Who knew razzing the visiting Yankees fans sitting behind the dugout in Anaheim wouldn't be Carlos Rodón's most thin-skinned moment of 2023?
As the end of the campaign approached, Rodón, after an injury-marred first year in the Bronx (to put it mildly), was actually riding a heater. His best start of 2023 came at Fenway Park -- and how many Yankees newcomers have the exact opposite story? He hit 100 MPH in Pittsburgh, and his excellent start was foiled only by a poorly placed base. Throw out a soggy start against the D-Backs where he was pulled too late. Things were finally coming together. His ERA was under 6.00.
Then came Friday night, when Rodón's pitches were uniformly down 2+ MPH and he allowed eight consecutive Kansas City Royals to reach base (two walks, six hits) before he was pulled. All eight scored. As far as sour notes go, it sounded like mashing 12 keys on a toddler's toy piano at once.
And, to add personal insult to possible injury, Rodón plainly turned his back on pitching coach Matt Blake during a mid-inning counseling session.
You thought this was a clubhouse culture without repercussions before Rodón chose to ignore his coaching staff at his lowest moment? Now that we know he's reportedly going to escape discipline simply because "the season is over" and Boone and Co. ran out of time, it's clear why highly-paid players believe they exist on a different stratosphere in New York.
Yankees lefty Carlos Rodón should face discipline for disrespectful Matt Blake stunt
Blake's words regarding the incident, even though Rodón was remorseful, weren't forceful enough. Hopefully, a more productive conversation happened behind the scenes (more productive than, say, Josh Donaldson talking with Aaron Boone for 30 minutes and convincing him to take his side).
"It’s not ideal. I was a little disappointed in the moment, how it’s being handled. But anytime you go out into the arena like that, emotions are running high, especially with him at times. It’s what makes him great. It also can be his undoing.”"- Matt Blake on Rodón
Rodón, too, said all the right things recently about knowing how poorly his 2023 season went. He said the fans deserved 200 innings for $27 million per year. He noted that he planned to disappear after the season and reflect before rejoining his family. And then Friday night happened. There's always a lower rung on the ladder.
Rodón disrespected Blake because he got hot under the collar in a moment of adversity, lacking velocity and grasping for straws. We've all been there. We've all been embarrassed and panicked and angry and lived to regret it. But that doesn't mean it deserves to be glossed over. Just because we've all been that low does not mean public figures can't be held to different standards on the mound with all eyes upon them (even the relatively scant number of eyes that cared about a late-season game in Kansas City between two eliminated teams.
Rodón was a perfect signing for the Yankees because he holds himself to the highest possible standard and lives for the bright lights. Unfortunately, his personal high standards resulted in a proliferation of meltdowns when his physical limitations got in the way this season. He needs to enter 2024 with a renewed body and mind, and we have the utmost faith he will. But, in order to set that process in action, the Yankees also need to set a new standard with the lefty on his way to the darkness retreat this October.