Then Wednesday, Major League Baseball was quick to hand out three suspensions, punishing both teams for their actions in the benches-clearing incident. Chapman got a three-game suspension and an undisclosed fine, while managers Aaron Boone and Kevin Cash were each suspended one game. Boone and Cash will serve their suspensions Wednesday night, but Chapman has the right to appeal and can play until his appeal is heard.
After the Yankees completed a much-needed 5-3 victory Tuesday night, the benches for both teams emptied onto the field for a postgame confrontation. Rays’ manager Kevin Cash fanned the flames even further during his postgame press conference, terming the Yankees’ actions as ridiculous while noting his team has flamethrowers as well.
Here’s an overhead view of the postgame scrum.
Here’s how it looked from my vantage point: pic.twitter.com/4vYhguClP9— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) September 2, 2020
What led to the confrontation
The Rays felt like they had been targeted by Yankees’ pitching earlier in the game. Specifically, Joey Wendle believed it was no accident that Masahiro Tanaka hit him with a pitch in the first inning.
The Rays stewed over that pitch for eight innings. Then in the ninth, they became fed up after Chapman uncorked a 100 MPH fastball that sailed too close to the head of Michael Brosseau.
Joey Wendle said the HBP in first inning was absolutely intentional by Tanaka.— Tricia Whitaker (@TriciaWhitaker) September 2, 2020
“That Pitch was at Brosseau’s head at 100 MPH. That is scary. To miss like that...you’re talking about someone’s life. In a scenario like that I’m gonna have Mike’s back all day everyday.”
The bad blood between the division rivals goes back much further than Tuesday’s incident.
On Sept. 27, 2018, the teams exchanged purpose pitches and hit batters during a game at Tropicana Field. CC Sabathia was famously ejected in the sixth inning after plunking Jake Bauer and Jesus Sucre in back-to-back innings. The ejection cost Sabathia a $500,000 contract bonus. He was suspended the first five games of 2019.
They were back at it again last May. Rays’ reliever Yonny Chirinos struck Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez with pitches directly after DJ LeMahieu homered. That led to a confrontation similar to what happened Tuesday. Then again in July, the benches emptied after Sabathia exchanged words with then Rays’ outfielder Avisail Garcia.
The intensity of the rivalry coupled with the intensity of the division race pushed things over the top again in 2020. The Rays currently hold a 3 1/2 game lead over New York in the AL East.
Kevin Cash lets loose
Rays manager Kevin Cash was still fuming about Tuesday’s run-in after the dust had settled. In addition to calling New York’s behavior “ridiculous,” he said the team was poorly coached, among other things.
#Rays Cash: "It's ridiculous. Enough is enough. ... It was mishandled by the Yankees."— Juan Toribio (@juanctoribio) September 2, 2020
#Rays Cash on the Yankees: "Poor judgement. Poor coaching. Poor teaching."— Juan Toribio (@juanctoribio) September 2, 2020
Cash then seemed to indicate retribution was coming.
Here's the full #Rays Cash quote: "I can assure you, other than three years ago, there hasn't been one pitch thrown with intent from any of our guys. Somebody has to be accountable and the last thing I'll say is I have a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph."— Juan Toribio (@juanctoribio) September 2, 2020
The league will not appreciate that comment.
Understandably, it did not go over well in the Yankees’ clubhouse, either.
Aaron Boone on Kevin Cash's comments: "That's pretty scary comments. I don't think that's right at all."— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) September 2, 2020
While some anger is understandable under these circumstances, Cash’s comments go a few steps beyond what’s acceptable.
The Yankees and Rays will meet again one more time during the regular season. That game takes place Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. A postseason series is also possible with both teams well positioned in the expanded playoff field. The Rays lead the season series 7-2.
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