NEW YORK – Major League Baseball suspended Josh Donaldson for one game Monday after the New York Yankees slugger made multiple references to Jackie Robinson while talking to White Sox star Tim Anderson during the weekend.
Donaldson also was fined an undisclosed amount for his actions Saturday at Yankee Stadium. The punishment was announced by Michael Hill, the senior vice president of on-field operations for MLB.
Donaldson has appealed the penalty, meaning he can continue to play until there is a final decision. Shortly before the suspension was announced, the Yankees said Donaldson had been put on the COVID-19 injured list.
“MLB has completed the process of speaking to the individuals involved in this incident. There is no dispute over what was said on the field. Regardless of Mr. Donaldson’s intent, the comment he directed toward Mr. Anderson was disrespectful and in poor judgment, particularly when viewed in the context of their prior interactions," Hill said in a statement.
“In addition, Mr. Donaldson’s remark was a contributing factor in a bench-clearing incident between the teams, and warrants discipline,” he said.
White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz didn't think the penalty was enough.
“Just one game. We all saw his malice at third a week ago, then this comment with the ridiculous excuse that followed. What’s the point or message behind a 1 game suspension? This is incredibly disappointing and plain frustrating,” Katz posted on Twitter.
The White Sox had a day off Monday. They are not scheduled to play the Yankees again this season.
Yankees star Aaron Judge said Donaldson made “a mistake."
“You know, joke or not ... I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do there, especially given the history, especially the series in Chicago, kind of a little bit of beef between JD and Anderson is one of the best shortstops in the game and a big part of MLB and what’s going on here and how we can grow the game,” Judge said.
“JD, for that one-game suspension, yeah I don’t know. JD made a mistake and owned up to it and now we got to move on," he said.
Judge, who leads the majors with 17 home runs after hitting two more Monday night in a 6-4 loss to Baltimore, said Donaldson spoke to the team after the incident.
“JD is a pro. So he talked to all of us and filled us in on what he was referring to about, I guess, a 2019 interview that TA did. But still I just don’t think it was the right move at all.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he disagreed with MLB's decision.
“I think they were thoughtful and did their due diligence on it and made what was a tough call. I don’t agree with it. I don’t think it warranted a suspension, but I certainly respect their process,” he said.
Donaldson said he twice called Anderson by “Jackie” — as in Robinson, who famously broke MLB’s color barrier in 1947 — during the Yankees’ 7-5 win on Saturday. The benches and bullpens emptied as tensions escalated.
Anderson, one of baseball’s leading Black voices and an All-Star shortstop, said it was a "disrespectful comment.” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said it was racist, and Anderson agreed.
“Basically, it was trying to call me Jackie Robinson. Like, ‘What’s up, Jackie?’” Anderson said after Saturday's game.
Donaldson, who is white, said he had used the “Jackie” reference in the past with Anderson, who had said he viewed himself as a potential modern-day Robinson in a 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated.
“My meaning of that is not any term trying to be racist by any fact of the matter,” Donaldson said Saturday.
Anderson and Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, did not speak with the media on Sunday, when the White Sox swept a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Through a Yankees spokesman, Donaldson said he hadn't talked with Anderson since the incident.
Anderson started the second game and was booed by fans, with some chanting “Jackie” at him. He hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning of a 5-0 win and then put his finger to his lips in a hushing gesture as he rounded the bases.
Boone said he talked to Donaldson after Saturday’s game and believed his player’s explanation for why he made the “Jackie” remark — but he also said he thought Donaldson shouldn’t have used the term.
“I think with what’s going on between the two players and between the two teams over the last week or two, I certainly understand how that would be sensitive and understand the reaction,” Boone said. “I also understand Josh has been very forthcoming with the history of it and the context of it. So I don’t believe there was any malicious intent in that regard.”
“But this is just my opinion — (that’s) somewhere he should not be going,” he said.
Donaldson had clashed with the White Sox on multiple occasions before this weekend.
The benches also emptied on May 13 after Anderson shoved Donaldson following a hard tag in Chicago.
White Sox ace Lucas Giolito used an expletive in calling Donaldson a “pest” last year after Donaldson appeared to yell “Not sticky anymore!” after a first-inning homer for Minnesota — a reference to MLB cracking down on pitchers using sticky substances on baseballs.
The 36-year-old Donaldson is batting .238 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in 37 games during his first season with the Yankees.
Boone said Donaldson told the team he was experiencing symptoms, prompting the team to put him on the COVID-19 injured list. He had not been tested, Boone said.
Donaldson became the third Yankees player to go on the COVID-19 IL in the last two days. Before Sunday’s doubleheader, Joey Gallo and Kyle Higashioka were placed on the list.
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