Since last night's kerfuffle between Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Dempster, I've seen the view expressed that what Dempster did was justified, and that any vigilantism visited upon A-Rod by opposing pitchers is warranted. Because A-Rod is a villain in the eyes of so many, Dempster has become, perforce, a hero.
The bedrock labor agreement in Major League Baseball affords every player the right to appeal a suspension for violation of the Joint Drug Agreement. It also affords every player the right to continue playing while appealing a suspension. Troy Tulowitzki has that right. Todd Helton has that right. Ryan Dempster has that right. And Alex Rodriguez has that right. Good guys, bad guys, guilty players, innocent players -- they all have it, because that's the deal to which all the parties agreed. If the clubs or the players didn't like that deal, then the time to speak up was when the parties executed either the Joint Drug Agreement in 2006 or the Basic Agreement in 2012.
Ryan Dempster apparently doesn't like the deal that was struck on his behalf. Or, to put it more finely, Dempster doesn't like the deal to the extent Alex Rodriguez avails himself of it. Well, that's tough cookies. As a player, Dempster is a direct beneficiary of that same deal, and he has the same basic protections as A-Rod. To declare the deal off for one player is to effectively kill the right for which all the players bargained. But that's what Dempster did by throwing at A-Rod, and I see no reason to applaud him for arrogating to himself that kind of authority.
Plunking A-Rod was frontier justice without the frontier. There are no unwritten rules at play here. To the contrary, all of the parties have a set of written rules, and written procedures for enforcing those rules, procedures that ultimately will mete out the appropriate punishment. There's no justification for adding on by throwing at A-Rod. Besides, the Red Sox don't exactly have the cleanest of hands when it comes to doling out punishment in the name of Keeping the Game Clean.
All of this actually casts Dempster in the best light, because it assumes he was throwing at A-Rod to uphold the integrity of clean players everywhere. The alternative explanation is that Dempster was avenging the fact that A-Rod leaked the names of other players who used PEDs. If that's the case, what Dempster did was even more despicable, because it had nothing to do with keeping the game clean -- it had to do with keeping quiet. But the notion that "snitches get stitches" flies directly in the face of the public and laudable pronouncements by guys like Michael Cuddyer and Evan Longoria, who've said that the vast majority of players want a clean game. Dempster plunking A-Rod for ratting out fellow cheats is diametrically opposed to a clean game. Dempster plunking A-Rod is calling Cuddyer and Longoria frauds. I take Cuddyer and Longoria at their word, which means that plunking A-Rod in the name of other PED offenders is a disgrace.
Make no mistake: I'm anti-PED. I think Roger Maris holds the single-season home run record and that Henry Aaron is the home run king. And I'm not anti-plunking. I believe there are unwritten rules in the game and that those rules should be enforced. And I'm anti-A-Rod. I believe he's a cretin who cheated multiple times, and that his 211-game suspension is warranted and should be upheld.
But I am most decidedly pro-due process. A-Rod and every other major league player has the bargained-for right both to appeal a suspension and to play during that appeal. And as a result of that bargaining, there's a settled system in place for punishing A-Rod and any other player who cheats. Ryan Dempster doesn't figure in to that punishment.