MINNEAPOLIS – Like the rest of the Tigers, Niko Goodrum is in the final week of his season. However, he has no guarantees about his situation for next year as he enters arbitration eligibility with no role assured on Detroit’s roster.
That uncertainty, and the potential for an injury to devastate his situation, is what went through his mind on Monday as he saw White Sox slugger José Abreu slide hard into second base, trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt after Abreu was hit by an Alex Lange fastball off his left elbow. That was Goodrum’s point when he exchanged words with Abreu as benches cleared.
“It’s just a late slide,” said Goodrum on Tuesday as he explained his reaction. “I’m a baserunner. I steal bases. I’m aggressive on the basepaths. But I also know if there’s intent, if you’re trying to do something because you’re mad. And when you start to put someone’s career at stake, then I have an issue with that.
“If they want to say he got hit by a pitch, then deal with that then. But if you take it upon yourself to come out here at someone who has nothing to do with it, then I have a problem with it. I’ve been playing against the White Sox for four years, and he’s never done anything like that. He doesn’t play like that. So that brings up more [questions] with me, so I’m going to check, like, ‘What’s up?’”
At no point, Goodrum said, did he think it might escalate. He said nothing happened before second-base umpire Tim Timmons separated them.
“There was never any bad blood,” Goodrum added. “I don’t have bad blood with anyone. I just go out and play. I understand why he’s mad. He got hit. He’s been hit a lot this season. I [didn’t] know that [at the time]. I’m out there focused on catching a ground ball and feeding my family. That’s stuff that he’s dealing with, that the White Sox are dealing with. And we hit him with an 0-2 count in the ninth inning, down by one. He can be mad. If that’s your response, cool. But once you came over, that involves me now. Now I’m in it for no reason.”
Goodrum brought up Chase Utley, whose hard slide trying to break up a double play in the 2015 NL Division Series broke Ruben Tejada’s leg. He also referenced former Twin Tsuyoshi Nishioka, whose left fibula was broken on a hard slide by Nick Swisher in 2011.
“I just don’t agree with sliding that late,” Goodrum said. “That’s how they played back in the day, send a message. But [MLB] put rules in place for that reason, because you see people get their legs broken. …
“Chase Utley said he’s sorry and apologized for what he’s done, but the other guy, his leg’s broken. And then you have people who aren’t on contract, and you have to try to figure out how you’re going to feed your family. And at the end of the day, that’s where I’m at. We’re all out here trying to feed our family.”
Goodrum does not expect hostilities to carry over into next weekend, when the two teams wrap up the regular season against each other in Chicago, even if there’s chatter from the dugouts like on Monday.
“That’s part of who the White Sox are. They talk. That builds them up. That’s them,” Goodrum said. “You can hear them from the dugout after everything that happened. That’s who they are, and that’s fine. They play their game, and we play our game. That’s all it is. They’re very animated. You let them be them, and we’ll be who we are, and we’ll just play.”
Hinch responds to La Russa
Tigers manager A.J. Hinch told MLB Network Radio on Tuesday that he was “a little confused” by White Sox manager Tony La Russa’s comments after Monday’s incident.
“[The Tigers] have issues when someone plays aggressively, but not when they pitch aggressively and beyond the limits,” La Russa said. “The game is played two ways, not one way.”
Said Hinch: “It wasn’t really about us mad that they played aggressively. First off, Abreu is a class act. He is awesome to be around. I love José Abreu. There is no reason to hit him. We didn’t hit him on purpose. I realize after the game, he’s been hit 21 times this season, so I totally get it. They’re playing out the schedule, getting into the playoffs. Nobody wants to get hurt.
“But it doesn’t mean you can stop competing. It doesn’t mean you’re going to ask us to just throw down-and-away fastballs to avoid any issue with people. … We’re going to pitch inside the next six games. Obviously, we don’t want anything bad to happen to anybody, and I don’t expect anything bad to happen. But you can’t stop competing just because one side doesn’t like it.”