The Lance Lin-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 ’96 Sox’s biggest stars, engaged in a heated dugout on a hot August afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Thomas struck Ventura in the chest in the seventh inning after trying to prevent Ventura from exiting because of an argument with the plate umpire. Teammates Dave Martinez and Lyle Mouton intervened immediately 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 and told them not to comment because they had taken over.
“They both respect each other,” Bevington told reporters. “They both like each other. Small disagreements happen over teams. It’s really nothing.”
But Martinez ignored Bevington’s instruction.
“(Ventura) was just speaking honestly in the dugout, and (Thomas) spoke,” Martinez said. “When a guy snaps 275 pounds, look.”
Ventura politely said he couldn’t talk about what happened, but was then informed that Martinez had already given us a blow.
“I talked to him afterwards. I have nothing against Frank,” Ventura said.
So he was just trying to stop Thomas from freaking out?
“Obviously,” he said.
Thomas, unaware that his teammates had spoken, brushed past reporters and barked: “I have nothing to say.”
This incident was a topic of discussion in the city. “Frank flipped, Sox flopped” read the Chicago Tribune headline. But that quickly fizzled out, as most brawls happen during the long baseball season.
Lynn-McEwing Kerfuffle Monday was one of those things that happens when two stubborn 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 later told reporters that Lynn was mad at himself for making a bad pitch. Lynn joked that he and McEwing were arguing about what kind of steak was best. McEwing was not made available for comment.
White Sox general manager Rickahan told reporters Tuesday that it was just a “conversation” he had heard was about steak, noting that McEwing doesn’t eat meat.
“No, it’s a nothing-burger,” said Hahn. “not a joke.”
Honesty may be the best policy, but silence is golden. The Sox did not consider it necessary to explain the details of the dispute, which is their prerogative. McEwing confirmed to reporters Tuesday that he was indeed a pee peeper, and that the argument was due to “miscommunication” with Lynn.
“We embraced it,” he said. “Trust me, (I) love Lance to Death. We have the same fiery personalities, and that’s where it came from. But we talked about it and moved on.”
In other words, nothing burgers.
But Monday night’s lack of accountability from La Russa and Lynn came on the heels of another controversy — La Russa’s deliberate run of Los Angeles Dodgers’ Tree Turner on a 1-2 count on Thursday — a decision that not only backfired. Rather, it made the Sox a national story.
Upon rerunning the game, NBC Sports Chicago edited the innings to include a Turner at-bat, a decision that many saw as a team interfering with the editorial integrity of its regional station so that La Russa had already been relegated. To avoid looking worse.
The relationship with La Russa chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is well-known. The Sox are part owners of NBC Sports Chicago. Conspiracy theories abounded, especially after the censorship of a show by Marquee Sports Network, which included criticism of Cubs president Jed Hoyer.
So NBC Sports Chicago took its knots, and deserved it.
Kevin Cross, president and general manager of three NBC stations in Chicago, said Tuesday that the company in New Jersey had been hired to edit the game to a three-hour window, except for the fatal shift in the final edit.
“There was no conspiracy,” said Cross. “We had to cut an hour and 13 minutes out of the game, and the person who did it intentionally didn’t know the nuances of running. They’re not from this market and didn’t know the specifics of Tony La Russa’s decision.
“Where we messed up (is) we should have talked to (the company) and said ‘Whatever you do, don’t put an end to this … That innings is untouchable.’ The fact that it got cut makes us feel bad.”
NBC Sports Chicago accepted the blame for the editing mistake. La Russa needs to heed the station’s example and be clear about the Lynn-McEwing dispute.
Whether the disagreement was on the defensive, no matter what, the latter attempted to obscure the subject and avoid it. McEwing clearly stood his ground against a popular player who has a lot more job security than a third-base coach.
La Russa later sat back in his chair in the visitors’ office with his pants on as he finished Thanksgiving dinner and praised Lynn for always being “accountable.” Lin then joked about the steak dinner with reporters.
There is no accountability here.
What happened between Lynn and McEwing may soon be forgotten, as was the Ventura-Thomas feud by the end of the 1996 season. If McEwing doesn’t mind throwing La Russa and Lynn under the bus, that’s good for them.
The 2022 Sox still has a long way to go to match the wacky episode of ’96, when Tony Phillips was arrested for punching a Milwaukee Brewers fan, umpire Rich Garcia, at a restaurant in downtown Bevington. and the Thomas-Ventura incident at Yankee Stadium.
The ’22 Sox have 102 games left after Tuesday’s game in Detroit. Anyone could turn. Somebody can fail.
Rest assured: this is a story that gets more interesting by the day.