CHICAGO -- The moment the Twins' Zoom room flickered to life on Wednesday afternoon ahead of a 13-3 loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, and Josh Donaldson appeared on the screen in a T-shirt that read, "You got something to say?", it was clear that he had every intention of speaking his piece about Lucas Giolito's comments following the previous night's game.
As part of those remarks, the Sox right-hander called him an "[expletive] pest" and "classless" for Donaldson's apparent insinuation that Giolito had benefited from the use of foreign substances to improve his spin rates.
Donaldson clarified that his outburst of, "Hey, it's not sticky anymore!" as he crossed home plate following his first-inning homer off Giolito in Tuesday's series opener, as caught by a television microphone, did refer directly to Giolito -- but that he intended for it to rally his teammates more than as a shot against his opponent.
"I didn't think I was showing him up during the game," Donaldson said. "I was talking to my bench. I wasn't pimping my home run. I wasn't talking to him, saying anything."
"I'm trying to get our boys fired up and ready to go," he added, with the fourth-place Twins in the midst of a stretch of 24 straight games within the division. "We're at a point in our season which is critical. This is do or die for us, going through this stretch. We're playing with a sense of urgency right now to go out there and win ballgames. Me talking to my teammates and me trying to encourage them and getting them fired up, that's part of my job. That's why I'm here."
There's no doubt that Donaldson sure fired himself up.
In his first at-bat since all of the drama took center stage, Donaldson stepped to the plate on Wednesday to a massive helping of boos from the crowd and launched a homer to left field. He watched the blast and dropped his bat next to home plate for emphasis after he gave the Twins a 1-0 lead.
But Donaldson’s loud call to action -- featuring that blast, all the back-and-forth in the media, and even the players-only meeting he called on Sunday to emphasize the importance of this stretch -- went unanswered.
Minnesota’s bats fell silent outside of two other solo homers from Gilberto Celestino and Nelson Cruz, while the White Sox blasted six of their own and blew the game open with a six-run fifth to send the Twins -- and any long-shot hopes of salvaging their season -- reeling into oblivion.
Donaldson, too, struck out in his next two plate appearances before being lifted from the game as the Twins fell to 33-45 and 13 1/2 games out of first place.
“I’m not going to try to make something out of something that I don’t really think is there,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “J.D. has come out with a couple of really big swings. That’s a fact. He’s come out, he’s jump-started us. We have to play nine good innings and go out there and beat a good team, a first-place team, a team that, to this point, they’ve been better than us. This is the class of our division at the moment, and we have to own that.”
Donaldson has been one of the Majors' most outspoken players about pitchers' use of foreign substances to improve spin rate since even before Major League Baseball announced earlier this month that it would begin to more strictly enforce the rule against doing so. The Twins' third baseman went so far as to tweet in late May that he had "an entire catalog of video of [pitchers] cheating."
"I'm not the one that's the one playing against the rules," Donaldson said. "[Some pitchers] have been. Trust me, a lot of people are upset about this. A lot of people didn't know about it until it started getting attention drawn to it. At the end of the day, now, people are seeing the changes and are like, 'Oh, OK.'
"Guys throwing no-hitters, perfect games, going out there and making a lot of cash. Off of who? The hitters. Who are they making more money than? The pitchers that are pitching clean. There's a lot of people -- it's not just me -- that are upset about this."
Giolito's spin rate on his four-seam fastball had averaged 2,430 rpm in his 14 starts before the league began its stricter enforcement on June 21. Including his effort against the Twins on Tuesday, Giolito's four-seam spin rate was down 199 rotations to an average of 2,231 rpm in two starts since enforcement began, even as his average velocity on the pitch slightly increased -- which is typically accompanied by a corresponding increase in spin rate.
The average four-seam spin rate of the league as a whole decreased from 2,307 rpm before enforcement to 2,229 rpm once enforcement began -- a drop of 78 rotations.
Donaldson indicated that he felt the tone of Giolito's response in the media "kind of speaks more about the looming question that's going on," and said that he addressed the issue face-to-face with Giolito in the parking lot outside Guaranteed Rate Field following Tuesday's game, noting that Giolito "didn't have any response."
Giolito was not available for comment on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, prior to the league's crackdown, Donaldson said that he felt it was his responsibility to speak up on behalf of hitters because he believed that his words, as a veteran and former Most Valuable Player Award winner, would carry the weight necessary to bring about change. Baldelli indicated that he's supportive of how vocal Donaldson has been throughout the season.
"I think Josh has probably affected this discussion as much as any player in baseball, and I mean that," Baldelli said. "I don’t think he’s afraid to piss people off. That is not something he is concerned about when he feels strongly about something, and I think that this is a topic that -- he’s passionate about it because it affects him in such a big way, and I think it’s actually probably pretty amazing that this has not been a bigger discussion before this point."
Donaldson claimed at the start of the month that 10-15 players had reached out to him in support of his outspoken stance, and there's no question that Donaldson has played a significant role in why this story has stayed so prominent in the media over the last two months.
That continued with this saga -- which may well have added to the ongoing season-long tension between the White Sox and Twins.
"When something actually starts affecting the rest of us, especially all the guys in that clubhouse, that’s when I think it’s most important to talk about and address," Baldelli said. "I think in this particular instance, Josh speaks as a member of the Twins, but he’s not afraid to speak for himself, either. And I think he can handle himself and he can handle this situation, which I think he has."
Donaldson said that it was never his intention for this to blow up as much as it has -- but he's not necessarily shying away from drawing more attention to the sticky substance debate through this, either.
"At the end of the day, it's probably good for TV," Donaldson said. "At the end of the day, that wasn't my intention. My intentions are to try to get out there and motivate our team -- also, to play well.
"My intention was not to show up Lucas Giolito. He took it that way. He has his own right to do and think whatever he wants, right? And what he said was -- he has a problem with what I said on the field and I have a problem with what he has to say in the Zoom room. That's OK.
"We're not supposed to like each other. He's on another team. I'm out there to compete. I'm out there to win ballgames. You go check my track record -- you've got a lot of people talking a lot of [expletive] about me, for somebody that's a three-time All-Star and MVP. I'm not here to boast myself, but people forget quick."