Heath Phillips brushed back Evan Longoria (and was then ejected), then Shelley Duncan slid spikes first into second, causing Johnny Gomes to run from right-field to start the fight. Apparently no punches were thrown though.
I don't want to advocate trying to injure a player (that slide looks very painful), but if Tampa wants to 'play to win' in meaningless Spring Training games, then their opponents also have the right to do so. More than that, I finally like the idea of a Yankee standing up for the team. Too many times during the Torre era were batters nailed by pitchers without any retaliation. The message that sends is that the Yankees won't protect their teammates. What Shelley did may have been wrong, but in the grand scheme of things, it was right.
But to play Devil's Advocate, if we assume Elliott Johnson is being truthful when he says he was just "playing hardball" and "going on instinct" to Blogger: New York Yankees etc. - Edit Post "Brawl!"try to jar the ball loose, why shouldn't we assume Duncan is being honest when he said he tried to jar the ball loose? Unfortunately, the game was not televised anywhere, so we have only still photos and reporters' accounts of the occurrence - very hard top judge for ourselves without seeing it.
If Joe Maddon wants to play like it's the regular season, then be ready for this. It's quite possible Shelley would do the same thing in a meaningful game. (He's come close to injuring his own teammates on high fives.)
And there's no way Duncan can get suspended without Gomes too. The guy ran from the outfield to 2b just to start a fight.
PS: while that photo above makes it look like Shelley is kicking Iwamura in the balls, we really can't tell without the video. He was probably just pulling his leg back at that point. The photo below is probably a more accurate depiction of the slide.
PSS: and finally the video. Really not as bad as some are making it out to be. I believe Duncan slid like that a few times last year.
PSSS: another video surfaces. Definitely a hard, Shelley Duncan-type slide. Just playing 'hardball', as Joe Maddon would say.