Can you tell the difference between praise and ridicule? More importantly, whom do you trust to know the difference?
If you trust Tim Anderson understands how words work, then the Chicago White Sox star who dared to call out Josh Donaldson’s nonsense for what it was had every reason to fire back when the Yankees third baseman called him “Jackie” —yeah, like Robinson— twice while crossing the basepaths.
According to Donaldson, the “Jackie” quip was a reference to Stephanie Apstein’s 2019 Sports Illustrated profile of Anderson. Three years later, Donaldson seems to be hung up on a quote in the profile in which Anderson referred to himself as “a new Jackie Robinson of baseball.” (One wonders if Donaldson remembers anything else that was detailed in this profile, like Anderson’s extensive community work with Black kids in the South Side, or his desire to be a role model for young Black athletes.) Anderson said Donaldson’s shot was not only ” uncalled for ”but“ disrespectful, ”making it very clear that he saw offensive intent behind the comment. Donaldson maintained, both after the game in which the comment was made and in a statement five days later, that calling Anderson “Jackie” was a playful joke that Anderson was in on, a mutual “misunderstanding based on multiple exchanges between us.”
In a statementDonaldson apologized to Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s 99-year-old widow, and her family for “any distress the incident may have caused,” but did not let his overwhelming remorse stop him from appealing MLB’s one-game slap on the wrist.
Donaldson is suggesting the opposite of what I ask you to do. He says you shouldn’t trust Anderson to discern between a joke and an insult, nor should you trust a man in his mid-30s to properly interpret the subtext of his own insult.
The only thing worse than the explanation was how many conspired to ensure it worked.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone stressed that he “did not believe there was any malicious intent” after hearing his third baseman’s explanation. Like a 49-year-old father rearing his 36-year-old child, Boone said he told the third baseman to “rein it in” next time. Days later, Boone reiterated he would not “get into anyone’s head and heart,” even when Anderson outright denied Donaldson’s claim that the two had ever joked about Jackie.
According to reporters on the scene after Saturday’s game, the Yankees’ lead spokesman urged them to include in their stories that Donaldson had called Anderson “Jackie” before, essentially running with Donaldson’s defense. The next day, after Anderson hit a three-run bomb to help sweep the double-header, the same spokesman told reporters that Donaldson “wants to know what you’re going to ask” before coming out to speak. (He never came out.)