Gomes suspended, fined
Right-fielder to sit two games for role in Yanks-Rays fracas
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays right fielder Jonny Gomes received a two-game suspension and a $2,000 fine Friday for his part in Wednesday's benches-clearing incident at Progress Energy Park.
"Anytime you get ejected, you know something is going to come down from above," Gomes said. "I wouldn't take back what I did, because I got a lot of positive feedback from other players in the Major Leagues, via text message or the two teams we've played since then. I'm just happy to send a message out that we've got each other's backs over here and we're not going to get bullied around."
Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball, made the announcement regarding the incident that occurred during the top of the second inning of the Rays-Yankees game Wednesday after New York's Shelley Duncan slid spikes high into Tampa Bay second baseman Akinori Iwamura.
Gomes charged Duncan from right field, which was deemed a "violent action" and cause for his punishment.
"What [Duncan] did could have really hurt Aki, whether he was trying to lodge the ball out or not," Gomes said. "Aki does have a cut on his leg and he could have really injured Aki. I just went in for a little old-fashioned -- you know, forearm shimmy -- and just grabbed the guy."
Duncan was handed a three-game suspension and an undisclosed fine for "violent and reckless actions."
"I spent six years in the Minor Leagues scratching and clawing to get where I am today," Duncan said. "I've worked as hard as I can every single day and left my heart and soul out on the baseball field. I take pride in my work ethic and how I play this game. I'll continue to play as hard as I can. I play this game for my teammates and I'm very passionate about how I play this game."
Gomes thought there would be a bigger difference between suspensions "due to sending a message that there's not room for slides like that in the game."
"But maybe they didn't see it how we saw it, which is totally fine," Gomes said. "I really have no problem with it, but I did think [Duncan] was going to get more. But I'm not happy or sad; I don't really care how many games he [got]."
Rays manager Joe Maddon did not feel as though justice was served.
"For sure, I thought Duncan should have been suspended," Maddon said. "Our guy, I said, should not, and now I accept the fact that they feel that he needs to be suspended. But I still think the penalty is much too close to the other guys. That does not make any sense to me whatsoever."
Melky Cabrera also received a three-game suspension and fine for "violent and aggressive" actions after allegedly hitting Rays third baseman Evan Longoria in the back of the head during the altercation.
"That needed to end up in discipline," Maddon said. "That is inappropriate to sneak up from behind somebody and hit them in the back of the head, nobody is going to agree that is the right thing to do. I'm pleased they caught all of that in the video, and that is appropriate action."
New York manager Joe Girardi, third-base coach Bobby Meacham and hitting coach Kevin Long were also fined for their roles in the incident.
If any of the three players appeals his suspension, the discipline issued will be held in abeyance until the process is complete. Unless appealed, Gomes' suspension is scheduled to begin March 31, when the Rays play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore in their first game of the 2008 season.
"I don't think Jonny's intent was to hurt Duncan, and I think that's important in this," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, when asked about the possibility of an appeal. "And I think if we do go to a hearing, it's something we'll talk about."
Last Saturday, the first incident of the budding Rays-Yankees spring rivalry came to pass when Tampa Bay reserve Elliot Johnson steamrolled New York catcher Francisco Cervelli at home plate, breaking Cervelli's right wrist in the process. The Rays maintained the play was simply "hard-nosed baseball," while the Yankees considered the play too intense for Spring Training.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter sounded hopeful the bad blood can be put to rest.
"Why would it linger on? Why would you continue to do it?" Jeter said. "If something happened, it would be stupid. It gets to a point where it's got to end."