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Buster Olney on M&M: Ryan Dempster’s suspension should have been around 8-9 games

08.21.13 at 2:06 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN  baseball analyst Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about Ryan Dempster’s five-game suspension and the flaws with MLB’s upcoming implementation of instant replay.

Olney said that he does not think that the five-game suspension issued to Dempster for intentionally hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch was a long enough suspension for Dempster’s actions.

“I was thinking about it overnight after it was announced and I thought, you know, we pretty much know the low end of the scale,” Olney said. “If you get into a retaliation situation and you throw at somebody, you’re going to get five games. They want to at the very least to potentially upset your next start, although it doesn’t in this case. On the high end are the 10 games that Ian Kennedy got, and the biggest reason MLB gave him 10 games was because he threw near Zach Greinke’s head. They really are concerned about the headhunting. If Ian Kennedy had hit him in the butt he probably would have gotten like six or seven games.

“I think that when you look back at what Dempster did, you try to sort of fit him into that scale of 5-10 games. Was it more than a simple retaliation and hitting some guy on the butt? Yeah, it was, because he had intent. He did it multiple times. On the other hand, did he ever put him in physical jeopardy throwing by his head? No. So I think he probably should have got somewhere in the 8-9 range.

“I am really surprised, too, that Major League Baseball — and it shouldn’t enter into the equation, but we know it does when they’re concerned about the public relations of all of this — they have to know that there is a segment of fans that are wondering if this is all personal in this vendetta against Alex Rodriguez and by giving him a five-game suspension, they just fuel that in a position, too, where they could have easily given him more and it wouldn’t have actually affected Dempster or the Red Sox because of the way the schedule is.”

Olney said that he thinks Dempster could have made his point with just the first pitch, which was thrown behind the Yankees third baseman.

“If he wanted to send a message, I thought he did it with the first pitch,” Olney said. “I thought if he had left it at that, and he throws a ball behind Alex Rodriguez on national television and lets that statement stand, everybody in the world would have gotten it. You think about if he had handled it that way, then you wouldn’t have had the situation where he complicates a game or affects or potentially creates a rally for the Yankees. And he wouldn’t have put himself in jeopardy of being suspended.

“But handling it the way that he did and taking the next step, to be honest, I don’t blame Joe Girardi for being mad. I do think there is something — and Lou, you have stood in that box in a way that I’m too gutless to against a guy throwing 95 mph — it is not a simple thing to have a guy throwing repeatedly fastballs at a prone target, to me.”

Olney also discussed the introduction of manager’s challenges by Major League Baseball, saying that the plan presented by the league was a good idea, although not everyone likes the specifics of it. Starting in 2014, managers will get one challenge through the first six innings and two challenges from then on.

“Team officials I have talked to are appalled,” Olney said. “They cannot believe that after all of the hand-wringing and the talk of, ‘We are working on a system and we are working on it,’ that this is what they came up with. First off — and this is my own opinion and I have had some baseball team officials tell me they totally agree with it — the idea that you would develop a system through which it is still possible that egregious calls will not be corrected — in other words, if a manager mistakenly used challenges and ran out of them and then you’ve got a 13th inning of a playoff game and there is no way to overturn a call — is unbelievable to me. I can’t believe that they just didn’t go into the whole process saying, ‘Let’s have the answer be, get as many calls right as we possibly can.’

“The second thing is — and this is just mind-boggling to me when you are talking about Tony La Russa who managed for how many years and Joe Torre who managed for how many years and John Schuerholz who has been watching games — that they would develop a system that clearly, when you talk about managerial challenge, is just ripe for delays. The reason why coaches challenges work in the NFL is because there is a play clock. A coach has to decide within 35 seconds or 40 seconds whether or not to throw his flag or call timeout so he can assess whether or not to challenge. In baseball there is no play clock. So as a coach said to me over the weekend, no manager is going to challenge unless he knows he is right. So what is going to happen? The hitter is going to be like, ‘I’ve got a bug in my eye,’ or ‘Oh, wait, I have got to go talk to the third-base coach.’ The pitcher and the catcher are going to have a conversation. And they are going to wait until the clubhouse kid runs down from the clubhouse into the dugout and says, ‘Go ahead and challenge,’ or ‘Don’t challenge,’ and that is when the manager will do it. There is no mechanism to force the action along. That is why manager’s challenge in baseball is a terrible idea.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Alex Rodriguez, buster olney, instant replay, Ryan Dempster
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