The Lance Lynn-Joe McEwing dugout incident during Monday’s Chicago White Sox game in Detroit brought back some vivid memories of a similar incident in 1996.
Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura, two of the biggest stars on the ‘96 Sox, engaged in a heated dugout spat on a hot August afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Thomas shoved Ventura in the chest in the seventh inning after Ventura tried to prevent him from getting ejected for arguing with the plate umpire. Teammates Dave Martinez and Lyle Mouton quickly intervened before things got out of hand.
But a WGN-9 camera caught the incident, and Sox manager Terry Bevington called the players together after the Sox’s 8-4 loss to tell them not to comment because he had handle everything.
“Both of those guys respect each other,” Bevington told reporters. “Both of those guys like each other. Little disagreements happen on teams. It’s really nothing.”
But Martinez ignored Bevington’s directive.
“(Ventura) was just speaking honestly in the dugout, and (Thomas) snapped,” Martinez said. “When a guy 275 pounds snaps, look out.”
Ventura politely said he couldn’t talk about what happened but then was informed Martinez already had given us a blow-by-blow account.
“I talked to him afterward. I have nothing against Frank,” Ventura said.
So he was just trying to keep Thomas from getting ejected?
“Evidently,” he said.
Thomas, unaware his teammates had spoken, brushed past reporters and barked: “I have nothing to say.”
The incident was the talk of the town. “Frank flips, Sox Flop” read the Chicago Tribune headline. But it quickly blew over, as most controversies do over the course of a long baseball season.
The Lynn-McEwing kerfuffle Monday was one of those things that happen when two headstrong individuals disagree. Unfortunately for them, it was shown on the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast and the video quickly spread on Twitter.
Manager Tony La Russa told reporters afterward that Lynn was mad at himself for making a bad pitch. Lynn joked he and McEwing were debating what kind of steak was the best. McEwing was not made available for comment.
White Sox general manager RickHahn told reporters Tuesday that it was just a “conversation” that he heard was about steak, noting that McEwing doesn’t eat meat.
“No, that’s a nothing-burger,” Hahn said. “No pun intended.”
Honesty might be the best policy, but silence is golden. The Sox didn’t feel it was necessary to explain the details of the spat, which is their prerogative. McEwing on Tuesday confirmed to reporters he was indeed a pescatarian, and the argument was due to “miscommunication” with Lynn.
“We hugged it out,” he said. “Believe me, (I) love Lance to death. We have the same fiery personalities, and that’s where it came out. But we talked about it and moved on.”
In other words, a nothing burger.
But the lack of accountability from La Russa and Lynn on Monday night came on the heels of another controversy — La Russa’s intentional walk call on a 1-2 count to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Trea Turner on Thursday — a decision that not only backfired but made the Sox a national story.
On a replay of the game, NBC Sports Chicago edited out the inning that included the Turner at-bat, a decision seen by many as a team interfering with its regional station’s editorial integrity to avoid making La Russa look worse than he already did.
La Russa’s relationship with Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is well-known. The Sox are part-owners of NBC Sports Chicago. Conspiracy theories abounded, especially after Marquee Sports Network’s censorship of a show that contained criticism of Cubs President Jed Hoyer.
So NBC Sports Chicago took its lumps, and deservedly so.
Kevin Cross, president and general manager of the three NBC stations in Chicago, said Tuesday that the company in New Jersey hired to edit the games down to a three-hour window erred by not leaving the fateful inning in the final edit.
“There was no conspiracy,” Cross said. “We had to cut an hour and 13 minutes out of the game, and the person that did it didn’t know the nuance of that intentional walk. They are not from this market and didn’t know the nuance of Tony La Russa’s decision.
“Where we messed up (is) we should’ve talked to (the company) and said ‘Whatever you do, don’t cut out this ending … That inning is untouchable.’ The fact it did get cut makes us look bad.”
NBC Sports Chicago accepted blame for the editing mistake. La Russa needs to heed the station’s example and be upfront about the Lynn-McEwing spat.
Whether the disagreement was over defensive positioning doesn’t matter as much as the attempt to obfuscate and avoid the subject afterward. McEwing obviously stood his ground against a popular player who has much more job security than a third-base coach.
La Russa afterward sat back in his chair in the visitors’ office with his pants undone as if he had just finished Thanksgiving dinner and praised Lynn for always being “accountable.” Lynn then made his joke to reporters about the steak dinner.
No accountability here.
What happened between Lynn and McEwing might soon be forgotten, just as the Ventura-Thomas spat was by the end of the 1996 season. If McEwing didn’t mind La Russa and Lynn throwing him under the bus, good for him.
The 2022 Sox still have a long way to go to match the wacky episodes of ‘96, when Tony Phillips was arrested for punching a Milwaukee Brewers fan, Bevington got into an altercation with umpire Rich Garcia at a downtown restaurant and the Thomas-Ventura incident at Yankee Stadium.
The ‘22 Sox have 102 games left after Tuesday’s game in Detroit. Someone could flip. Someone could flop.
Rest assured: It’s a story that gets more interesting by the day.
Source: Berkshire mont