Many people can name two songs by the band Fastball. I can name somewhere nearer a dozen. Too slow on the uptake to just start loading up on electronic music downloads in high school, I bought a whole bunch of CDs just to get my hands on a couple of songs. I wanted “The Way,” so I bought Fastball’s whole greatest hits album.
Buried somewhere in there is a song called “Are You Ready for the Fallout?”, which I think ended up on the soundtrack to Varsity Blues. It's not a good song, but at this moment, it could be dancing through the heads of Yankees fans (of some very specific age). It's sung to an unnamed friend whom the singer believes is destroying themselves by going through life with way too much bile on their tongue and too many scrapes on their knuckles.
I think that you're forgetting
The blood that you'll be letting
Could have a price on it no one knows
You get the worst of it every time
Lashing out with no reason or rhyme
Maybe Joe Girardi would be better off right now if his kids had awful taste in music. Instead, he was at the head of the line of Yankees who made their way from the field to the clubhouse Thursday, and will probably be among the three or four who move from the clubhouse to the skybox where suspended players and managers have to take in games.
It's stupid. It's beyond stupid. When Michael Fulmer hit Gary Sanchez in the top of the fifth inning, it looked unintentional. Fulmer was a bit out of control on the delivery. He spun in frustration afterward. He trailed by just one run and surely would have liked to get back on the horse. Sanchez and Girardi took pretty clear exception to it, though. Maybe they were right. Maybe Fulmer, after giving up a homer to Sanchez the previous inning and having seen him light up the Tigers all series, decided to take his revenge by drilling a guy and worsening a jam.
If he did, shame on him. Whether he did that on purpose or not, however, it had a chance to end right there. It had very little right, in fact, to go any further. The Tigers weren't playing for anything. The Yankees were—and are, every day—playing for a playoff spot, for the right to host (and even play in; it's not as though they've sewn up a berth) the Wild Card game. Someone in the New York dugout has to get a hand firmly on the back of the neck of Sanchez and whoever else might be grumbling, and tell them to focus on the game.
Instead, Girardi ordered Tommy Kahnle to throw at Miguel Cabrera. We don’t know that for certain, but everything suggests that’s what happened. Girardi’s argument with the umpires after they threw Kahnle out of the game seemed to amount to “if you’d warned Fulmer after he hit Sanchez, this wouldn’t have happened,” which is a childish abdication of accountability. At any rate, after things settled down and Girardi joined Kahnle in the clubhouse, the big brawl happened, and no one got Sanchez under control as he stormed out of the dugout.
Sanchez landed a cheap and dangerous punch to the head of a player (Nick Castellanos) who seemed concerned solely with getting Miguel Cabrera out of the pileup, and if there’s any justice, the league office will end up handing Sanchez a suspension of at least three or four games for that offense. The same is coming for catcher Austin Romine, who helped Cabrera escalate the fight in the first place, then landed a barrage of punches to Cabrera’s rib cage from behind.
The Yankees went on to tie what had become a 6-3 game at 6-6. The brawl was an ugly and foolish mistake, but they had, at least, a chance to pull out an improbable win in this one game. Instead, they spent the rest of the game seemingly distracted by their own machismo. Dellin Betances drilled James McCann in the head. Even if he meant to hit him, he probably didn’t mean for it to be that high, and he certainly had no right to feel surprised when he was ejected. Intentional or not, a beaning like that in a game as fraught as Thursday’s absolutely necessitated an ejection. It might even lead to a suspension, too.
When Betances was kicked out, though, he stood there and gesticulated, complaining at length, and bench coach Rob Thomson took the opportunity to get himself tossed too (arguing what, it’s impossible for a rational mind to discern). The team fell apart, and the rest of the game simply belonged to Detroit. Even the final confrontation between the teams, which the Tigers openly and inexcusably initiated, only made the Yankees look smaller and more petulant. Brett Gardner needed the restraint of three or four teammates to prevent going and getting himself a suspension, too.
Entering Thursday, our playoff ddds report had the Yankees attaining at least the Wild Card game in 95.8 percent of simulations. FanGraphs was slightly more pessimistic, at 83.8 percent, and Clay Davenport’s projections pegged them at 85.7 percent. That was before a loss, although perhaps not a costly one in a vacuum, since the Twins, Royals, and Angels also lost on Thursday. It was also before any of those systems had to account for the potential absences of both Yankees catchers and one of their best relief pitchers, for as much as 10 percent of the remaining season. Maybe the suspensions won’t be quite that heavy, but they certainly could be.
More importantly, there’s a good chance Romine and Sanchez will be serving suspensions at the same time. If that happens, they’ll have to play Kyle Hagashioka and/or Eddy Rodriguez, their Triple-A catchers, for a few days. Hagashioka and Rodriguez are both great framers (Rodriguez is downright elite, at least at Triple-A, and can throw, too), but neither can hit. Hagashioka has been hurt for much of the season, and Rodriguez has a .180 True Average in the International League. If Betances is gone for a game or two, it will hurt less, because the Yankees have depth in their relief corps, but it’s not a completely negligible loss.
That all could be worth a win, which might not sound like much, but which could easily swing home-field advantage in the Wild Card game, or even determine whether the Yankees get to play in that contest. Their playoff odds on the various reports won’t reflect a huge decrease on Friday morning, but with these forward-facing losses looming, I would only estimate New York to have about a 70 percent chance of playing in the Wild Card game at this point. If I’m being outrageous there, so be it.
The Yankees’ lack of discipline on Thursday, and the lack of positive leadership from Girardi and veterans on the team, invites outrage. Their actions were irresponsible and dangerous, to themselves and to the Tigers, and they were completely uninhibited by the larger goal at hand. If they miss the playoffs from here, I hope Girardi is ready for the fallout. The blame would rest on his shoulders.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now