There are still some things to work out in the aftermath of Josh Donaldson’s incident with Tim Anderson. The third baseman still does not know when his appeal of the one-game suspension will be and there are some conversations between him and some teammates, like Aaron Judge, that need to happen.
But Donaldson will be welcomed back into the Yankees clubhouse, even though Judge said that he felt his teammate’s comments weren’t right.
“I haven’t spoken to him but that’s something that we’ll handle internally and get it figured out,” Judge said before Wednesday night’s game against the Angels. “But he’s a big part of the [leadership] in this room and a lot of guys look to him and that was a tough situation he’s been in.
“He’s gonna be a big part of us moving forward. So I was excited to get him back healthy.”
Donaldson said that it was hard to hear Judge and manager Aaron Boone criticize his actions after the incident. The benches cleared after Donaldson repeatedly called Anderson, who is Black, “Jackie,” in reference to Jackie Robinson. White Sox manager called it “racist,” while Anderson and the league called it “disrespectful.”
“It’s a tough one. Joke or not, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do there,” Judge said of the May 21 incident. Boone said he thought it was “somewhere Josh shouldn’t be going.”
Donaldson has been adamant that he meant nothing racial toward Anderson with the comments, he was just drawing on an interview from 2019 in which Anderson compared himself to Robinson in trying to break through the “fun barrier” in the game.
Donaldson took the criticism from his own clubhouse hard.
“I think that was tough to hear. For sure. Just for the simple fact that, I pride myself on being a good teammate,” Donaldson said. “And everywhere I’ve [gone], every organization that I’ve been a part of, minus Oakland, has offered me an extension. They wanted me to stay … They showed that they want to be a part of their team. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way if that’s the business end of it.”
“But, and also like everywhere that I went I’ve won,” Donaldson continued. “I think part of winning is having a good team chemistry. And I’ve taken pride like everywhere I went I’ve always tried to help people try to get better. I’ve tried to learn from my teammates as well. So that was definitely tough.”
Donaldson said he has spoken with his teammates about it from the minute it happened and he will continue to do so if it continues to be an issue. He issued his statement last week apologizing to the Robinson family because he said he never intended “Jackie” to be taken as an insult. He said that he and Anderson had joked about it in the past, after Anderson called himself the “Jackie Robinson of today,” in an interview, but obviously they have had issues at least going back to the week before the incident at Yankee Stadium with a very physical tag at third base.
Donaldson said he was confused because other guys on the White Sox, including Liam Hendricks, who publicly criticized him, were friendly to him off the field last week. The benches-clearing incident actually occurred a few innings after the “What up, Jackie,” comment and began when catcher Yasmani Grandal got in Donaldson’s face and blocked him from walking into the batter’s box.
That — and that his comments have been called racist — is mostly why Donaldson is appealing the one-game suspension issued by MLB dean of discipline Michael Hill.
“My intentions weren’t what it was blown out to be,” Donaldson said of why he is appealing. “And I think a big part of the thing was that I incited the benches clearing. When that was like, four innings after. I don’t know how I was inciting anything. I walked up to home plate and the catcher confronted me. I don’t know how that was my prerogative. They decided they wanted to clear benches. So in my opinion, I didn’t do that.”
When the Yankees acquired him, there was a lot of talk about Donaldson playing with an edge. He is not shy about saying controversial things, just ask Gerrit Cole. One former teammate said of Donaldson that “he’s a smart guy/great player,” who “thinks he has to be an asshole to add to his natural strengths.”
Donaldson isn’t going to change who he is.
“I gotta be myself. I play the game a certain way and I’m not going out there to obviously to this extent, but I go out there and play and I play to win,” Donaldson said.