'Hart of the Order'
By Sean Hartnett
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Alex Rodriguez is putting up his dukes and challenging everyone in sight as if he is a 19th-Century bareknuckle boxer.
A-Rod isn't wasting any time picking fights. While the 211-game suspension hanging over Rodriguez's head won't be settled until November, he has reportedly chosen to file a grievance through the Major League Baseball Players Association against the Yankees in light of strong allegations from lawyer Joseph Tacopina that the Yankees have mishandled his medical treatment since last October.
Tacopina and Yankees President Randy Levine have engaged in a public shouting match, daring each other like two kids in a schoolyard to release A-Rod's medical records. The atmosphere has become toxic to the point that general manager Brian Cashman and A-Rod are barely on speaking terms.
Rodriguez has been labeled a rat by "60 Minutes," who is alleging that A-Rod's camp leaked information that implicated Ryan Braun and teammate Francisco Cervelli in the Biogenesis mess -- a theory A-Rod has vehemently denied.
Meanwhile, several members of the Red Sox came out in force against Rodriguez. Most notably, John Lackey questioned whether A-Rod should be allowed to play during his appeal. Even close friend David Ortiz directed some strong words at Rodriguez through the Daily News.
So, it's Alex Rodriguez against the world. Or is it?
Rodriguez was once painted as a "24-plus-one character" inside the locker room. On Sunday night at Fenway Park, 24 Yankee teammates stood up for A-Rod after Ryan Dempster took the law into his own hands.
When A-Rod stepped into the box in the second inning, Dempster threw near Rodriguez's knee cap, before drilling him in his left elbow with a 92 mile per hour fastball.
It sparked an impassioned response from the Yankees' dugout. Manager Joe Girardi came charging at umpire Brian O'Nora like a wild bull, reminiscent of George Brett going berserk in the infamous 1983 "Pine Tar Game."
"That today kinda brought us together," Rodriguez told reporters after the game. "Joe's reaction was amazing. Every single one of my teammates came up to me, and said 'hit a bomb and walk it off.' They were as pissed as I was."
GIRARDI FURIOUS WITH DEMPSTER
The emotion was clearly evident in Girardi's face when he met with the media following the game. He was equally enraged at Dempster as he was O'Nora.
"You can't just start taking pot shots because you disagree with the way the system is set up," Girardi said. "You voted as players. You know what, I've been a player, a union rep, I've been in all those negotiations. I know how it goes. If you don't like it, speak up, but you can't change the rules."
Girardi knew that Dempster could essentially take the law into his own hands without any blowback repercussions.
"I'll be really disappointed if he's not suspended where he misses a start," Girardi said. "They have a lot of days off and you could finagle something, like if he took the suspension tomorrow, he wouldn't miss a start. It has to cost him something."
"I wish he had to hit," Girardi said of Dempster.
A-ROD GETS THE LAST LAUGH
It was A-Rod who got the last laugh when he faced Dempster in the sixth inning. Rodriguez launched a deep solo shot and roared when he crossed first base.
When he touched home plate, he pointed to the sky -- mocking David Ortiz's trademark celebration amid a chorus of deafening boos from the Fenway Faithful and to the delight of Yankees fans watching at home. Perhaps it was a subtle jab at Ortiz for speaking out against him.
Despite all of his baggage, A-Rod has inspired the Bombers on the field and has become a rallying figure in the dugout.
Since his return to the lineup on August 5, the Yankees are batting .303 as a team and are averaging 5.2 runs per game. Previously, the Bombers were collectively batting .240 and only averaging 3.8 runs per game.
Girardi is clearly in A-Rod's corner and his teammates are standing up for him -- perhaps Yankees fans will get behind A-Rod, too.
Maybe it's time that Yankees fans fully embrace the villain in pinstripes who wears No 13.
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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