I read my esteemed colleague's comments this morning with great appreciation, but as he so clearly admits, he is not a baseball guy. Let me offer a different perspective.
The act of hitting a guy in baseball is not cowardly. It is an accepted part of the game and has been since the beginning of time. You might rail at such a juvenile (or perhaps Neanderthal) method of addressing issues, but it works. There is an unwritten code about how the game is to be played, the standards of behavior and what the players themselves will tolerate, especially when it comes to showing up the game. Baseball is a non-contact sport, so throwing at hitters is one of the only ways that players have to police themselves.
(Incidentally, the same holds true in almost every sport. Hit the opponent's goalkeeper in hockey and you will find yourself in a fight on the next shift if not sooner. We may not see it, but there are a lot of scores that are settled during the point-after try in a football game.)
I am not here to discuss what A-Rod did. However what he did clearly went over the line as far as the players were concerned, and it is still their game. So let's look at the actions of Dempster, Girardi, and O'Nora a little more closely.
First and foremost, did the action of hitting the batter work? I would argue that yes, the action achieved the mission. How do I know this? Because there was no bench clearing brawl in the game. Fights in baseball (or any sport) generally occur only when players do not have any other method of obtaining justice. No fight = we are okay with the way things are. (Read a little more into this folks: even the Yankees are not that fond of what A-Rod has done.)
There are ways of hitting players that send totally different messages. Dempster was not trying to injure A-Rod. His first pitch was a fastball behind his knees. His second and third pitches were inside to let everyone know that the first pitch was not a mistake. And when he finally hit him, it was with a fairly benign off-speed pitch in the middle of his back. If he wanted to really do damage, he would have zipped a fastball about six inches behind his ear, and let A-Rod duck into it.
Did O'Nora say something sotto-voce to the catcher? I don't know but don't assume he didn't. Saltilamacchia just might have decided to ignore the warning and let nature take its course. Sometimes players just have to work things out and Salty may have instinctively known that he would lose his pitcher and the rest of his teammates if he intervened.
Should O'Nora have tossed Dempster after he hit A-Rod? Maybe, but from a management point of view that might have been worse. Remember that this game was in Boston. He surely would have ended up tossing out Farrell too, and then yes, I am pretty sure we would have seen a fight at some point.
So why did Girardi come out to defend his player, and why was he then tossed? Everyone has a role to play in this theater. When A-Rod gets plunked, there is a challenge to Girardi just as surely as if he was in the batter's box. Girardi has to defend his players, even the unlikeable ones. Even more important is that the team sees that he is defending them. This is no different than a soccer referee defending his AR from dissenting players, even when the AR blew the call. (Heck, those are the ones we defend the most vehemently.)
Lastly, why was Girardi fired up enough to be tossed? I think Girardi was upset most that his pitcher (Sebathia, who is not shy about hitting batters and would have surely retaliated) was being warned without having done anything wrong. Girardi was upset that the option was taken away from him.
So there you have it. Another perspective on the game within a game. Hey, I paid my 25 cents for this seat, so I am just as entitled as the next guy to have an opinion!