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Buzz: Even A-Rod doesn't deserve this

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Sam Gardner

Sam Gardner is a general assignment writer for FOXSports.com. Originally from Orlando, Fla., he previously covered the Orlando Magic for FOX Sports Florida and has also covered the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and MLB playoffs. Follow him on Twitter.

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Ryan Dempster received near universal praise after he intentionally plunked Alex Rodriguez with a 3-0 pitch Sunday night at Fenway Park, and though the Yankees almost certainly disagree, there are many who feel Dempster should have never received the five-game suspension later handed down by Major League Baseball.

But on Wednesday, just hours after news of Dempster’s compulsory time off began to circulate, Jon Niese and Jason Heyward reminded us just how dangerous getting hit by a pitch can be, making a strong case for more substantial bans when pitchers have the nerve to do it on purpose. (Because is it really even a suspension when a starting pitcher gets a paid five-game ban?)

To be clear, there’s no sense that the New York Mets lefty intended to hit the Atlanta Braves outfielder in the jaw in the top of the sixth inning. Via NESN, you can see a GIF of the pitch in question — which came in a one-run ballgame with no previous beef to speak of — below:

Niese was adamant afterward that the beaning was simply an inside pitch that got away, and you can bet he felt even worse when he found out Heyward will need jaw surgery that may end his season.

"It was tough," Niese told ESPN New York. "I wanted to elevate a fastball right there and then it kind of, it didn't slip out of my hands, but it kind of ran in on him. Obviously no intent but I just felt bad. It's every pitcher and every hitter's worst nightmare. I hope he's OK."

People root for players to get hit, especially when it’s a player the fans don’t especially care for or a guy who “has it coming” after some past indiscretion. But an incident like Wednesday’s reminds us just how much havoc a hurtling baseball can wreak.

Purists will argue that retaliatory plunkings are little more than gamesmanship, and that big league pitchers are skilled enough to hit a guy and send a message without hurting him. But if you can hit a guy in the face when you’re trying to throw a strike, who’s to say you can’t do it when you’re already aiming for the batter?

History aside, pitchers who zip message pitches at and behind batters have no place in the game. It’s a dangerous and cyclical practice that can only lead to more problems. (Remember Zack Greinke breaking his collarbone when Carlos Quentin charged the mound after being hit earlier this year?)

And it’s because of incidents like the one between Jon Niese and Jason Heyward on Wednesday that pitchers like Ryan Dempster deserve a harsher punishment, not a free pass, when they hit guys on purpose — even when it’s just A-Rod.

Now, for some links:

• Heyward wasn't the only player to take a pitch to the face on Wednesday. Astros rookie Max Stassi recorded his first career RBI when he was hit in the shoulder and face with the bases loaded.

• All hail Ichiro, Mr. 4,000.

• Don’t play this guy in H-O-R-S-E:

• Could Google and YouTube buy their way into an NFL deal?

• Tears were flowing when Florida coach Will Muschamp surprised two walk-ons with scholarships.

• There are many times when soccer players embellish contact for the sake of a call. This, by Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal, was not one of those times:

• Mississippi State's punter is engaged to his long-snapper's sister.

• Davey Johnson said his Nationals players couldn't date porn stars "because we can't score."

• Joel Quenneville took the Stanley Cup to the post office:

• Check out FTW's Laken Litman on trying (and failing) to become a U.S. Open ballperson.

• With the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry now over, the Aggies' new Thanksgiving game will reportedly be against LSU.

• The New York Jets are helping players learn how to answer questions:

• If Orlando City Soccer Club is going to get public funds for a new stadium to aid in a possible MLS move, the local government wants to own part of the team.

• Memphis may get a new baseball park.

• LeBron James, rocking the Dr. J look:

• Chris Paul was elected president of the NBA Players Union.

• A Georgia State football player went to the hospital after lightning struck the practice field.

• In case you missed it, Gary Payton explained the origins of Allen Iverson’s “practice” rant:

• Cheerleaders need a preseason, too.

• Coach wakes up from coma after hearing that his team won.

• Let’s play “Find Wilt Chamberlain” in his fourth grade class photo:

• Concussions have Ryan Swope moving on with life after football.

• Dolphins left tackle Jonathan Martin is not your typical football player.

Jayson Werth reacts appropriately after being fooled by a 57-mph strike:

Tagged: Dodgers, Padres, Zack Greinke, Carlos Quentin, Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Braves, Ryan Dempster, Jason Heyward

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