NEW YORK -- Josh Donaldson received a one-game suspension and an undisclosed fine from Major League Baseball on Monday stemming from what the league said were “inappropriate comments” made to White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson during Saturday’s game.
Donaldson is appealing the punishment, MLB announced. Donaldson would be eligible to play for the Yankees until the appeal process is completed. The Yankees placed Donaldson on the COVID-19 injured list before Monday’s game.
“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,” said Michael Hill, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president for on-field operations.
“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. In addition, Mr. Donaldson’s remark was a contributing factor in a bench-clearing incident between the teams, and warrants discipline.”
The White Sox and Yankees jostled in the fifth inning on Saturday after Chicago players took offense to Donaldson's comment.
Donaldson acknowledged that he twice referred to Anderson as “Jackie,” claiming that he was referring to a 2019 Sports Illustrated interview in which Anderson -- who is Black -- said that he feels like “today’s Jackie Robinson.”
Anderson took offense, saying: “He made a disrespectful comment. [Donaldson] basically tried to call me Jackie Robinson, like, ‘What’s up, Jackie?’ I don’t play like that. I don’t need to play at all. I wasn’t really bothering [anybody] today, but he made the comment and it was disrespectful.”
Donaldson first made the comment while on base in the second inning; Anderson and Donaldson then exchanged words in the third and were promptly separated. Anderson told his teammates what Donaldson said, which sparked a situation between Donaldson and White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal when Donaldson came to bat in the fifth.
“This game went through a period of time where a lot of those comments were made, and I think we’re way past that. It’s just unacceptable,” Grandal said. “I thought it was a low blow, and I’m going to make sure I’ve got my team’s back. There’s no way you’re allowed to say something like that. It’s unacceptable.”
Donaldson said he would apologize to Anderson, noting that Saturday was not the first time he referred to Anderson as “Jackie.” Donaldson said that he did so in 2019, when he was a member of the Braves.
Reacting to the suspension, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he felt the league was "thoughtful, looked into it and did their due diligence on it to make a tough call. I don't agree with it; I don't think it warranted a suspension, but I certainly respect their process."
In the May 6, 2019, Sports Illustrated article, Anderson told Stephanie Apstein that he felt a responsibility to help break what he called baseball’s “have-fun barrier.”
“I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson,” Anderson said in the interview. “That’s huge to say. But it’s cool, man, because he changed the game, and I feel like I’m getting to a point where I need to change the game.”
Tensions have been high between Anderson and Donaldson since a game at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field on May 13, when both benches cleared after Anderson shoved Donaldson following a first-inning play at third base. Donaldson said that he intended for his comment to neutralize that animosity.
Anderson and Donaldson did not speak before the conclusion of the series, which ended with the White Sox sweeping the Yankees in Sunday's doubleheader. Anderson was booed by Yankees fans in the second game, then hushed the crowd with an opposite-field, three-run homer in the eighth inning.
"It's a tough one," said Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, reacting to Donaldson's suspension. "Joke or not, I just don't think it's the right thing to do there -- especially given the history of the series in Chicago, kind of a little bit of beef between Anderson and J.D. Anderson's one of the best shortstops in the game and he's a big part of MLB, what's going on here and how we can grow the game. J.D. made a mistake, owned up to it and now we've got to move on."