This is weird.
As you no doubt recall, on Wednesday White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson hit a two-run home run off of Royals starter Brad Keller. Anderson celebrated by throwing his bat back towards his dugout. The next time Anderson stepped to the plate Keller threw a fastball at him. The benches emptied. Keller and Anderson were ejected, as was White Sox manager Rick Renteria.
Why Anderson was ejected was something of a mystery. He did not charge the mound. He did not throw a punch and he did not shove anyone or anything. At most you figure he said something intemperate and, sure, saying intemperate things can sometimes get you ejected. Only sometimes, of course, as many a blue streak-swearing manager has gotten a pass as long as he doesn’t say some magic words “Bull Durham” taught us about. But that’s usually the end of that.
MLB just announced via press release that Keller has been suspended for five games for throwing at Anderson. We’ve argued that that’s too light a sentence for pitchers in the past, but let’s leave that aside for now. What’s interesting is that Anderson has been suspended too. For one game.
Why? Major League Baseball’s press release merely says “for his conduct after the benches cleared.” Which isn’t very helpful as, again, there was nothing apparent in his conduct that seemed to warrant a suspension. Before the release came out, however, Jeff Passan reported that it was “language":
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson has been suspended for one game because of language used during the benches-clearing incident with Kansas City, sources familiar with situation tell ESPN. Brad Keller, who hit Anderson with a pitch, has been suspended for five games, per sources.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 19, 2019
I can’t recall a player ever being suspended merely for “language” before. Guys drop F-bombs and say aggressive things to one another fairly often when tempers flare, but that’s not the stuff of suspensions. What has been the stuff of suspensions -- two games, specifically -- are homophobic slurs, with players such as Kevin Pillar and Matt Joyce, among others paying the price for saying such things. There has been no report at all, however, that Anderson said such a thing. And, if he did, why would he only get one game?
There’s gotta be more to this. A player getting one game just for cussing makes no sense. If we hear any more about it, we’ll certainly provide an update.
UPDATE: And here it is:
When MLB investigated the benches-clearing incident between the White Sox and Royals, umpires and players from both teams said Tim Anderson used a racially charged word, sources tell ESPN. Anderson received a one-game suspension from the incident, per sources.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 19, 2019
Again, specifics definitely matter, and I presume we’ll get them soon, but I strongly suspect that this is a case where Anderson, who is black, used a word that is historically acceptable when used by and among black people and always unacceptable when used by non-black people. If that is the case, MLB has thrown itself into the insanely controversial and likely indefensible position of presuming that it can and should police a black person’s use of that term. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I feel like I’m not.
UPDATE: Nope, I’m not.
During the benches-clearing incident, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson called Royals pitcher Brad Keller a "weak-ass f---ing n-word," sources tell ESPN. Anderson, who was hit by a Keller pitch one at-bat after he hit a home run and flipped his bat, was suspended for one game.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 19, 2019
Bold move, MLB. But not a wise one I don’t think.
And it goes without saying that you all had best mind yourself in the comments on this one.
UPDATE: Tim Anderson has decided not to appeal his suspension, so he’ll sit out tonight. His comment: