On August 18, a Sunday night game nationally broadcast on ESPN, Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster attempted to hit Yankees third baseman and embattled drama magnet Alex Rodriguez with a series of fastballs. On the first pitch, the right-hander threw it behind the slugger’s legs, the next two pitches weren’t inside enough, and the fourth landed on A-Rod’s bicep just above his elbow.
In the aftermath, Dempster received a five-game suspension from Major League Baseball. The controversy revived the debate on the need for players to take justice into their own hands and which offenses were legitimate.
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz does not think his teammate handled the situation appropriately. Via CSN New England:
“I didn’t like it,” Ortiz told USA Today. “I don’t think it was the right thing to do.
“But we don’t all think alike, and the guy who did it, Dempster, is a great guy.
“It’s not that I didn’t think it was right because Alex and I are friends, because once you cross the white lines, everyone’s on their own. But we’ve got Tampa right on our heels, and that pitch woke up a monster in the Yankees’ team at that moment. You saw how the game ended up. CC [Sabathia] was throwing 91 [mph] and started throwing 96. Alex later hit one way out there. You’re talking about a good team that you can’t wake up. But we learn from our mistakes.”
The Yankees entered tonight’s game against the Rays on a five-game winning streak, which started on that fateful night on August 18. Though the Yankees are in fourth place, they are only six games behind the first place Red Sox in the AL East and 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card in the American League.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.