David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Maybe what the Red Sox needed was a quote from Albert Camus posted on their clubhouse wall.
Yes, Albert Camus. French writer and philosopher. Nobel Prize-winning author.
An unlikely source of inspiration for a major-league baseball team. Yet one of his musings, "Integrity has no need of rules," is there, plain as day, in the middle of the Rays' clubhouse, surrounded by lockers.
The general meaning, in this setting anyway, is to do the right thing, regardless of baseball's unwritten code or peer pressure. To Rays manager Joe Maddon, who took his interior decorating tips from Camus, it tells him there was no reason to address his players before this weekend's series against the Yankees.
Some teams may feel as if it's open season on Alex Rodriguez, but as far as Maddon is concerned, the Rays are not one of them. Although Evan Longoria spoke out against A-Rod's being allowed to play during the appeal of his 211-game suspension -- just as Boston's Jonny Gomes and John Lackey voiced their dissent -- Maddon was confident that his club would not take the law into its own hands.
"I believe our guys get it," he said before Friday night's series opener at Tropicana Field. "I'd be surprised if anybody attempted to do anything in a unilateral way that would indicate their own personal beliefs, like some other teams did."
The "teams" Maddon referred to, of course, was only one: the Red Sox, whose Ryan Dempster drilled A-Rod on Sunday in a clumsy and dangerous attempt to show that he disagreed with the whole appeal process. The fact that the other Red Sox played along, at least until David Ortiz expressed his objection days later, made them look even worse.
But the Dempster gambit backfired on Boston, which blew a 6-3 lead on Sunday and ultimately lost the series by riling up Rodriguez and the Yankees. The Rays, determined to win the American League East title, aren't about to make the same mistake. They'll pass on the sideshow and stick to business. Forget the frontier justice.
"I have no time for any of that," Maddon said. "I don't want to go there because it's not necessary. I was shocked the way that all played out, actually [in Boston]. Maybe I'm naive, but play baseball. There's mechanisms in place to take care of that.
"My job is to manage, our players' job is to play. Our players' job is to try to beat the Yankees tonight -- not just one guy. Don't take out your own personal belief system against one person. Go play the game. Do your job."
Apparently, Red Sox manager John Farrell whiffed on delivering that message. If anyone could have stopped Dempster's ill-conceived plot, it was the first-year manager, who might have been better off reminding his players that they had more important things to do than dole out their own brand of discipline to alleged PED cheats.
Even Ortiz, as the most respected man in the Boston clubhouse, probably should have stepped up and nipped the A-Rod revenge plan in the bud.
Instead, Ortiz wound up getting a conscience after MLB slapped Dempster on the wrist with a five-game suspension. Ortiz told The Boston Globe on Friday that he's concerned about retaliation by the Yankees.
"That's up to them," Ortiz told the Globe. "I've got no control over that. At least they have a reason."
Exactly. If you're the Red Sox or Rays or Orioles, why give the Yankees that reason? With five weeks left and the playoff races tightening up, this is no time to pass out ammunition to your enemies. Maddon won't, nor will anyone else in the Rays' clubhouse.
"That stuff, that's what they're dealing with," said David Price, who will oppose CC Sabathia Saturday night. "We don't deal with that. We just laugh at it. We sit back and watch it on ESPN. It doesn't pertain to us."
Imagine that. Letting Bud Selig handle the punishment for A-Rod.
As for the Rays, they'll just worry about getting him out. "We're not here to be vigilantes," Maddon said. "They deem fit for him to play, so he plays. It's time to move forward."