The benches cleared briefly in the middle of the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s Rays-Yankees tilt in New York. No one was plunked or brushed back; there were no dirty slides; no catchers were trucked at the plate. Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia struck out Rays outfielder Avisail Garcia on a, hmm, creatively framed outside breaking pitch, and then the two men took mutual exception to what appeared to be a moment of eye contact.
My favorite part of this is Sabathia saying, “If I was talking to you I’d be talking to you,” which is both self-evident and also, incredibly, self-evidently false—Sabathia was talking to Garcia at that exact moment while simultaneously implying that he was not talking to Garcia. I think Sabathia is trying to communicate that whatever words caught Garcia’s attention were intended for home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, who’d just gifted Sabathia a generous third strike. Probably that’s a point that would be more successfully made by saying “I was talking to the umpire.”
Sabathia has some history with the Rays. A full third of his starts this season have come against them, and his final start of the 2018 regular season ended in the fifth inning when he was ejected for a retaliatory plunking in a big Yankees win, which Sabathia punctuated by shouting “That’s for you, bitch,” at the Rays dugout. The ejection left Sabathia six outs shy of a $500,000 performance bonus, which the Yankees later paid out as a token of gratitude. Tuesday night’s fracas may not have been a continuation of that, exactly, but it’s safe to say Sabathia will not be getting any Christmas cards from the Rays organization.