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Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Guardians
Tim Anderson, restrained by teammates during Saturday’s brawl.
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Anderson suspended six games amid day of chaos for White Sox organization

The shortstop’s suspension ranked only as a minor item in a flat-out embarrassing Monday for the White Sox

Tim Anderson has been suspended for six games for his role in Saturday’s bench-clearing brawl, MLB announced on Monday. José Ramírez, who instigated the exchange that led Anderson to make the unfortunate decision to turn the infield into a boxing ring, received just three games. Emmanuel Clasé received one game for his overenthusiastic entrance from the bullpen during the ensuing fracas, while managers Pedro Grifol and Terry Francona and Cleveland third base coach Mike Saurbaugh also received a game, which they’ve already served. As is typical, both infielders are deferring their suspensions pending a union appeal to the league, where suspensions are anticipated to be reduced by a single game.

The length of Anderson’s suspension relative to Ramírez is likely due to Anderson’s history of league discipline, often questionably imposed. Notably, this is not the first time Anderson has been suspended for retaliating, rather than initiating conflict. He received a one-game suspension in 2019 after STICK TALK, a now-infamous bat flip/hit-by-pitch sequence led to benches clearing — though it wasn’t for his involvement in the fray, but for reportedly directing a “racially-charged word” at Keller, a rather twisted interpretation of the rules that went completely against its spirit.

In 2022, he was suspended for a game for flipping off fans in the Cleveland crowd after a two-error inning. That suspension was later reduced to a fine. Later in 2022, Anderson was suspended for three games — later reduced to two — for making contact with an umpire during an argument over balls and strikes.

It is simultaneously true that Anderson’s actions over the weekend were stupid and required discipline, and that both MLB and umpires have demonstrated a remarkably quick trigger for taking Anderson off the field at any chance they get. The contact that led to Anderson’s most recent suspension was predicated by an ejection that might be at best described as touchy on the part of the umpire, part of a recurring pattern of differential treatment to degrees both large and small.

As Anderson was disciplined multiple times in 2022, I couldn’t help but think of the numerous other incidents of similar stature that the league has been more than happy to carry on without addressing. It’s difficult to believe that Anderson would have gone unpunished had he acted like Kyle Schwarber did in 2019.

It’s undoubtable that Anderson’s broad treatment by the league — both MLB and the players themselves — has been motivated to some degree by racial animus, a reality that requires a nuance in breaking down these situations that, frankly, many people find difficult to grasp. That’s an article for another time, and I’m probably not the person to write it. That being said, any discussion of Anderson’s history with interpersonal conflicts on the field needs to be informed by that understanding; discourse that ignores it simply isn’t presenting the full story.

Anderson’s suspension perhaps garnered less attention than it typically has, as it came in the midst of what may have been the most chaotic, flat-out embarrassing day for the White Sox since their probable starter took a knife to their uniforms for the day in a tantrum rarely seen in the big leagues. Or maybe it was the time that the team’s All-Stars deferred leadership to a 14-year-old. So many greatest hits to choose from!

The day was defined by a bombshell story published by Jesse Rogers yesterday morning, in which recently-traded reliever Keynan Middleton blasted the organization for having “no rules” and a complete lack of professional accountability, charging that “they don’t tell you not to miss meetings, and if it happens, it’s just ‘OK.’”

Chicago White Sox v Atlanta Braves
Middleton celebrates in one of his final appearances with Chicago.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It was a shocking naming-of-names-type blast of the team that comes after months, or even years, of vague allusions to similar issues. GM Rick Hahn has repeatedly placed the burden of the team’s struggles on a problematic clubhouse culture, and after the conclusion of last season, closer Liam Hendriks stated, “I think we need someone who’s going to be a little harsher on some things, not let things slide,” corroborating Middleton’s claim that he encountered these issues as early as Spring Training, and that they dated back to last season. With more detailed claims of “rookies sleeping in the bullpen during games,” Middleton exposed Gregory Santos, the only rookie on the staff save for Jesse Scholtens, who has not been on the big league roster for much of the season.

