MLB needs to punish Yankees and Rays for ill-timed debacle

Nope. Not in this COVID baseball season. Not at this tempestuous moment in our country’s history.

I’m betting Rob Manfred and his deputies will correctly agree.

An important Yankees victory Tuesday night — 5-3 over the rival Rays at Yankee Stadium, halting a six-game losing streak against their low-payroll nemeses — turned extremely ugly at the tail end when Aroldis Chapman sailed a 101 mph fastball over the head of Tampa Bay pinch-hitter Mike Brosseau, pausing the game as the umpires issued warnings to both benches and ejected Rays manager Kevin Cash. After Chapman struck out Brosseau to finish the job and chirping ensured, both dugouts emptied, a blatant violation of the pandemic-campaign rules, and jawed at each other some more.

Expect the consequences for those violations, the suspensions, to arrive on Wednesday for Chapman — you just can’t throw a pitch that dangerous and get away with it — and Cash, who offered this ultra-explosive postgame threat: “I’ve got a whole damn stable of guys who throw 98 miles per hour. Period.”

Wow. Admire the passion. Not feeling it, though. Not less than a week after Major League Baseball made history, following the NBA’s lead by staging multiple walkouts to call for social justice. The two acts are incongruous. Absolutely, this is the wrong year for headhunting and declarations of war among professional baseball teams.

Aroldis Chapman is held back by an umpire after trying to confront Mike Brosseau (not pictured) after the game. Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball over Brosseau’s head in the ninth inning.N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The unique conditions of 2020 helped get us here, because of course they did. The absence of fans at the ballparks means that no chirping goes unheard, and the Yankees and Rays, who have played each other nine times out of the Yankees’ 34 games and the Rays’ 37, already hated each other before the novel coronavirus arrived on our shores.

In the prior two seasons, the Yankees’ pitchers hit Rays batters 14 times while Tampa Bay’s hurlers nailed 11 Yankees batters, and this year it’s three Yankees hit to five Rays, including Joey Wendle on Tuesday (which the Rays thought Masahiro Tanaka did intentionally).

You likely remember CC Sabathia’s legendary, “That’s for you, bitch!” declaration to the Rays’ Andrew Kittredge after the big lefty nailed Jesus Sucre as retaliation for Kittredge hitting Austin Romine.

Cash referenced that moment on Tuesday night when he said, “I can assure you, other than three years ago, there hasn’t been one pitch thrown with intent from any of our guys, period.” It was actually 2018, two years ago, but we’ve all lost track of time since the shutdown, right?

If we’ve lost track of time, though, we’ve gained perspective on what matters and what doesn’t. And though MLB has justified its decision to exist by drawing eyeballs and being positive contributors to society, those positives get mitigated when a player nearly suffers a serious injury and when Cash does his version of “Dominate the streets!”

In anticipation of the name-calling headed my way, of accusations that I “never played the game!” and so on and so forth and what have you, I’ll point out that MLB, which features ex-players among its leadership — notably former pitcher Chris Young, who, as senior vice president in charge of on-field operations, will issue the discipline — and the MLB Players Association, which is of course led by former players, collectively bargained the terms of this season’s conditions, designed to keep the players socially distanced. And they agree with me.

“We all know with the protocols,” Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “There’s not supposed to be any benches clearing by any means. The umpires, they voiced that when they were in between us.”

A suspension of Chapman sure as heck would hurt the Yankees’ chances at catching up to the Rays, whom they still trail by 3 ½ games (two in the loss column). And the suspension of Cash, which figures to be lengthy, will hurt the Rays plenty, too.

In normal times, I’d be drawn to these theatrics like an elephant to grass. Not in 2020, though. We’ve got enough on our plate, no? When chirping graduates to what we saw here on Tuesday in The Bronx, it makes you feel like you want to opt out.