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MLB suspends Ryan Dempster five games for hitting A-Rod

David Brown
Big League Stew

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi warned us — he warned us! — that, with a short suspension of Ryan Dempster by Major League Baseball plus other factors, the Boston Red Sox could "finagle" their way out of a meaningful punishment for him intentionally hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch Sunday night.

Well, the league announced a five-game suspension for Dempster on Tuesday, which is just short enough for him to avoid missing any playing time. How so? The Providence Journal lays it out for us:

[Slideshow: Ryan Dempster slapped for A-Rod incident]

Because the Red Sox have off-days coming up on Thursday and Monday, the Red Sox can simply skip the turn of Dempster through the rotation if he accepts his suspension. Dempster is in line to pitch Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Jon Lester and Jake Peavy could pitch Saturday and Sunday on regular rest and Dempster could return as early as Tuesday back at Fenway Park.

That's just what Girardi feared. It's a strange ruling by MLB, which suspended pitcher Rick Porcello of the Tigers in July for six games for doing the same thing to Ben Zobrist of the Rays. As was the case with Dempster, Porcello was not ejected from the game by an umpire.

Porcello appealed his suspension, but later dropped the appeal in exchange for having it reduced to five games. As a result, the Tigers never had to replace him with someone else in the rotation. It's a seemingly shady practice, but everybody does it. That's why six-game suspensions have more teeth; The extra day makes it harder for teams to get around the punishment.

By shorting Dempster's suspension, MLB again comes across looking like it's out to get A-Rod, a theme he and his lawyers have been trumpeting. If they're smart, they'll use this moment, come the offseason when an arbitrator hears the base.

It also hypothetically leaves the door open for other players to get "retribution" on Rodriguez, either for an assumed association with Biogenesis and performance-enhancing drugs, or for allegedly tattling on colleagues who also used them. After another Red Sox pitcher, John Lackey, recently came out against A-Rod playing until his appeal was heard, many assumed Dempster hit Rodriguez as some sort of revenge, or solidarity. That might not have been the case, however, and the presumption that most other players in the league loathe A-Rod enough to throw at him is probably vastly overstated.

Dempster's suspension comes with pay, by the way, because his transgression happened on the field. Only in the case off-the-field punishment can pay be taken away — which is what A-Rod and other Biogenesis players face. Dempster will be fined an undisclosed amount.

Regardless, the way he's pitching right now, Dempster might even benefit from missing a start. If he actually appeals the suspension, his punishment might come at a less opportune time. It's interesting what MLB lets players get away with sometimes.

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