Hahn fully refuted Middleton’s accusations, stating, “At no point over the course of this year has there been a reliever sleeping in the bullpen during a game. That’s just wrong. We do have a player, a position player, who has fairly serious sleep issues. And as part of our sports performance program of trying to address that issue, he has been given permission, and in fact encouraged, to sleep in the clubhouse at times. Earlier in the season, a couple of our veteran players approached me complaining about such behavior. To their credit, they thought they were trying to help the environment. And when I explained to them the background of the player and why we were doing that, they relented and understood ... Perhaps that’s something that got lost in translation in Keynan’s report, but at no point have we had a player sleeping in the bullpen.”

There’s no reason to believe that Hahn is lying, but the way that the details fail to line up — position player versus pitcher; bullpen versus clubhouse — raises an eyebrow or two, and opens Hahn up to the likelihood of intentional misdirection. Those aren’t small details that get lost in translation, particularly given that Middleton was actually, you know, sitting in the bullpen all season. Hahn also fired back at Middleton, revealing that the righthander had previously apologized for unprofessional behavior, the nature of which remains unnamed. He also pushed back on Middleton’s characterization of chronic missed meetings and practices, claiming a singular incident of a young player missing practice and subsequently being given extra practice for three days “as a means of breaking through and holding him accountable.”

Adding to the public airing of what seem to have been long-simmering grievances, Rogers supplemented his report and poured a gallon of jet fuel on an already-raging fire with an appearance on ESPN 1000 in which he specifically named several high-profile players who had contributed to the previously vague reports of culture and work ethic issues within the clubhouse.

“Grandal is no friend to the pitchers,” Rogers told the Kap & JHood show. “Moncada is no hard worker who’s there for his [teammates], Eloy is very happy-go-lucky, but he isn’t [a] hard worker, at least, according to people that I’ve talked to.” The statements echo sentiments expressed by the front office seeking to place the onus on the team’s poor performance on the players’ preparedness and drive to succeed, a characterization seemingly designed to deflect from the front office’s failure to build a competitive team around the aforementioned players as well as their inability to put their players in a position to succeed, whether through poor organizational infrastructure or a series of baffling and ill-advised coaching staff hires. There’s also the matter of Rogers declining to name his sources for these anecdotes, an omission that can lead to serious mischaracterizations, particularly when a non Spanish-speaking journalist is reporting on non English-speaking players. All that being the case, while there are certainly grains of truth behind these claims, they should probably being taken with a few shakes of salt.

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Guardians
Rumors of Yasmani Grandal’s clubhouse issues have followed him throughout his career.
Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Nonetheless, shortly after Rogers’ appearance, rumors of Grandal’s perception as a clubhouse cancer hit a fever pitch with an uncorroborated report from a non-journalistic source making explosive claims of a clubhouse altercation between Grandal and Tim Anderson, reportedly over Grandal’s desire to leave the club for the All-Star break a day early. Grandal, of course, denied the story, simply stating “that didn’t happen.”

While virtually all of the discourse surround Jiménez and Moncada has been hearsay, it’s not the first time that Grandal has been the subject of such rumors. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Grandal’s surprising trade from the Padres to the Dodgers in 2014 was precipitated by multiple incidents that resulted in him losing “the full trust of the clubhouse,” as well as a now-familiar “rumblings that the pitchers disliked throwing to him.” This sentiment also surfaced at times when he repeatedly found himself on the bench during deep playoff runs with the Dodgers.

Although Middleton’s tell-all was initially treated as a he-said/he-said situation, Lance Lynn offered a damning corroboration of the reliever’s account of the state of the organization, appearing on A.J. Pierzynski’s podcast and simply stating “I can tell you what he was wrong about,” before smirking and pointedly remaining silent.

I’m already at 1,300 words, and this dumpster fire is raging hot enough that not a lot more needs to be said. The only thing I can leave you with is that in any industry, leadership and accountability are things that start at the top of the organization. Between the unbearable lethargy of the Robin Ventura era, the unmitigated disaster of the 2016 club whose best players faced virtually identical leadership criticisms as the ones being aired recently, and the shipwreck we’ve seen in 2022 and 2023, culture and clubhouse problems have permeated the White Sox organization for a long time. But there are no players on the roster remaining from the beginning of the Ventura years, and Anderson is the only remaining player from the 2016 team, when he was a midseason call-up.

There has been essentially one constant in the dysfunction and toxicity that has characterized the last decade of White Sox baseball.

Unlike Rogers and Middleton, I’ll leave it to you to figure out who it is.

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