Buddy Bell could’ve been describing his second go-around leading White Sox player development, but he was actually manager of the Royals when he told reporters in the midst of an 11-game losing streak back in 2005, “I never say it can’t get worse.”
That line has circulated in my head plenty this season, because you can’t assume Late-Stage White Sox has a nadir. This can theoretically go on forever, or at least a duration that feels like an eternity.
Yet even if you’re aware that the situation can deteriorate further, the “how” can still surprise.
Like Tim Anderson suffering a knockdown in a fight he escalated with José Ramírez.
Anderson’s miserable season had already drawn plenty of scrutiny from inside baseball, but with the trade deadline intrigue eliminated and Anderson’s own performance rebounding to something resembling respectable, he was in position to ride out the rest of the season — and maybe his contract — in relative anonymity.
Then he squared up with Ramírez in the sixth inning on Saturday night. Maybe it could’ve been cool?
Few things represent the White Sox’s overall fortunes so well. Now Anderson’s back in the news, in the Robin Ventura kind of way. Except Ventura stayed on his feet and kept driving.
Between off-the-field matters, on-the-field matters, and stuff-that-isn’t-supposed-to-be-on-the-field-but-occasionally-happens matters, it’s hard to imagine anybody having a worse year. I don’t think this punch will replace the Field of Dreams Game homer as Anderson’s defining moment — Jose Bautista’s bat flip at Rogers Centre overshadows Rougned Odor’s right cross, though both are vivid — but this certainly exacerbates what was already going to be a miserable final two months.
Anderson wasn’t available for comment after the game, and while Pedro Grifol said Anderson wasn’t hurt in the fight, the video suggests the White Sox should take the possibility of a concussion seriously.
As for Grifol, he had a chance to define himself as some kind of presence in the White Sox dugout, but passed on the opportunity to say something interesting:
‘‘I’m not going to comment on it,’’ said Grifol, who with Sarbaugh appeared to raise their hands to each other in the midst of a second flurry. ‘‘I’m going to let MLB figure it out, do their investigation and watch the video. They have some work to do.’’
Their relative silence allowed the Guardians to do all the talking. Terry Francona gave Grifol a courtesy explanation for the managers’ roles in his postgame media session. Francona said that he started yelling at Anderson for jawing at the Guardians “once he had 11, 12 guys in between ’em,” and that’s when Grifol started going at Francona.
Francona also pretended to take the high road about Ramírez’s punch while indulging himself.
The way Francona and Ramírez framed it, Anderson opened the door to let the Guardians take out their frustrations on him:
Francona said Anderson had been chirping at first baseman Gabriel Arias all night. And after his actions caused so much frustration in Cleveland’s clubhouse the night before, the Guardians had no interest in hearing more from the shortstop.
“I know that Anderson was yelling at Arias because the umpire went and told him to knock it off,” Francona said. “[Anderson] said some things he probably shouldn’t have.” […]
“I think [Anderson has] been disrespecting the game for a while,” Ramirez said after the game through interpreter Agustin Rivero. “It’s not from yesterday. It’s from before. I even had the chance to tell him during the game, ‘Don’t do this stuff. That’s disrespectful. Don’t start tagging people like that,’ because in reality, we’re here trying to find ways to provide for our families.”
The White Sox did not offer a competing version of events, which, again, is appropriate for a year where competing has been a problem. Only Michael Kopech managed to get in a shot, and he did it with the Most AL Central Quote:
“Obviously in division baseball you’re going to see a lot of each other, there’s been a lot of mouthing between the teams the past few series,” Kopech said. “Bottom line, we’re not playing our best baseball right now, but we’re not going to get bullied by a team that’s also playing less than .500 baseball.”
I saw some fans knocking Kopech for a lack of awareness, but I think he sees everything. The White Sox and Guardians play in a division where not one team added at the deadline. They’re all in hell. They just occupy different circles.
Other observations from the brawl
I feel like there has to be a code in brawls that, if you get hurt in a completely incidental fashion, you should attach yourself to a teammate for support (and pretend you’re supporting), or you should remove yourself from the premises at earliest convenience. Jiménez’s understandable frustration started crossing the line into scenery-chewing.
The rookie reliever didn’t make his official White Sox debut because he didn’t get into the box score, but seeing his 6-foot-9-inch frame moving about the crowd raised my hopes that he would pull some kind of Dhalsim moves. Alas.
Vaughn got a lot of plaudits for holding back Anderson early, then carrying him off the field late …
… but between Vaughn, Trayce Thompson and Yasmani Grandal, Anderson presented a lot of work for guys with documented back issues. Only Touki Toussaint (pictured above) seemed to not be inviting any medical risk by intervening.
Back in 2021, the Michigan and Ohio State football teams nearly came to blows in the tunnel during halftime. Michigan Stadium’s architecture took some shots, because sure, maybe it’s not the greatest idea to have rival teams use the same route to get to their respective locker rooms in the heat of battle.
In the Big House’s defense, the White Sox and Guardians had to use the same passageway to get to the field to join the fracas, and they managed to be perfect gentlemen before and after.