Now with the Yankees after a deadline-day trade, Keynan Middleton unloaded on the White Sox organization to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. But before we get to the meat of Middleton’s explosive allegations, I want to quickly touch on a couple of adjacent stories that hinted at a greater ongoing dysfunction.
There’s Jake Burger, whose Marlins debut last Wednesday happened to be a 12-inning thriller against the Phillies that Miami won, 9-8. After the game, he said he texted his wife, telling her, “That was the most fun I’ve had on a baseball field in a really long time.”
Meanwhile, the Salvador Pérez rumor that briefly surfaced before the trade deadline keeps climbing out of the garbage disposal, the latest being this paragraph from Bob Nightengale in his Sunday notebook.
The Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals were engaged in serious trade discussions for Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez on trade deadline day before the White Sox simply weren’t willing to give up the prospects the Royals sought.
The idea of a Pérez trade sounded legit to me, not because it made sense, but because it would be just like the White Sox to prop up Pedro Grifol with the clubhouse leader of one of the few teams worse than the White Sox, rather than addressing their issues in a more comprehensive way. I can imagine Pérez showing up to spring training attempting to set a new tone, and I can imagine the rest of the clubhouse freezing him out because they smell a narc, and the cycle repeats.
I’m not sure whether Middleton’s allegations will prevent a Pérez trade from happening, but they make it a lot easier to see it for what it is.
“We came in with no rules,” Middleton said. “I don’t know how you police the culture if there are no rules or guidelines to follow because everyone is doing their own thing. Like, how do you say anything about it because there are no rules?
“You have rookies sleeping in the bullpen during the game. You have guys missing meetings. You have guys missing PFPs (pitcher fielding practices), and there are no consequences for any of this stuff.”
Multiple sources, who corroborated Middleton’s account to ESPN, said a pitcher was seen napping during games as well as skipping fielding practice.
It’s good that Rogers sought corroboration, because while even unsubstantiated allegations would be newsworthy because it’s so rare that players lodge them, Middleton gives some reason to question his account. On one hand, he references a pitcher sleeping in the bullpen and somebody missing PFPs. On the other, he said the pitching staff “went about our work the right way,” and pointed the finger at “the rest of the team,” when he’s referencing pitcher-specific offenses.
But no matter how you weigh the element of self-preservation, there’s too much smoke elsewhere to ignore Middleton’s fire. I’ve heard of an attitude of gratitude, but Middleton produced gratitude with attitude:
“The second I found out I was traded, I shaved my face,” Middleton said. “I was ready to play by their rules because all I want to do is win games. … You know how to act [here]. You know not to be late and you know there are consequences if you are late.”
Now the attention turns to Pedro Grifol’s pregame media session, and whether Rick Hahn precedes him in the line of fire, or lets his manager twist in the wind.
Grifol is already having enough problems responding to Tim Anderson’s fight with José Ramírez, and any lingering effects. He refused to comment on it Saturday night, and then he sat Anderson on Sunday with an awkward explanation.
“Yeah, he’s doing good [physically],” Grifol said Sunday morning. “He was going to get a day off today like Benni and Vaughn. It just so happens it might not look that way.
“I don’t think [he was dazed]. But people are going to have their opinion.”
I can understand if Grifol misdirected or lied to reporters in order to protect Anderson from additional ridicule, even if it doesn’t seem like he’s good at it. He probably figured he only needed to buy a day, since the Sox wrapped up their season series with the Guardians on Sunday.
But here comes another direct assault on the way the White Sox conduct themselves, and while they issued a no-comment to Rogers, silence isn’t an option. Sure, Grifol and Hahn can choose to say nothing or duck the media, but doing so will only validate Middleton.
Coincidentally, the player the White Sox received for Middleton, Juan Carela, made his organizational debut for Winston-Salem on Sunday. It was a success, as he allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits and zero walks while striking out five. I wonder whether the Sox now regret making the deal, but if Middleton helps publicly embarrass a franchise that sorely needs shaming it can’t shut out, White Sox fans already won the trade.