Josh Donaldson said Aaron Judge’s criticism of him after Donaldson’s admission that he called White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson “Jackie” was hard to take.
“It was definitely hard to hear that,” Donaldson said Wednesday. “I spoke to my teammates as soon as it happened and let them know what my intentions were. I think everyone reacted to what I had to say. I think you know my heart. That is not my intention.”
Donaldson admitted to repeatedly calling Anderson, who is black, “Jackie.” Donaldson said it was a bid to defuse tensions between the two after a near scuffle when the teams met in Chicago last month.
“Kids or not, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” Judge said last month of Donaldson’s interaction with Anderson.
Asked Wednesday about Donaldson’s status on the team, Judge said: “[Donaldson’s] always welcome. He’s going to be a big part of helping us win the World Series when we get where we need to be. Josh Donaldson is going to be a big part of that, so we went out and got him.”
But the judge also noted that the two have not spoken in person since the incident, although they have been on the phone.
“That’s something we’re going to be addressing and clearing up internally,” Judge said. “He’s a great leader in this space and a lot of guys look up to him. It was a difficult situation to be in and he’s now on the injured list and he’s coming out of it.
The judge blamed a lack of communication for Donaldson having just returned from the COVID-19 injured list, but added, “We have plenty of time.”
Despite the criticism, Donaldson said he still felt “comfortable” in the Yankees’ clubhouse, but was still hurt by the fact that it was deemed a racist statement.
“It is extremely hurtful … to have this allegation, not only to myself but also to my family,” Donaldson said. “I’m definitely not.”
He also said he and Anderson have not spoken to each other since the May 22 incident. He continued to insist that he and Anderson were on the same page since Donaldson called him “Jackie” after the 2019 Sports Illustrated article in which Anderson referred to himself as “modern-day Jackie Robinson.”
“It was a friendly banter, back and forth, and he took it that way,” Donaldson said. “I know reports say [Anderson said] no. Maybe we interpreted it differently.”
Donaldson added that despite his reputation, he believes he has been well received by some in the league.
“I’m proud to be a good teammate,” Donaldson said. “Everywhere I am [gone], every organization I belonged to except Oakland offered me extensions and wanted me to stay. … Everywhere I am [gone]I won, and winning also requires good team chemistry.”
However, controversy has dogged Donaldson throughout his career.
And that’s just the most recent example.
“I don’t know why it came to this,” Donaldson said of why the situation with Anderson escalated. “We talked and joked on the field. Tim is a competitor and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Looking back, a lot of that came from the third base play [in Chicago].”
That’s when Donaldson had bagged Anderson in a game at grassroots a week earlier, which also led to near-fighting between players.
“I tried to get out of it [by saying]’My fault’ during the game,” Donaldson said. “I felt like I threw it out, but in the first game of the series, I tried to hold out an olive branch at home and said, ‘Let’s break the tension.’ It had nothing to do with trying to trip him or a racing situation. That is not my intention. But when I’m talking to guys, I shouldn’t have put myself or my team in that situation.”
Donaldson said he is appealing his one-game suspension because he disagreed with the decision that led to the suspension.
“My intentions weren’t what they were blown out for,” Donaldson said. “A large part [the suspension] was [based on the fact] I baited the benches when that was about four innings after [he and Anderson jawed with each other]. I don’t know how I instigated anything. I went to homeplate. And the catcher [Yasmani Grandal] confronted me then. I don’t know how it was my prerogative that they decided to vacate the benches. In my opinion, I didn’t do that.”
And he said there was nothing racial about his “Jackie” nickname.
“I feel sorry for the Robinson family,” Donaldson said. “I never want them to feel that their name should ever be seen in a bad light.”
Additional reporting by Mark W. Sanchez