If Major League Baseball is trying to send Ryan Dempster a message, it’s not doing a great job.

The Boston Red Sox pitcher hit New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez in the second inning of a game between the bitter rivals on Sunday, resulting in a five-game suspension for Dempster:

In A-Rod’s first at-bat against Dempster this year, he took four inside pitches, with the last one finally hitting him.

The at-bat started off with a pitch behind A-Rod, which clearly sent a message and stirred a rousing ovation from the Boston faithful. Three pitches later, Dempster would plunk Rodriguez on a 3-0 count, resulting in the benches clearing and Yankees manager Joe Girardi being tossed.

Dempster maintained that he simply lost control of the ball in his postgame interview, as he attempted to deflect questions about the at-bat by talking about the game itself:

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, nobody on the Yankees was happy with how Dempster acted.

“Whether you like me or hate, that was wrong. That was unprofessional and silly,” Rodriguez sounded off to reporters. “It was kind of a silly way to get someone hurt on your team as well.”

Girardi also gave his thoughts on the matter, explaining why he was so upset, leading to his ejection.

You can’t start throwing at people. Lives, people have had concussions; lives are changed by getting hit by pitches. …

That baseball is a weapon. It’s not a tennis ball. It’s not an incredi-ball that’s soft. It’s a weapon, and it can do a lot of damage to someone’s life, and that’s why I was so upset about it. You can express your opinion and be upset with someone, but you just can’t start throwing baseballs at people. It’s scary. …

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.

Dempster was not tossed from the game, but both sides were issued warnings. The Yankees would go on to win the game, 9-6, behind Rodriguez’s home run off Dempster in the sixth inning that sparked a rally.

Perhaps Bud Selig and Co. actually think this suspension is a punishment for Dempster and the Red Sox, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Dempster got off easily for intentionally hitting a batter, and MLB needs to rethink its strategy when trying to send messages to players.

The first notable blunder that comes with this suspension is that Dempster will still be paid for the games he misses, according to Darren Rovell:

Obviously, protocol dictates that since the incident occurred on the field, Dempster cannot lose his pay for the games he misses. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the only financial repercussion of his actions is a fine of an undisclosed amount.

Dempster’s exploits aren’t going to put a dent in his pocket, and they didn’t really hurt the team, either.

Usually, a five-game suspension results in a pitcher having to push back his start, which means the replacement in the rotation will likely be an inferior talent to the suspended player. However, this is not the case in this instance.

Because the Red Sox have days off on Thursday (Aug. 22) and Monday (Aug. 26), the team will be able to pitch a four-man rotation until Dempster’s return on Tuesday (Aug. 27).

The key here is that the team has Thursday off, meaning that everyone in the starting rotation has an extra day of rest. In turn, even with Jon Lester pitching on Monday and Jake Peavy going on Tuesday, the two will be able to come back and pitch over the weekend on normal rest.

Dempster was slated to face the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday (Aug. 24), but now the team can move Lester’s start up from Sunday to Saturday, while pitching Peavy on Sunday before Dempster comes back on Tuesday.

To recap, the Red Sox will replace the scheduled start of a guy with a 6-9 record and a 4.77 ERA with two much better pitchers without missing a beat.

Are you telling me that’s considered a punishment? I’d call that a reward.

Despite Dempster’s clear intent of nailing Rodriguez, MLB issued a short suspension and, in the process, did not come down hard enough on him.

Player safety is supposed to be one of the top concerns of all sports organizations, but apparently, intentionally hitting a player with a hard baseball going 92 mph only warrants a minimal suspension.

Dempster and the Red Sox got off easy, and if MLB really wanted to show that it isn’t messing around when it comes to safety, Dempster would be out for at least 10 games.

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