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Zulgad: No holding back: Josh Donaldson's fiery personality is what the Twins wanted and what they've got

Josh Donaldson, Dan Bellino
Minnesota Twins’ Josh Donaldson gives home plate umpire Dan Bellino the thumbs up sign after Bellino ejected him from the baseball game during the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

One of the protocols put into place by Major League Baseball because of the coronavirus pandemic prohibits the media from going into clubhouses. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is available on a Zoom call before and after games and players also are included in the mix. But if Eddie Rosario makes a questionable decision in the outfield, or Josh Donaldson gets ejected for kicking dirt on home plate following a home run, odds are good they aren’t going to be made available postgame.
This is pointed out not as a complaint — in the year of COVID-19 this is a very small issue — but as an explanation as to why Donaldson did not address the media until Saturday, before the Twins’ game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. It came in pregame access and two days after Donaldson was ejected for dragging dirt across the plate with his foot in front of umpire Dan Bellino. Donaldson was upset because Bellino, a member of Angel Hernandez’s less-than-stellar crew, had called a strike on a 2-0 pitch in the sixth inning that wasn’t a strike.
Donaldson argued with Bellino before Baldelli came out to try to calm things. Donaldson then stepped back into the box and hit the next pitch out to left field to give the Twins a one-run lead in a game they lost by one run. He circled the bases and, as he crossed the plate, dragged dirt on it and was tossed by Bellino. Donaldson then went back to kick more dirt on the plate before departing.
This earned him criticism in part because he wasn’t around in the top of the eighth inning when weak-hitting Ehire Adrianza, batting in Donaldson’s spot, led off by striking out on three pitches. The Twins hadn’t paid Donaldson all of that money in free agency last winter — $92 million over four years — to not be in the lineup when they needed him most in an important game.
So after having two days to reflect on his actions did Donaldson feel remorse? Had the immature nature of his actions caused him to rethink putting his anger in front of the team? Had Baldelli and Donaldson’s teammates gotten to him to tell him what he hadn’t done wouldn’t fly in Minnesota? Apparently the answers were no, no and no.
Donaldson proved during his session with the media, that the Twins had gotten exactly what they paid for last winter. An intense competitor, who isn’t going to take any BS from anyone, including umpires, and if you don’t like how he acts, that isn’t his problem. As you can read below, Donaldson doubled down on Bellino and other umpires and made it clear he would have more to say once MLB fines him for the ejection. He’s likely going to get a fine for what he said about umpires as well.
Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, made it clear that he feels it’s part of his job to hold umpires accountable because MLB doesn’t do it. As for his actions? Donaldson said: “I felt great about it. Obviously, I did it.” Later he added: “At the end of the day, there’s no reprimand, no accountability for the guys that are making the decisions. Matter of fact, they don’t care, they don’t care at all. Most of them. They just want to get the game over with for the most part, and it’s pretty sad because guys are making six figures a year and there’s no accountability.”
As for what happened with Bellino, Donaldson said there was more to it than one bad strike call. He did not get into specifics, but was more than happy to talk about the incident that caused the ejection.
“I think when Rocco came out (of the dugout) and I asked (Bellino) very clearly, I said, ‘Hey, I want to know where you have the pitch?’ I asked him three times, very clear and he couldn’t answer my question,” said Donaldson, who has missed 30 games in his first season with the Twins because of a right calf strain. “When Rocco came out, the umpires explanation was, ‘I think he’s just getting excited.’ No, I’m not getting excited. I’m asking you a question and you can’t answer my question. Now, you’re trying to revert the attention back to me like I’m being an (expletive) and I’m not. I’m just asking you a question and you can’t answer it.
“At the end of the day, it gets reflected towards me. So after (the home run), I saw him right by home plate and he was wanting me to do something and so I gave it to him. I made it a point … the players are the only guys that can hold these guys accountable because there’s no institution of fines, there’s no institutions of suspensions for these guys. They just go out here and show up every day. Show up at 6 o’clock and then they are out of here 30 minutes after the game. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to them.”
The honesty is refreshing, although one has to wonder what Baldelli thinks. The manager is about as laid-back as a person can get. The leader of the Twins clubhouse is Nelson Cruz, who while very effective in that role also isn’t exactly wound tight. Donaldson, on the other hand, appears to add the intense, in-your-face type of competitor the Twins haven’t often had. He’s everything that Joe Mauer was so often criticized for not being.
The final question on Donaldson’s Zoom call Saturday was asked by Mauer’s former teammate, FSN analyst Justin Morneau, who acknowledged during Friday’s telecast that he had heard from plenty of people who did not approve of Donaldson’s actions. Donaldson had gotten wind of this and didn’t hold back when Morneau asked if he had accomplished what he wanted.
“No, I think, I pretty much summed it up. I think I nailed it actually,” he said. “I heard, Justin, that you had a lot of people texting you and saying that they were embarrassed. Well, I’m not. This is my livelihood. This is part of what makes me the player that I am, and at the end of the day if I have something on my chest, that’s just going to be what it is.”