Donaldson Delivers Another Faux Pas
ALSO: ANGELS INVOLVED IN UNHEAVENLY DOLLAR SQUABBLE
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Did you know…
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson will give Yankees slugger Aaron Judge a good run in the battle for American League MVP . . .
The NL race has settled down to Mookie Betts (Dodgers), Manny Machado (Padres), and Pete Alonso (Mets) . . .
Look for Miami’s Sandy Alcantara to start the All-Star Game and finish high in this year’s NL Cy Young Award voting . . .
Just because Juan Soto, a free agent after 2024, is slumping doesn’t mean the Washington Nationals will trade him before the Aug. 2 deadline . . .
How can the Oakland A’s survive with NL reject Christian Bethancourt catching and batting cleanup? . . .
The Tampa Bay Rays, consistently drawing less than 8,000 a game, will push harder for a new ballpark or a new city . . .
Some team will strike it rich with veteran southpaw Dallas Keuchel, a former AL Cy Young winner who ran out of steam with the White Sox.
Josh Donaldson doesn’t get it
About Anderson, Robinson, or why teammates didn’t have his back
By Jeff Kallman
In 2019, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson had a skirmish tied to getting drilled in his next plate appearance following a home run he celebrated as he normally does—exuberantly, having (the nerve of him!) fun in his achievement. The skirmish got him a brief suspension (the pitcher who drilled him got a few more days) and a probing interview with Sports Illustrated writer Stephanie Apstein.
That was the interview in which Anderson likened himself to Jackie Robinson, not as a race pioneer but as one of the pioneers he hoped (and still does) would help break the barrier between those who continue insisting baseball is Serious Stuff on the field and those who insist there’s something amiss when you can’t have fun playing, you know, a game.
“I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson,” Anderson told Apstein about it. “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.” A little grandiose? Perhaps. Robinson had far more grave barriers to break. But grandiosity doesn’t mean Anderson didn’t have a point to make.
By Yankee third baseman Josh Donaldson’s light, it was good for a laugh. If he was right, once was funny, maybe (big maybe), but any funny expired long before he had a 21 May dust-up over an exchange with Anderson in Yankee Stadium during which Donaldson said, “What’s up, Jackie?”
It caused an eventual bench-clearing incident later in the game. It put Donaldson squarely into the hottest seat of his career, even while Anderson slammed a shut-the-hell-up exclamation point upon the Yankee Stadium idiot brigades chanting “Jack-ie!” at him by slamming a long opposite-field home run near the end of a doubleheader’s second game.
Donaldson pleaded then and still does that it was just a jest, oblivious to the point that a white ballplayer calling a black ballplayer “Jackie” isn’t necessarily a jest so much as a racial challenge. His assorted public apologies since suggest he still doesn’t get it.
He apologized to Anderson by including a comment that they now had a mutual understanding. Never mind that, in Anderson’s view, that understanding has been, since the original “Jackie” remark in 2019, “You don’t speak to me, I don’t speak to you.”
He apologized to Robinson’s family “for any distress this incident may have caused.” That isn’t even close to the same as an apology for using their husband’s, father’s, grandfather’s name and legacy as an entrée to a joke that had a shelf life of minus five seconds.
But Donaldson also felt the sting of his manager and at least one prize teammate not having his back on this. Aaron Boone declared the “Jackie” quip was somewhere Donaldson “should not be going.” And outfielder/bombardier Aaron Judge, who never has an unkind public word for any teammate even after an egregious on-field mistake, wasn’t exactly ready to acquit Donaldson, either: “Joke or not, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do there.”
Almost as astonishing in a sad way is how many waxing in print about the incident failed to hoist the context in which Anderson made his self-comparison to Robinson. It seemed as though you could count on half-a-hand how many remembered he did so in the context of doing his part to defund baseball’s Fun Police. But to whom should Anderson have compared himself, then? Johnny Appleseed?
