White Sox force Josh Donaldson to explain the joke

(Photo by Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports)

Back when Josh Donaldson attempted to get under Lucas Giolito’s skin (and succeeded) last season by loudly accusing the pitcher of benefiting from the “sticky stuff” that Major League Baseball began closely monitoring, I suggested that the White Sox’s best move was not responding. It’s not like Donaldson runs his mouth because he’s a good-faith actor who wants to enhance his understanding of the world through vigorous participation in the marketplace of ideas. He’s just a dingus who takes any reaction as validation.

Unfortunately, ignoring Donaldson is not always an option. For instance, if Tim Anderson already had to brush off a dirty play by Donaldson a week earlier, he might not be up for absorbing further jackassery, like Donaldson undercutting his place in the game by calling him “Jackie” on multiple occasions during the White Sox’s 7-5 loss to the Yankees on Saturday.

So Anderson dealt with it directly on the field by making his displeasure known in real time, and in plain sight.

And Yasmani Grandal made his displeasure about his teammate’s displeasure known, in a way that resulted in benches clearing, but no violence or ejections.

Immediate public reaction is the way it has to be dealt with, because otherwise you get into territory like Giolito discovered, where Donaldson can spin himself as the hero in a parking-lot encounter that may or may not have happened. Sunlight is the best disinfectant here, because Donaldson up and admitted to what Anderson said he did.

“So, first inning, I called him ‘Jackie.’ Let me give you a little context of that. In 2019, he said in an interview that he’s the new Jackie Robinson of baseball and he’s gonna bring back fun for the game, right? So, in 2019, when I played for Atlanta, we actually joked about that in the game. I don’t know what’s changed, and I’ve said it to him in years past — not in any manner, just joking around with the fact that he called himself Jackie Robinson. So, if something has changed from that … my meaning of that is not in any term trying to be racist, by any fact of the matter. It was just off an interview. That’s what he called himself, and we said that before and we joked about it. He laughed, whatever.”

I actually find it believable that Donaldson would clumsily cite a three-year-old article to jab at a player, because it’s well within his personality type to have an opposition-research file, or to hammer one joke over and over and over again.

What I don’t find believable is that Donaldson had any interest in “defusing the situation” with Anderson, because Donaldson’s entire history is one around creating tension — usually with opponents, but Liam Hendriks makes it sound like teammates also have to deal with it. By Donaldson’s own account, he should’ve known that an attempt at a joke would land poorly.

So it wasn’t a joke, at least in the sense where all parties involved are supposed to find it funny. And if Donaldson needs the public to consider a greater context, well, his entire public persona suggests an intent to wound.

This one just happened to cross a line. Anderson called it “disrespectful,” and Grandal called it “unacceptable.” Tony La Russa went the furthest.

It’s understandable why Anderson and Grandal would stop short of labeling Donaldson’s comment “racist,” because the general discourse has proven time and time again that it has no interest in maintaining the distinction between an action and an actor. A suggestion that a comment is racist turns into a full-blown debate about whether a person is racist, and that creates a whole new burden of proof for which Anderson or Grandal had never had interest in building a case.

They’re better off letting Donaldson publicly have to account for his words himself, because if his best argument is “why-can-he-call-himself-[x]-and-I-can’t?”, he ends up showing his own whole ass, and the follow-up stories only have to tell us whether he’s beyond help.

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Root Cause

In today’s world, who of us calls each other names while at work? Grow the hell up.

I don’t know who is worse, Donaldson for escalating on a ball field or TLR for making it a national event.


Anything involving the Yankees is a national event. And not everything has to somehow be about La Russa.


Excellent write up Jim, and agree this has nothing to do with TLR (and I am not a TLR fan).

Root Cause

TLR was the one who said it was racist not anderson

Root Cause

Neither the Yankees nor anything baseball makes the news headlines on the national feeds I typically watch.


Well that’s pretty obvious. Donaldson.


Donaldson’s argument is basically, “I insulted him once and he took it, so why shouldn’t I be able to expect him to keep taking it.”

Drunk buddy punches you in the arm one time and you forgive him because he’s drunk and it’s one time. He does it a second time and he gets a warning. The third time you lay his ass out.

I don’t know if what he said was racist or not but he clearly wanted to needle Anderson and when the first “arm punch” didn’t elicit the desired response he kept at it. Hard to be shocked if he gets laid out at some point…proverbially speaking of course.

As Cirensica

Racist jokes are almost always racist and almost never a joke.


Last two sentences of the first paragraph – pure gold.

Nobody has deserved a 100mph fastball to the ribs more than Donaldson, but I hope that is avoided. We are playing poorly enough as is and don’t need Anderson or Robert getting nailed in the hand or wrist. Considering who our manager is it’s possible we take that risk.

Joliet Orange Sox

I agree the post contains some Margalus golden writing.

I hope bean balls are avoided. When I took my kids to games when they were little, I found justifying bean balls to them very difficult. We’ve all had to deal with jackasses in our work lives and have managed to do so without physical harm to anyone so adult grown-up baseball players can do the same.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joliet Orange Sox

I said this on the game recap but yeah, retaliation is generally just not worth the effort. Sometimes though, the loud mouthed asshole needs to get punched in the face.

Joliet Orange Sox

I work in academia. In my workplace, there’s a lot of jackassery but punching someone would never happen without career-threatening consequences. I worked loading trucks when I was younger and I saw a few shoving matches and a punch could’ve happened on the job there.


Yaz in Donaldson’s face was the best part….

Deep Dish Pizza

Doesn’t surprise me where everything, according to the left, is racist. Hey even Mayor Pete called bridges racist. Trump voters etc. If Josh called Tim, Derek Jeter would there have been a baseball fight? Josh is a fool but just another made up story. There’s enough of those from CNN and BSNBC.


Sir, your comments are out of line and inappropriate. Please keep your politics to yourself.


Ya know, being a former writer, I’m a little jealous that I never employed, penultimate, very much. Cut it out before you make me feel bad.


Can the writers here help me interpret this guy’s comment? In the second sentence is he asking Derek Jeter a question? The third sentence seems to call Josh Donaldson a made up story? Hey at least he didn’t capitalize common nouns or use multiple ellipses.


Please do enlighten us as to what element of this story is “made up?”




You’re right. Tony La Russa is definitely on the left when it comes to politics.


“If I don’t think it’s racist then the target of alleged racism should just pipe down.”


Hey man, I see everyone implying you’re a dummy and stuff and I just wanted to say that they’re absolutely right.


Not sure what the left has to do with this since it was Tim Anderson who clearly had a problem with it. Josh intent is also pretty clear when he states he said it because he “had enough” of Tim jawing at him.


There are many times where it’s annoying having a manager who is far beyond caring about stirring it up. This is the opposite. Happy to see it.

At least publicly, Tony’s always been steady in sticking up for Timmy while he’s been here.


To me, Yaz was the guy sticking up for Timmy. LaRussa was just reading the room, and read it badly. (See Jim’s penultimate paragraph.)


I’d love to see a poll of players as to who the most hated player is. Donaldson would have to rank very high on the list.


Grandal is 0 for 9 against Taillon. I figured that would put McGuire behind the plate in game 1. Tony must really prefer Kopech throwing to McGuire.


Well to balance things out, Leury is batting 2nd, so everything will be alright. Joking aside, Tony is using McGuire for certain pitchers (i.e. Kopech), rather than matching up Grandal and McGuire for offense. It’s one reason why McGuire has started against LHPs throughout the year when 1.) he’s a lefty who can’t hit lefties, and 2.) Grandal hits lefties better.