First Pitch: Target practice on A-Rod

NEW YORK -- What is the going rate for multimillionaire pitchers to take a free shot at Alex Rodriguez? Apparently it's $2,500 and no missed starts. Well, that should deter opponents who have issues with A-Rod, right?

I don't think so.

By setting the precedent that -- to use baseball’s official language from its press release -- "intentionally throwing at and hitting Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees" won't cost a pitcher a start and just means the loss of some pocket change could encourage other players to go for some frontier justice of their own.

MLB has set the bar and it is not a high one. Understandably, Joe Girardi is concerned that A-Rod could become target practice for pitchers the rest of the year.

In Dempster's case, he didn't show any guts. No matter what you think of A-Rod, there is no honor in throwing a baseball 90-plus mph at a defenseless batter. In the AL, where the pitcher doesn't bat, there is no chance of direct retaliation.

ESPN New York 98.7 FM's Robin Lundberg made an interesting point the other night that it might be more offensive to fire a ball at a defenseless batter than to take performance-enhancing drugs. (That is another Hot Button issue for another day.)

When a player is suspended for an on-the-field issue, he essentially receives a paid vacation. Dempster will not lose anything from his twice-monthly checks on his $13.25 million salary. Just a measly $2,500, which bought him a standing ovation from misguided Boston fans as he left what would be a seven-earned run performance on Sunday.

A-Rod might not be targeted again, but there is not much of a deterrent to prevent it, at least based on Tuesday's MLB ruling.

UP NOW: Johnette Howard's column from Tuesday night. My blog on Jayson Nix. And Ian Begley's news story on Joe Girardi's strong feelings about Ryan Dempster.

ON DECK: Kieran Darcy and I will be out at the Stadium for Warren vs. R.A. Dickey (9-11, 4.49).

QUESTION: Do you think pitchers will throw at A-Rod?