Guardians, Yankees condemn ugly fan behavior in 9th

April 24th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Reflecting on the charged atmosphere that accompanied the Yankees’ 5-4 walk-off win over the Guardians on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, both teams agreed they had no issue with the game’s intensity until it culminated in hostile interactions between fans and members of Cleveland’s outfield. Both also condemned any behavior that endangers players on the field, after beer cans and other debris were thrown from the stands following Gleyber Torres’ game-winning single off Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase.

“You can celebrate your team walking off all you want, but don’t throw [stuff] on the field,” Guardians right fielder Oscar Mercado said. “That’s how people can get hurt. I should’ve probably walked away, but …

“You can root for your team all you want. I’m not denying that. I think it’s good for the game when people are die-hard fans. But do it the right way.”

Mercado said he sensed a beer can flying in his direction after Torres’ game-winner rolled past him in the right-center-field gap. Reacting, he picked the can off the grass and walked to the wall, catching a second can before confronting a group of fans overhead. Mercado did not throw anything back, but additional debris rained down on the field while ballpark officials and both dugouts raced to defuse the situation.

The commotion followed an initial incident in left field one play prior involving Mercado, Guardians center fielder Myles Straw and a fan they accused of taunting injured outfielder Steven Kwan.

“That can't happen,” said Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, whose game-tying double off Clase sent Kwan barreling into the wall. “I love the atmosphere. I love the fans. I love everything about them. But we want to win with class. That’s something this organization is about. We’ll fix it next time, I hope. But it is what it is. To that point, the atmosphere was amazing and everything was great.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone and Guardians manager Terry Francona agreed.

“Obviously, there is no place for throwing stuff onto the field in that situation,” Boone said. “We don’t want to put anyone in danger. I love the intensity, but you can’t be throwing stuff out on the field.”

Added Francona:  “Emotions got a little out of control. Regardless, I don’t think people can throw stuff at our players on the field. That’s never going to be OK.”

Tensions began rising after Kiner-Falefa’s game-tying hit. Shaken up after crashing into the left-field wall in an attempt to reel in the liner, Kwan required a visit from Francona and the Guardians’ training staff. As Kwan was being evaluated, Straw and Mercado began jawing with fans in the right-field stands. At one point, Straw pulled himself toward the top of the wall. He said his intent was to defend Kwan, who passed initial concussion protocols and remained in the game.

“The Yankees battled back, they played some good baseball late in the game and they obviously had a big hit,” Straw said. “I think the fans should be happy with their performance on the field. Kwan is the nicest guy on the planet. That’s my teammate, that’s my brother. My emotions got to me a little bit. As a Yankees fan, I feel like you should be excited for your team, you should be cheering, but you should never prey on someone. He went real hard into the wall. There is no business for saying the things those guys said to him. It got to me a little bit. I said what I said and if I were to do it again, I’d probably say the same thing. That’s my guy.

“You can say whatever you want to me, but when somebody goes headfirst into a wall, take a breath and let him get his feet under him,” Straw continued. “His chin was messed up. His forehead was messed up. Give him a breather. Guys are saying stuff to Tito and to Kwan. Let him recover. Chirp all you want, but when someone is hurt, it’s not something to joke about.”

Said Mercado: “There was a specific Yankee fan in left field celebrating Kwan getting hurt. It’s an act of violence. You can’t say stuff like that, especially when someone gets hurt.”

When the dust settled, it was an especially frustrating end to a disappointing afternoon for the Guardians, who jumped ahead on Josh Naylor’s two-run homer in the fifth and received a go-ahead two-run shot from Austin Hedges in the eighth. But they ultimately squandered Cal Quantrill’s return from the COVID-19 injured list and slid back to .500 with the loss, despite being one strike away before enduring Clase’s first blown save of the year.