Gary Sanchez didn’t throw the first punch. But what he did in one of the brawls between the Yankees and Tigers on Thursday may end up having the largest impact and sparking the most debate.
Sanchez was one of four players suspended by Major League Baseball on Friday. The Yankees catcher received four games for “fighting, including throwing punches,” according to a statement issued by MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre.
The Yankees’ other catcher, Austin Romine, was suspended for two games, leaving some with the idea that the Yankees would play Friday night’s game against Seattle without a catcher. That would have led to a lot of balls going to the backstop. But Sanchez and Romine appealed their suspensions and were active on Friday night, with Sanchez starting behind the plate.
Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera received a seven-game ban for “inciting the first bench-clearing incident,” the MLB statement said. Tigers reliever Alex Wilson was suspended for four games for throwing a pitch at Todd Frazier that MLB deemed intentional.
Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, who was ejected after hitting Tigers catcher James McCann in the head with a 98-mph fastball, sparking another bench-clearing incident, was not suspended.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was suspended for one game. Cabrera and Wilson are appealing their suspensions.
There were three separate incidents in the Tigers’ 10-6 victory at Comerica Park. Eight players, managers and coaches were ejected. Sanchez was not one of them, perhaps because the umpires didn’t notice the uppercuts Sanchez threw at Cabrera and Nick Castellanos, who were on the ground, during the first melee.
Some, including Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, called Sanchez’s punches “cheap shots” because they came outside of the main action of the first brawl.
“I’m a little surprised at how short Gary Sanchez’s [suspension] is, quite frankly, considering some of the video I saw,” Ausmus said, according to MLB.com “I think that one probably shocked me the most. I thought he would get the largest suspension.”
Sanchez, through a translator, said: “Things got out of control pretty quickly there. I went out there to defend my teammates. That’s what it is.”
Cabrera told the Detroit News that he was upset that Aaron Judge wasn’t suspended, too. “Why don’t they say anything about Judge?” he said. “He tried to hit me in the throat. Why is he not suspended?”
Judge denied hitting Cabrera in the throat or throwing any punches during the melee.
Whatever the outcomes of the appeals, the Yankees will be the biggest losers because they are in a pennant race and need Sanchez’s bat. He has 13 homers and 27 RBIs in his last 27 games.
The fracases began when Tigers starter Michael Fulmer hit Sanchez in the hip with a pitch in the fifth inning, an inning after Sanchez hit his fourth home run of the series.
The Yankees’ Tommy Kahnle threw a pitch behind Cabrera in the bottom of the sixth and immediately was ejected. Shortly before play was to resume with Aroldis Chapman on the mound, Romine and Cabrera started yelling at each other at home plate. Cabrera shoved Romine, then threw two punches at him. After tackling Cabrera, Romine threw a few himself into Cabrera’s midsection as the brawl got going.
“It really doesn’t matter what I think at this point,” Romine said. “I’ve got to go in there [in the appeal] and defend myself and make it clear that I was trying not to get punched.”
When Sanchez and Romine serve their suspensions, the Yankees will have a void at catcher. Their only other catcher on the 40-man roster, Kyle Higashioka, is injured. Veterans Wilkin Castillo and Eddy Rodriguez are the active catchers at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Gary Sanchez: 4 games
Austin Romine: 2 games
Miguel Cabrera: 7 games
Alex Wilson: 4 games
Brad Ausmus: 1 game