Former Toronto Blue Jays great Joe Carter rejects Ryan Dempster’s claim that he didn’t intentionally hit troubled Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez with a pitch last weekend, saying the Red Sox right-hander’s message was “loud and clear.”
Dempster received a five-game suspension Tuesday for hitting Rodriguez with a pitch in a game Sunday. The native of Gibsons, B.C., maintains he wasn’t trying to intentionally hit Rodriguez, who has drawn the wrath of his peers for appealing a 211-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug and labour agreement.
But Carter isn’t buying it.
“The message was loud and clear,” Carter said Tuesday during an appearance at a Vancouver Canadians game. “I don’t agree with what transpired, because if you’re going to throw at someone like that just as a statement, you do it the first pitch, and then you go on about the rest of the game.”
Dempster threw one pitch behind A-Rod’s knees and two more inside during the second inning. Then his 3-0 pitch struck Rodriguez’s left elbow pad and ricocheted off his back.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was furious about the incident, saying it would be “open season” on Rodriguez if MLB failed to suspend Dempster.
Carter chalked Dempster’s actions up to the unwritten “codes” that players use to police themselves. But the ex-Jay tacitly endorsed the beaning.
“It’s just a message that you don’t like the cheaters, and I don’t blame him for that because ... [doping] has taken away from the game of baseball,” said Carter.
Drug cheats, he contended, have created an uneven playing field and denied clean players their place in history.
“[In] a game that’s based on stats, it has helped those stats tremendously, and it’s taken away from the guys who played it the right way,” said Carter.
The comments came after he called last week for tougher penalties to be handed to players who used performance-enhancing drugs.
While he’s made headlines recently with his strong opinions about drugs in baseball, it’s his legendary home run that clinched the Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series title most fans want to talk about.
“No matter where I’m at, they’ll talk about the home run,” said Carter. “They’ll talk about where they were and what they were doing, because it’s a moment where everyone realizes where they were and what they were doing at that time.”
Rich Poehlmann, 48, travelled from his home in Whistler, B.C., to give Carter a framed photo of the former slugger’s father, Joe Carter Sr. The elder Carter was sitting behind Poehlmann in the stadium then known as SkyDome when his namesake hit his historic homer against Philadelphia’s Mitch (Wild Thing) Williams.
“Instead of Joe giving something to me, I gave him something,” said Poehlmann, a bar manager who was living in Toronto at the time. “So I feel pretty good.”
Other fans of the Canadians — a Jays short-season single-A farm club — were feeling good, too, as they received a chance to meet Carter, take photos, and have memorabilia, including vintage Toronto jerseys and jackets, bats, balls and gloves signed.
Recently, Carter was in London, England when a hotel employee, originally from Vancouver, recognized him and brought up the home run. Others from across Canada and various other locales have also shared their memories with him.
“People recognize you for what happened and the monumental thing that happened,” said Carter, 53. “If you look at it, only twice in the history of the World Series has it ever ended on a home run. So that’s going to be around for a very long time — until somebody comes up and hits another home run [for a championship.]
“It’s great that I’ve been recognized. It’s a part of my life, and it will always be a big part of my life.”