NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 01: New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays exchanges words after the final out in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium on September 01, 2020 in New York City.
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

There is some bad blood between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. Tensions are high as the AL East foes prepare for Wednesday’s game.

Danny Small

The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays won’t be exchanging Christmas cards this year. Tensions between the American League East rivals boiled over on Tuesday night after Masahiro Tanaka hit Joey Wendle in the first inning and Aroldis Chapman came up and in on a few batters in the ninth inning.

Tanaka plunking Wendle was as clear as day. The Yankees wanted to send a message that they did not like the Rays coming in high and tight on their hitters. As far as throwing at someone goes, Tanaka handled it the right way. One in the middle of his body, nowhere near the head.

Chapman, on the other hand, missed Mike Brosseau’s head with a 101 mph fastball by mere inches. It was a scary moment indeed, but it’s impossible to know if there was any intent from Chapman.

First off, the Cuban is notoriously wild. More importantly, though, the Yankees were in desperate need of a win and Chapman is only a few days removed from giving up a walk-off two-run home run to the Mets in a loss. Why would he want to throw at someone and risk bringing the tying run to the plate?

After Chapman recorded the final out, there was some chirping and the benches cleared before cooler heads prevailed. However, in the postgame press conference, Rays manager Kevin Cash had some choice words for the Yankees after the game.

In other words, Cash is saying that the Rays NEVER intentionally throw at hitters except for that time they did. He also loses any moral high ground that he might have had by threatening the Yankees with 98 mph. Again, the Rays NEVER intentionally throw at hitters, but Cash is still going to make that threat anyway.

The Yankees heard the message loud and clear. DJ LeMahieu is already preparing for the Rays to send a message on Wednesday. As the leadoff hitter, he’ll be the first one to face that “damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph.”

With all the puffing of the chests between these two teams, it’s easy to forget that they’re in the middle of a race for the AL East. The Rays have a 3.5-game advantage over the Yankees (two in the loss column) and Wednesday’s game should be about the battle for AL East supremacy instead of bench-clearing brawls.

Headhunting has no place in the sport. Sending a message with a 90 mph fastball in the ribs is one thing, but as soon as you start going above the neck with heaters, that’s a problem. I said the same thing when Joe Kelly was suspended and I’ll stick by that.

We may never know what was Chapman’s true intent on those pitches, but they were scary no matter how you slice it. The Rays have a right to be angry. However, the Rays are no innocent party in this altercation despite how much Cash wants you to believe that. This bad blood goes back years and there’s dirt on both sides.

Hopefully, both teams forget about this pissing contest and focus on what really matters—winning the game.

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