopefully, for his sake, Carl Crawford can take solace in his many millions of dollars.

Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, Gonzalez, Crawford, Lester, Papelbon, Bucholz. Flat out, that’s not fair.

The manner in which the Red Sox lost their final chance at redemption makes it that much sweeter, like a hot fudge sundae on a hot summers day. It doesn’t get much better than a big BS for a pitcher who could probably use a punch in the face every now and then. Well, at least a nice little bitch slap.

My disgust of the Red Sox reached its height earlier in the season when Jonathan Papelbon closed out a game against the Blue Jays at his incredibly, excessive, monumental, tortoise-like pace. His breathing, open mouth and all around douchebaggery pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t take it anymore. All seemed to be lost though with the Red Sox holding a 9 game lead with only 26 games left in the regular season.

I guess it ain’t over til the Red Sox closer chokes eh?

Not a problem though, Boston fans can now turn to their beloved Patriots and Mr. GQ extraordinaire. Another winning season and possible Super Bowl run can cure what ails the Bostonian sports fan.

Opportunity doesn’t come knocking at your door every day. For me, I have to take this chance to snicker at the temporary sadness of a baseball team that will probably finish up next year battling it out for another post-season spot yet again.

You should too.

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What Does Derek Jeter’s Milestone Signify?

Just as Alex Rodriguez’s 600th home run last year wasn’t the sole focus of his milestone, Derek Jeter’s 3000th celebration is mired in question marks.

3000 is the hump that all great hitters strive to get over. It’s the mark that tells the world that you are one of the world’s finest hitters to ever play the game. Derek Jeter will become part of the exclusive, soon to be, 28 member club.

Although Jeter will shortly reach the peak of the 3000 hit mountain, his career is on the descent. His chase to 3000 is a distraction from the inevitable. The inevitable, interrupted by a calf injury. Jeter is finished from being on top of the baseball world.

The reality of it is that Derek Jeter is a grossly overpaid shortstop, batting .257 with just about everything except his media influence being limited as the days go by. Limited range, limited power, limited speed.

Derek Jeter is an aging athlete. There is no other way to put it. The sample presented by Jeter in the last season and a half is undeniable evidence. It can no longer be classified as an anomaly. A season and a half of mediocrity can be an anomaly at 30 but not 37.

Ichiro Suzuki is 37. It could be the first time in his career that he has a season batting under .300. Father time has got to him too.

Derek Jeter’s halo above his head does not give him the ability to avoid the inevitable that is coming sooner than he would like. He will always be the media darling but even Jeter worshippers can’t defend him forever.

For Jeter, 3000 hits means that his time as the leadoff hitter is running out. He knows he has no business being up there. The top of the order is no place for a former alpha male. Jeter is lucky that he is on one of the few teams that are able to mask the presence of an elephant at the top of the order.

The struggle that Derek Jeter has faced over the past year and a half to get to 3000 can’t be half as bad as the struggle that he is having trying to cope with his decline.

Denial is the first stage of any sort of grief but people should be past that point by now. Even Derek Jeter.

Anger. That’s something Jeter will probably see and hear from Yankee fans not long after number 3000. In sports but especially New York, it has what have you done for me lately? The Yankees are all about winning and Brian Cashman’s hardball with Derek Jeter in the off-season couldn’t have made the message any clearer.

Once Jeter hits 3000 New York can finally treat him as another average baseball player. Well, as average as an angel can be treated.

His 3000th hit will be an incredible moment. Much like a 100 year olds birthday, his milestone will be treasured, celebrated and last eternally.

It’s always a shame that the same human being will not.

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New York Yankee Fans Don’t Deserve a Winner

New York Yankee fans are some of the most bipolar fans in the world

For the most part there are two sides to baseball fans, people who love the New York Yankees and people who just hate ‘em. Yankee fans are some of the most passionate fans in the world, but most of the time they just act like spoiled brats.

In game 4 of the ALCS, A.J. Burnett put up another stinker giving up 5 earned runs in 6 innings of work in the loss. However, when walking off the field at the end the end of the 6th inning Burnett left to an echo of boos from the Yankee “faithful.”

You have got to be kidding me.

First off, booing is a ridiculous practice for sports fans especially in baseball when the nature of the game requires you to be as relaxed as possible in order to be successful. In general, the act of booing accomplishes nothing when your team is putting in a maximum effort, and probably has more of a negative effect than a positive one.

Wayne Rooney said it best when he looked to the camera after an England draw in the first game of the 2010 World Cup. “Nice to see your home fans boo you. That’s what loyal support is.”

You Yankee fans are such spoiled little brats.

I guess it has been a while since you have won a World Series, 2009 was a whole year ago. It obviously must be frustrating to cheer for a franchise that has won 27 World Series championships and 40 American League Pennants.

For god sakes, it’s not like your team is last in the league, you’re in the American League Championship Series. The Texas Rangers haven’t even made one trip to the World Series.

You take for granted the fact that you have been able to watch so many incredible players over the years. Some franchises would probably be happy to boast just one of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, or Derek Jeter.

Why are you complaining?

All that garbage about high expectations for your team and you deserve to boo them if you don’t feel they are playing up to par is completely unjustified. The line that divides passion and stupidity is constantly crossed by Yankee fans, which is why so many people hate the team and its fans.

No one wants to see a team that wins all the time to keep winning, but it makes it even worse when the fans celebrating the many victories constantly act like spoiled brats. When you don’t get what you want you cry like when Daddy won’t buy you a new Mercedes.

After 1918 it took 86 years for the Boston Red Sox to finally win another World Series, and the Cubs still haven’t won one in 102 years and counting.

I wouldn’t feel sorry for Yankee fans if you guys go 100 years without winning another World Series, and I bet a lot of other fans would express similar sentiments. Until Yankee fans finally decide that this World Series or bust attitude each and every year is ridiculous, there will forever be a continuing generation of Yankee haters.

Whatever happened to Karma anyways?

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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