Tensions remain high in this year's American League Division Series. The Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier commented Friday that “we don’t like them,” prompting the Yankees’ Brett Gardner to respond Saturday that “the feeling is probably mutual.” Regardless of what happens on the field, they’ll have to co-exist under the same roof.
With their series set to begin at Petco Park on Monday evening, the American League East rivals are being housed at a resort about 40 minutes north on the Pacific Coast Highway, a location selected by Major League Baseball and the players’ union.
“I saw a few [Rays] last night and this morning, just said, ‘Hey,’ and kept walking,” Gardner said. “Obviously, it’s not ideal, but it’s the cards that we’ve been dealt. We’ve got a group of guys that are very professional. It’s a big resort. We’ve got a lot of space. Say hello and keep moving along.”
The resort features shared outdoor space for the players, so it is possible that there will be more interactions to come. The clubs have clashed frequently over the last several seasons, most recently clearing the benches after Aroldis Chapman buzzed Mike Brosseau with a 101 mph fastball on Sept. 1 at Yankee Stadium.
Tampa Bay had the upper hand between the white lines during the regular season, winning eight of 10 meetings with New York, but it will have to contend with a Yankees club that is brimming with confidence after a two-game sweep of the Indians in the AL Wild Card Series.
"I’ve said it many times: They don’t like us, we don’t like them and it’s going to continue to stay that way,” Kiermaier said on Friday. “It’s going to be a very fun, energetic, exciting [series]. And I know each team is going to want to try to put it to the opposition. I know that for a fact.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he plans to nudge his players prior to Monday’s ALDS opener, reminding them to keep their focus on the mission at hand and not to be sidetracked by extracurricular chatter.
“We’ll talk through stuff, but I feel like our guys -- from a focus standpoint, a mentality standpoint -- are where we need to be,” Boone said. “We want to be champions, and we know we’ve got that opportunity in front of us. Getting caught up in a rivalry of ‘this guy said this,’ those can turn into distractions.”
Boone said that it is unique for two teams to share a hotel, especially during a postseason series, chalking it up to “baseball in 2020.” The teams were 'bubbled" in the previous round as well; for example, the Blue Jays and Rays were housed at the Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg, Fla., during their AL Wild Card Series at Tropicana Field.
“There’s nobody that I’d try to avoid on purpose, nobody that I’m too scared of,” Gardner said. “Kevin Cash is an old teammate of mine. There was a lot of drama between the two teams and I know a lot has been made of that, but I know that our focus is on trying to beat these guys.”
Zack Britton, the Yankees’ player representative, said that the initial discussions between MLB and the MLB Players Association settled upon San Diego as a logical neutral site because of Southern California’s reliable weather, since cancellations at this stage of the schedule would be difficult to manage.
As for their shared accommodations, Britton said that he would guess that the players will leave their tempers at the ballpark.
“I expect both teams to be professional. There’s families there,” Britton said. “It’s all about the competition on the field and we’re two passionate teams. I don’t expect there to be any issues in the hotel. If we see each other, I’m sure we’ll have a friendly nod and just go about our business.”