Ethics Dunce: ARod-Plunking Red Sox Pitcher Ryan Dempster

I’ll admit it: I came thiiiiis close to designating Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster an Ethics Hero. Right after he intentionally threw a fastball  into Alex Rodriguez’s ribs on what would have been ball four, I was ready to write the post. Good for Dempster, I thought, making a statement for all the players who deplore steroids and the cheats who use them and for all the fans who feel that sociopathic, lying, greedy players who have debased the greatest game on earth with their use of PEDs. I continued to think that even after the Red Sox lost last night’s game against the Yankees, in no small part because Dempster put the Yankee third baseman, who continues to play while he appeals Major League Baseball’s suspension of him for this season and next, on base.

I was not, however, thinking clearly or ethically at the time.

Now, I am.

Dempster, in legal ethics terms, forgot who his client was at the moment when he was facing Rodriguez in an important game with his team ahead 2-0. It wasn’t aggrieved players, or baseball fans, or Major League Baseball, or U.S. sports or the national culture, though there may be times, in his personal or professional conduct, when he might owe ethical obligations to any of these or all of them. His client at that moment was the Boston Red Sox, and his duty was to do what he had to do to win the game. In choosing to represent other interests, noble though they might be, he breached his ethical duty to the stakeholder whose interests had to be his first priority: the team whose uniform he wears and that pays his salary.

Oh, there are many who cheered Dempster, including much of the Fenway crowd. Here is sportswriter Jeff Perlman, having an anti-ARod meltdown:

“…I couldn’t help feeling that, with the pitch to Rodriguez’s body, Ryan was issuing a declaration on behalf of Major League Baseball’s clean, fed-up players. Namely: Fuck you. Yes, fuck you. Fuck you for cheating. Fuck you for stealing paychecks. Fuck you for influencing the outcomes of games. Fuck you for lying. Fuck you for dragging us all down. Fuck you—Ryan Braun and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada and Nelson Cruz and Barry Bonds and Jhonny Peralta and Paul Lo Duca and every other guy who felt the need to inject nonsense into their bodies to help accomplish what, naturally, they could not. Fuck you….That’s why, this morning, I love Ryan Dempster.”

But he lost the game, and Dempster’s ethical breach may have been even worse than misaligning his ethics priorities. Hockey journalist Wane Scanlan tweeted that Dempster told him earlier this month that he was angry at Rodriguez for snubbing him at an event they both attended, and was planning on hitting him the next time they faced each other. If true, then Dempster placed a petty grievance and a personal agenda above his professional obligations. Such conduct is never ethical.

It was fun seeing Alex Rodriguez nailed, and if I had been in Fenway last night, I might have cheered too. Nonetheless, Ryan Dempster was  an Ethics Dunce.


Sources: NBC Sports 1,2,3


28 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: ARod-Plunking Red Sox Pitcher Ryan Dempster

    • I would think so. As there are other avenues of protest depending on who specifically is being protested: be it Arod, or the management or anyone else involved that doesn’t require assault.

    • Not in baseball, no. Beaning has a long and distinguished history, and is part of the strategy, psychological warfare and ethical culture of the game.

      It is almost always stupid, however.

        • It’s part of the game. Hard checks in hockey and intentional fouls in basketball are similarly part of the game. In baseball, trying to injure a player is unethical, “sending a message,” intimidating, protecting a team mate, are all traditionally legitimate reasons to throw at an opposing player. Never at the head.

          • Checking and intentional fouls may be committed, but they are still punished because they are not considered to be fair play, otherwise they would not be punished.

            Just because the punishment is light enough that players see the cost-benefit analysis very favorably still doesn’t give a pass to potentially injurious and intentional behavior.

            • What penalty for intentional fouls or hard checks?

              Baseball started penalizing pitchers for hitting batters intentionally when the designated hitter took away pitchers batting. The traditional punishment within the game for throwing at a batter was that the pitcher would get hit himself next time up. I’m sure batters have been injured by an intentional bean-ball, but I can’t recall an example. It hasn’t happened often. The point isn’t to injure, but to annoy.

              • Basketball has a variety of punishments aimed at fouls and even more rigorously when aimed at intentional fouls. In hockey, the nature of the game is rougher with physical contact designed into the sport, yet even then a certain level and type of checking is considered an infraction and penalized.

                As for the clarification of hitting to injure versus hitting to harass or pester, I’ll concede. My initial commentary was meant to be from the intentional malice aspect but see that it wasn’t specifically. Confusion of terms.

              • As an Orioles fan I can look back to Billy Ripken and Mike Devareaux as two players who got beaned with the ball and it impacted them. Billy seemed to always get beaned with the ball. Devareaux was never the same player after he came back from his injury caused by getting beaned.

                Now, I am not sure if any of these were intentional or not. But being hit by a pitch can hurt and I cannot imagine that if the intent is to purposefully hit a player that it would be any safer than the inadvertent versions.

                And basketball does penalize flagrant fouls. Intentional fouls and flagrant fouls are different. Purpusefully beaning someone with the ball is flagrant and should be subject to punishment.

          • What one of the legitimate reasons would he have had to throw at A-Rod in this scenario?

            I am no fan of the Yankees but the Red Sox organization as a whole become much worse in my opinion because of their actions here. I still hate the Yankees more.

            The manager of the Sox acted unethically. He should have sent the catcher out (at the very least) to have a conversation with the pitcher who was obviously throwing at A-Rod. Say “look, whatever your problem is here, you need to strike him out and not put another baserunner on”.

            When I saw the highlights I was almost happy (almost) that A-Rod hit the home run in a later inning. Serves the Red Sox right.

            • I think its despicable for ARod to be on the field. I think its despicable that he continues to lie. I think it’s despicable that Girardi is playing him. I think its despicable for Rodriguez to embarrass baseball and the Yankees like this.

              There is no justifiable reason to throw at ARod at the time Dempster chose. If he did it after the game was virtually won or lost, in late innings, then I would go back to my original position: Dempster would be making an important statement that as a player he considers Arod’s conduct wrong and beneath contempt.

              This—“The manager of the Sox acted unethically. He should have sent the catcher out (at the very least) to have a conversation with the pitcher who was obviously throwing at A-Rod” is asking too much. After the first pitch, I don’t think it was obvious that Dempster would try to hit him again. You can’t blame Farrell

              ARod’s home run, in baseball terms, was the right response—as Dennis Eckersley said last night, if you can’t pitch well enough to shut the other team down, don’t go throwing at anyone.” I agree.

              • Under the rules A-rod has the ability to appeal and he is following the rules. I see no problem with him being on the field during the appeal process.

                I think it was obvious that Dempster was continuing to pitch at him since he was really going inside those next two pitches. On ball 3, a discussion should have been had. At that point, I do believe it was obvious that he was trying to hit him for no good reason.

                I too agree with Eck.

                • We agree that ARod has the right to appeal—so did the other suspended player, who had the dignity and lack of hubris to take their medicine. Just as he is an unethical cheat for using PED’s (and lying about it), so his defiance is proof of low character and disregard for the game. Now we know he tried to roll over on other users, including a team mate, and actively obstructed the investigation. He is, in short, scum.

  1. Considering there have been cases where pitched balls have killed or maimed people (see Dickie Thon, Ray Chapman), Dempster arguably committed assault.

  2. I am waiting to hear – every time Rodriguez comes to bat or is involved in a play – crowds everywhere he appears in a game to start chanting in that sing-songy way: “TAKE YOUR MED-I-CINE! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)”

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