I am long on record in favor of defunding the Fun Police myself. I’ll say it again here: I’m exhausted of the hypocrisy in saying one moment that you need to play professional baseball like a business but saying the next—you know, during contract talks, free agency markets, collective bargaining agreement skirmishes—that you need to remember you’re only playing a kids’ game.
You can argue all you want that Anderson saying his effort against the Fun Police made him a kind of Robinson figure was a little out of line, even though he knew (and said as much to Apstein) that he didn’t and doesn’t face half Robinson’s obstacles. But you can’t argue that Donaldson is just a witless naif, either.
“He wants to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants,” an unidentified former teammate told Bradford William Davis, who writes as eloquently against MLB’s monkeying around with baseballs themselves as he does against the duplicities of the Donaldsons of the game. “And then he either feigns ignorance or surprise when he gets pushback.”
The scary part is that Donaldson and no few of his defenders didn’t feign their ignorance. They hoisted it unmistakably for one and all to see.
Jeff Kallman is an IBWAA Life Member who writes Throneberry Fields Forever. He has written for the Society for American Baseball Research, The Hardball Times, Sports-Central, and other publications. He has lived in Las Vegas since 2007 and, alas, has been a Met fan since the day they were born.
Will the Angels Abandon Anaheim Stadium Anytime Soon?
By Dan Schlossberg
Just when the Angels are getting good, their future in Anaheim is getting bad.
The 1961 American League expansion team has a lease with the city that expires in 2029 but has options that would allow the ballclub to extend its stay through 2038.
But owner Arte Moreno had hoped to build a revenue-generating baseball village around his stadium, creating an outdoor bazaar similar to those in Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, and St. Louis.
That plan now appears dead. The Anaheim City Council killed the sale of the city-owned Angel Stadium to Moreno’s company, SRB Management, triggering bids from other California locations.
Long Beach wants to build a brand-new ballpark in an era called “the Elephant Lot,” a 13-acre site where circus elephants were once kept. There was even talk of a 55-acre development that would have allowed Moreno to add his baseball village.
Another landing spot for the Angels is Inland Empire, the largest metro area in the country with no major-league sports franchise. It has more than 4.65 million residents.
Inland Empire also inquired about the Oakland Athletics and Florida (now Miami) Marlins dating back as far as 1996. A local attorney even offered shares in something called Inland Empire Baseball LLC to fund acquisition of a team plus construction of a ballpark.
If the Angels are serious about leaving Anaheim, they might also entertain offers from Las Vegas, Vancouver, New Orleans, Montreal, and Austin, among others considered to be front-runners for future expansion clubs.
Meanwhile, the situation in Anaheim is sticky, to say the least. Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned during a corruption probe that involved the FBI and relations between the team and city are icy, to say the least.
That’s too bad, since Joe Maddon’s team finally seems to have enough pitching to pose a serious threat in the American League West. Noah Syndergaard seems healthy again after Tommy John elbow surgery and kid named Reid Ditmers pitched the only complete-game no-hitter of the season. Two-way star Shohei Ohtani and three-time MVP Mike Trout head a productive offense bolstered by the comeback of Anthony Rendon and the arrival of Taylor Ward.
At the moment, the team is doing a downward dog. Entering its doubleheader at Yankee Stadium Thursday, it had lost six in a row and 10 of 13. That dropped its overall record from 24-13, good for a piece of first in the West in mid-May to 27-23 and a five-game deficit.
But everyone is still keeping an eye on the ballpark situation in Anaheim.
Although The Big A has proximity to Disney and a parking situation far superior to Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers seem to have an unbreakable grip on Southern California. They have the biggest payroll and the best record — not to mention a benign climate better than anyone else with the possible exception of the San Diego Padres.
If the Angels want to compete, they have Moreno’s money behind them. But it would be better if the city were behind them too.
Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, and many other outlets. He’s an author too, with 40 books under his byline. Contact Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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