Ryan Dempster got his comeuppance Tuesday for throwing at Alex Rodriguez Sunday night. Major League Baseball suspended him for five games.

Guess the pance wasn’t coming up as much as we thought.

Dempster will also be paid during the course of the suspension, final confirmation that MLB is fine with people taking aim at Alex Rodriguez. We should all have known this by now. The outrage over this non-punishment, and outrage there is, all over my Twitter feed, seems to me a bit overblown. I hate the practice of throwing at batters to send messages.

The way these things happen today is an insult to the legacy of Bob Gibson and his ilk, who threw at guys if they felt it gave them a mental edge, or in order to push them off the plate and claim the outside corner as their own. The contemporary system seems to involve punishing guys who preen too much, or who have indicated some disrespect off the field, or whom the pitcher simply does not like. What petulance. What childishness.

That said, I don’t view the whole thing as an absolute moral wrong, or even as dangerous and hateful a thing as many people make it out to be. I just dislike it. To elevate it to a cardinal sin, the way some in the Internet baseball set are wont to do, is no less an exaggeration than it is when more mainstream mouthpieces tell you PEDs are Satan’s secret sauce.

Therefore, the length of the suspension offends me slightly less than it offends many of the people I call my peers, online. My sole objection is that a five-game suspension doesn’t really even faze Dempster, doesn’t cost the Red Sox a turn in the rotation, doesn’t make a material impact.

Which is not really the punishment’s fault.

Teams have long since abandoned the notion of the five-day, four-and-a-half-man rotation. That’s a mistake. Dempster won’t miss a start, per se, but he absolutely should. If the Red Sox were planning any sort of aggressive deployment of their starting pitchers, it would cost them something. The only reason it doesn’t is that they are already operating at such a suboptimal strategic level.

I can’t advocate this strongly enough. There is no defense, to me, for the rotation that features five full members. That fifth guy should be a pool-only member of the club. Starters need routines, I’m told. They need four solid days’ rest, and they need it consistently. This is why the pure four-man rotation is a dinosaur no one intends to resurrect. If that be true, though, those starters should want as regular a routine as is possible, and that means removing the unnecessary extra link in the chain whenever circumstances allow.

Yasiel Puig is not in the Dodgers’ lineup Tuesday. Skip Schumaker will man right field as Los Angeles plays the Marlins. All the buzz on Twitter is about the Dodgers’ open grousing about Puig’s all-over-the-place, tools-over-fundamentals style; the question of how much the little things matter when one is as good as Puig is at the big things; and the implications of this gesture.

My interests lie elsewhere. If Puig finds a regular spot on the bench, I’ll take issue, but a day off against the weakest team in the NL is not going to set back the team. This is a game the Dodgers should be able to win without Yasiel Puig.

No, I want to turn the conversation away from right field, to center. Andre Ethier will play there tonight, where he’s played 50 games’ worth of innings and change this year. He’s cost the Dodgers eight marginal outs over that time, six of them on deep balls, according to Baseball Info Solutions (via BillJamesOnline.com). He’s killing them out there, and it’s not just Ethier.

The Dodgers’ defensive outfield play has been 43.1 runs below average, in aggregate, according to StatCorner.com. It’s by far their greatest liability, and in center field especially, they really have no ready answer. When not even benching Puig can get Ethier out of center and over to right, it should be clear that something is wrong. These are the things that their tremendous hot streak papered over, the flaws that still haunt this team and make the roster seem, if not lacking for talent, at least poorly aligned.

These are the things we should be talking about, as August moves into its second act and September looms. What’s happening on the field. Who’s good, who’s bad, who’s vulnerable and who’s clever enough to exploit their opponents’ vulnerabilities. Leave the drama nad the nonsense on the Hot Stove where it belongs, and let’s focus on baseball. (Just don’t focus on flies hit over Andre Ethier’s head. YIkes. You can’t unsee that.)

Next post:
Previous post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *