Kangaroo Court: In the case of the Yankees-Red Sox brawl, was Tyler Austin’s slide dirty?

In keeping with ancient baseball tradition, we’re passing final and lasting judgment on a recent baseball controversy. That’s why we call this Kangaroo Court — it’s a nod to the old days when a veteran player would preside over clubhouse “legal proceedings” and mete out fines based on baseball-related offenses. For instance, if you fail to advance a runner, take too long rounding the bases, wear the wrong jersey to batting practice, or in the case of former Red Sox manager John McNamara use aerosol deodorant as hairspray, you get fined by the judge. These days, the Kangaroo Court is a clubhouse relic of the past, but we’re here to revive it and to bring the mechanisms of baseball justice to bear on present-day dust-ups, hostilities, and close calls. 

The Yankees defeated the Red Sox in Fenway on Wednesday night (NYY 10, BOS 7), but dominating the headlines was the on-field hostilities between the two AL East blood rivals. Benches first cleared when Tyler Austin slid spikes-high into Brock Holt at second basem and then Joe Kelly drilled Austin, seemingly in retaliation. At that point, hell broke loose. Here’s a look at the whole mess … 

At this point, we’re left with two key questions …

  1. Was Austin’s slide dirty?
  2. If so, was Kelly’s drilling him called for (Kelly has, somewhat humorously, denied throwing at Austin on purpose)?

Thankfully, we’re here to tell you how you should feel about these matters … 

Ruling from three CBS Sports super-important experts

Matt Snyder (@MattSnyderCBS on Twitter): It’s all pretty dumb, really, but it’s also very entertaining. I’ll explain. 

  • Yes, Austin’s spikes were too high. I can’t believe the umpires didn’t agree. I wasn’t surprised in the least that the Red Sox hit him, even though I think it’s dumb to throw at batters, that’s just how it goes in the bigs, still. 
  • It was dumb of Austin to charge instead of taking his medicine, in my view, but I also get that being hit with a fastball like that and being in the moment means not being able to think anything through.
  • It will be dumb when the Yankees retaliate. Not if, when. They will at some point.
  • It’s incredibly dumb of any team to pick a fight with a team that includes Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Aroldis Chapman and CC Sabathia. If there was a team fight tournament in MLB, the Yankees would win.
  • It’s entertaining because these are likely the two best teams in the AL East all season. They play each other a lot more times (and maybe even in the playoffs) and they’ve already worked up a good hatred of each other. 

Dumb can be fun. It was here and will continue to be. So long as injury can be avoided (fingers crossed!), let’s just sit back and enjoy the dumb show. 

R.J. Anderson (@r_j_anderson on Twitter): Austin did slide in with his foot up. That said, it wasn’t the worst we’ll see — not this month, maybe not this week. I probably would’ve forgotten about it had the Red Sox not decided to hit him. I’m not a fan of beanballs — there’s just too much that can go wrong there, and it makes ballplayers look ridiculous even when they go “right” — so I’m not too keen on what Kelly did. Alas, this seems like the beginning of the conflict between these sides rather than the conclusion. 

Dayn Perry (@daynperry on Twitter): I don’t think Austin slid with malice aforethought, but the spikes were up. That’s a no-no, and that’s going to cause problems. Even pre-“Utley rule” when decking the pivot man was part of the game, infielders didn’t take kindly to sliding with the spikes up. If we accept that retaliation is part of it, then I prefer going after the guy who actually made the bad slide (Austin) as opposed to giving similar treatment to a Yankee middle infielder. I don’t really like the idea of trying to hit a guy twice. Kelly missed with his first purpose pitch, message received. You had your chance to get that pound of flesh and you missed. Move on. That should’ve ended it. Kelly, though, went after him a second time, and this time got what we wanted at 98 mph. 

I don’t think it’s a huge deal, and I’m fine with leaving such matters to the guys on the field. However, I’d like to see part of the “code” be that if you don’t hit the batter the first time, then too bad, you missed your chance. Anyhow, Christian Vazquez thinks the Yankees will retaliate against the retaliation. That would be pretty dumb. Besides, I have no doubt that these two teams will find reason to fight over something new at some point over their next 17 head-to-head games in 2018. 

So there you have it: authoritative opinions, automatic for the people. We no longer have a comments section (tee hee), but if we did you could use it to thank us for relieving you of the Job- and Frodo-like burdens of thinking for yourself.