Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
If it had been the Red Sox, if it had been the Royals, if it had been the Rangers or Orioles or any of the teams we despise that did what the Blue Jays did early in the game on Monday night against the Yankees, and suffered the fate that the Blue Jays did, we would laugh. Oh, we would laugh long and hard and richly from the pits of our stomachs. And we would be right for doing so.
Then for them to get humiliated with a comeback, tied up on a big ol’ Teixeira home run that he admired before returning to the dugout to yell “Blown save!” at a former relief godsend suddenly looking shaky when it matters most?
Holy shit would we laugh.
To have your seventh inning reliever walk away on crutches and your starting second baseman and lead-off hitter needing the shoulder that was operated on twice last year checked out, with a week left before the playoffs, because of a brawl that came as a result of a beanball war that your team pursued for absolutely no good goddamn reason? That shit would be hilarious if it wasn’t so unbelievably stupid, and it would look good on whichever collection of shitheels pulled it if they weren’t ours.
Don’t get me wrong, the Yankees weren’t without sin on Monday night. They may have started it — Shi Davidi’s post at Sportsnet suggests replays show catcher Gary Sanchez “twice looking up at Donaldson before pointing way inside with his index finger before the pitch” that hit him — and they certainly escalated things unnecessarily when Luis Severino threw at Justin Smoak in the bottom of the second. Chase Headley’s post-game comments about the Jays being the “king of fun,” and complaining about bat flips and Marcus Stroman yelling as he pitches are not a good look for their side, especially if the implication is that throwing at Blue Jays players is therefore somehow justified. But that doesn’t make the Jays’ actions any less stupid.
And yes, the umpires were wholly fucking useless on Monday night, and could have — should have — put a stop to this horseshit after J.A. Happ’s first pitch behind Chase Headley’s back, if not after Severino hit Donaldson, or his first pitch to Smoak. But to me this was still all about the Blue Jays, and it was kiiiiiind of all about them being fucking clowns.
I’m sorry. I know people like to take a “my team right or wrong” kind of stance in these things sometimes, and I would totally do that if it were possible, but I can’t do it here. This was flat out stupid, unnecessary, childish, and may have significantly impacted their season. Throwing at players is always stupid, of course. Getting into potentially injurious situations with a team that has nothing left to play for and a week remaining before the playoffs is dumber still. And yet this was still especially stupid beyond that!
Russell Martin, in a quote via a tweet from John Lott, was at least honest about the flavour of horseshit that they all were tasting:
“That’s just kind of the unwritten rules of baseball,” he explained. “You hit one of our guys, our MVP guy. After that, sometimes the ball slips out of the pitcher’s hand and for some reason it’s even. That’s kind of how the game goes.”
In other words, the Jays were so affronted by the HBP Donaldson took from Severino in the bottom of the first that two pitches from J.A. Happ “slipped” in the direction of Chase Headley in the next frame. The Jays, arbiters of the game’s unwritten rules that they evidently believe they are, then assumed that the issue had been put to rest, not realizing that the Yankees had not necessarily thought Severino’s pitch to Donaldson — which had only just caught him on the elbow — was intentional, and had themselves decided (dumbly) that they were now owed a shot at a Jays player. The Jays were affronted by that as well and charged the field in the aftermath (albeit spurred on by Severino’s reaction, one assumes).
The Blue Jays could have let slide the Yankees’ evening of the score — which is precisely what they had expected of the Yankees after Happ hit Headley, and what left them so aghast when it didn’t happen. They certainly could have let Severino’s plunking of Donaldson’s slide, especially given that the right-hander had been struggling with command, that it hardly looked intentional, and that getting into a beanball war could get somebody hurt or suspended for the crucial, crucial games upcoming.
They did neither.
Was some of their anger residual from plunkings they had taken earlier in the series, and therefore more justified than looking at this game alone might suggest? I don’t doubt it. And did the umpires have numerous opportunities to wrest back control of the game and keep this from becoming as big a heated clusterfuck as it did? Sure. But the Blue Jays have to own their shit.
“After they missed Smoak the first time, I thought we were just going to play baseball. But then they decided to hit him,” said Kevin Pillar, according to a tweet from Arden Zwelling, placing the start of the troubles a half inning after Happ had clearly and intentionally thrown twice at Headley. Because apparently it’s only the Jays who have the privilege of making sure they hit a batter by throwing at him twice.
It’s disappointing to see Donaldson seeming so central to it all, given the way he talked sense earlier this season about how dangerous it is for pitchers to be throwing intentionally at batters and how the league needs to protect hitters better. Unlike that May series in Minnesota, here he simply, according to another tweet from Arden, expressed his confusion — not about how the fuck this happened or why in the hell his team would be so cavalier about this shit with just six enormous games left to go in the regular season, but about how he doesn’t even understand the unwritten rules of the game anymore!
Here’s a rule that shouldn’t need to be written: don’t do this stupid shit, you fucks!
Ultimately the Jays were bested on the field by the Yankees on Monday night, but in the bigger picture, especially if Benoit and Travis end up out for even a small portion of this final stretch, they were beaten by themselves. And for that they have no excuses.