Josh Donaldson says Aaron Judge’s criticism of him following Donaldson’s admission that he called White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson “Jackie” was hard to take.
“It was really hard to hear that,” Donaldson said Wednesday. “I spoke to my teammates as soon as it happened and told them my intentions. I think everyone responded to what I had to say. I think they know my heart. It is not my intention.
Donaldson admitted to repeatedly calling Anderson, who is black, “Jackie.” Donaldson said it was an attempt to defuse tension between the two after they nearly came to blows when the teams met in Chicago last month.
“Joke or not, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do there,” Judge said last month of Donaldson’s interaction with Anderson.
Asked about Donaldson’s status with the team on Wednesday, the judge said: “[Donaldson’s] always welcome. He’s going to be a big part of us winning the World Series if we’re going to get to where we need to be. Josh Donaldson is going to play a big role, which is why we went out and acquired him.
But the judge also noted that the two have not spoken to each other in person since the incident, although they spoke on the phone.
“It’s something we’ll deal with internally and work through,” Judge said. “He’s a great leader in this room, and a lot of guys look up to him. It was a tough situation he was in, and he’s on the injured list now and recovering.
The judge blamed the lack of communication on the fact that Donaldson had just returned from the COVID-19 injured list, but added, “We have plenty of time.”
Donaldson said that despite the criticism, he still felt “comfortable” in the Yankees clubhouse, but was still stung that it was seen as a racial statement.
“It’s extremely hurtful…to have this accusation, not just for me, but for my family,” Donaldson said. “That’s definitely not who I am.”
He also said he and Anderson have not spoken since the May 22 incident. He continued to insist that he and Anderson had been on the same page ever since Donaldson started calling him “Jackie” following the 2019 Sports Illustrated article in which Anderson referred to himself as “the Jackie Robinson of today”.
“It was friendly banter, back and forth and he took it that way,” Donaldson said. “I know the reports say [Anderson said] nope. Maybe we interpreted it differently.
Donaldson added that despite his reputation with some in the league, he feels he has been well received.
“I’m proud to be a good teammate,” Donaldson said. “Wherever I have [gone], every organization I’ve been a part of, except Oakland, offered me extensions and wanted me to stay. … wherever I have [gone]I won, and part of winning is having good team chemistry.
Controversy, however, has followed Donaldson throughout his career.
And this is just the latest example.
“I don’t know why it got to this point,” Donaldson said of why the situation with Anderson escalated. “We talked and joked on the pitch. Tim is a competitor and plays with a chip on his shoulder. For me, looking back, a lot of it stemmed from the play at third base [in Chicago].”
That’s when Donaldson, a week earlier, knocked Anderson out of the sack on a base play, which also led to the players coming to blows.
“I tried to go out in front [by saying], ‘My bad’ during the game,” Donaldson said. “I felt like I had it all figured out, but in the first game of the series at home, I tried to extend an olive branch saying, ‘Let’s break the tension. It had nothing to do with an attempt to knock him down or a racing situation. It is not my intention. But talking to the guys, I shouldn’t have put myself or my team in this situation.
Donaldson said he was appealing his one-game suspension because he disagreed with the decision that led to the ban.
“My intentions weren’t what they were supposed to be,” Donaldson said. ” A big part of [the suspension] has been [based on the fact] Made the benches clear when it was like four innings later [he and Anderson jawed with each other]. I don’t know how I instigated anything. I walked to home plate. And the receiver [Yasmani Grandal] confronted me at that time. I don’t know how it was my prerogative that they decided they wanted to clean the pews. In my opinion, I didn’t do that.
And he said there was nothing racial about his tenure as “Jackie.”
“I feel bad for the Robinson family,” Donaldson said. “I never want them to feel that their name should be viewed in a bad light.”
Additional reporting by Mark W. Sanchez