Liam Hendriks 'not a fan' of ex-teammate Josh Donaldson originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Liam Hendriks has seen The Josh Donaldson Show before.
A little too much of it, actually.
The two played together as members of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, the year the Donaldson's play on the field was so spectacular he earned American League MVP honors. That team won the franchise's lone division title of the current century and reached the ALCS.
But Donaldson's incredible offensive production and terrific glovework at third base weren't all Hendriks had to deal with.
"Playing with Donaldson," the Chicago White Sox closer told NBC Sports Chicago on Thursday, "I am not a Donaldson fan. On the field, one of the greatest. You want him on the team behind you. But I saw behind the curtain too much, and I'm not a fan."
That's apparently not a unique opinion for those who have played with Donaldson, with one 2017 profile saying his personality "turned many teammates into enemies."
And Hendriks is in good company at this exact moment, the entire South Side joining in that opinion after Donaldson, now playing for the division-rival Minnesota Twins, made himself Public Enemy No. 1 by going after staff ace Lucas Giolito and beloved former manager and TV analyst Ozzie Guillén during a lengthy pregame media session Wednesday.
This all started Tuesday night, when after launching a first-inning home run off Giolito, Donaldson crossed home plate and issued some trash-talk-adjacent comments to his teammates referencing "sticky stuff," pretty clearly making the insinuation that Giolito was no longer benefiting from the use of a banned substance. Giolito took umbrage and called Donaldson "a f---ing pest" and "classless" in his postgame media session Tuesday night.
Then Donaldson responded Wednesday, saying that he spoke with Giolito in the parking lot Tuesday night, obliging the pitcher's request for Donaldson to "talk s--- to my face," and more aggressively lumping Giolito in with the supposed 150 pitchers he's been tracking in his crusade to get baseball to step up its enforcement of its foreign-substance rules.
"If we are going to talk about class, what side are you going to choose?" Donaldson said. "Are you going to take the side of someone who is playing the game fair? Or are you going to take the side of somebody that was probably cheating before this happened?"
Donaldson went out and homered again Wednesday, tagging Dylan Cease in the first inning, but the White Sox followed with an outrageous offensive explosion, hitting six homers and scoring 13 runs in a blowout win. After the game, Cease and Yasmani Grandal said that Donaldson's pregame comments fired the White Sox up.
"It didn’t go unnoticed. It definitely fires you up," Grandal said. "If anything, thanks to him for kind of getting us awakened a little bit."
Hendriks is no stranger to getting fired up, of course.
He's one of baseball's most outwardly emotional players, screaming, swearing and fist-pumping like crazy as he works his way through the ninth inning as one of the game's best closers. And it's through that lens that he looked at what Donaldson did Tuesday night, before moving on to other aspects of the ongoing drama.
"I'm all for showing emotions. If he does this every pitch? Screw it, I don't care," Hendriks said, referencing Donaldson's behavior in a post-homer celebratory context. "If he did this as a one-off, I may have an issue with it. But if he does this every time, look, you're entitled to do what you want.
"I'm going to scream. If I strike him out, that's what's going to happen. But I do it on every pitch, rather than just a one-off thing to make a point of who I'm talking to.
"And then I also don't like the point of, 'OK, why did you go to the media?' to Gio, and then the next day he's calling him out and saying, 'I said it to his face.' No you didn't. We have witnesses.
"I have no problems with showing emotions. I have no problem with doing that. But at the end of the day, don't say one thing in private and tout another thing in the media, and that's what he's been doing."
While Hendriks' perspective is unique, having played with Donaldson earlier in his career, the Twins third baseman seems to be living up to the "pest" label that Giolito gave him Tuesday in the middle of this AL Central rivalry, albeit to his own team's detriment, at least Wednesday night.
And though the White Sox have the clear edge on the Twins this season, this Donaldson drama is ensuring the rivalry isn't going to lose any fire anytime soon.
Hendriks and Donaldson both signed multi-year contracts with their respective clubs in recent offseasons, ensuring future matchups for years to come.
"He called me a pest, right? Which is fine," Donaldson said in his response to Giolito on Wednesday. "I kind of almost consider that a compliment. You are really not supposed to like me being on the opposing team, so I'm fine with that."