TACOMA, WA. — We might never know the full story behind the pre-game scuffle Tuesday in the Mariners’ clubhouse between (from all indications) Dee Gordon and Jean Segura.
The lack of details, in the end, probably doesn’t matter much, but that doesn’t diminish the larger reality that seems a possible, even likely, root cause. We’ll get to that in a minute.
First, some background.
It’s believed the incident stemmed from Segura criticizing Gordon for a misplay in Monday’s 2-1 victory over Baltimore. Not surprisingly, the Mariners sought to minimize the matter by pointing out scraps erupt periodically within all clubs.
“I played for 11 years,” manager Scott Servais said, “and it’s (something that happens) most every year (with) every team I’ve been part of. Sometimes you kind of get to a boiling point, and you’ve got to get something off of your chest.”
I covered ball for roughly three decades, and I can vouch for Servais’ view. Actually, the arguments were once far more visible, but that changed when clubhouses expanded to include large areas that are off-limits to reporters.
Most times now the players are sufficiently circumspect to initiate proceedings behind closed doors and away from prying eyes (vultures is their usual term for us), microphones and minicams.
Gordon made an effort this time to achieve privacy by asking reporters to leave the clubhouse area, but the windows in the office of equipment manager Ryan Stiles permitted a glimpse of the action as reporters exited the area.
That, too, in a sense, represents a Gordon misplay. Waiting a few seconds longer would likely have kept the matter from becoming public.
Typically, these scraps have no lasting effect. Cooler heads prevail, and things return to normal. What also usually happens is a few veteran players act as spokesmen in effectively saying: “Move along. Nothing to see here.”
And, on cue, Robinson Cano filled that role.
“Whatever happens in here stays in here,” he said. “It didn’t affect anyone in here. All was good, and everybody was good. Whatever happens in here stays in here, that’s what I can say.”
That’s all fine, understandable even, as far as it goes, but Servais might have, perhaps inadvertently, touched on the underlying cause for the scuffle in an interview Wednesday on MLB Network radio.
“Guys are a little frustrated,” he said. “Obviously we haven’t played great in the second half at all, and sometimes those things kind of reach a boiling point. It’s something that happened, we’ll put it behind us and move forward.”
Every team — and I mean every team — opens the season believing that, if things go right (yes, some realize that a LOT of things need to go right)…but if things go right, they can win the World Series.
And every team but one reaches a point in the season where they realize it’s just not going to happen. When that occurs, there’s a letdown — maybe for a few days, sometimes longer — before the professional play-it-out attitude kicks in.
There were 100-loss teams that I covered in Kansas City where that moment arrived in May. For the Dodgers last year, it likely hit in the early innings of game seven when the Astros were battering Yu Darvish like a piñata.
But it happens for every team (but one) and, for the Mariners, it happened last weekend in Oakland, when they split a four-game series and remained 5 1/2 games behind the Athletics in the American League wild-card race with 25 games to go.
The current math, entering the weekend, is even grimmer. The Mariners are still 5 1/2 games behind Oakland and now have just 22 games remaining.
Let’s say the Athletics, who are 53-21 since mid-June, stumble down the stretch at 10-11 in their remaining games. Even then, the Mariners would have to go 16-6 to pull even.
You can move the abacus. If the A’s go 9-12, then the Mariners only have to go 15-7. And so on.
It’s not impossible, which is why you keep playing. Heck, if the Athletics get swept this weekend by Texas, and the Mariners sweep the New York Yankees, the margin, come Monday morning, will be just 2 1/2 games.
Things happen. Remember 1995? But…well, yeah.
For the Mariners, this moment hit with extra force last Sunday as they departed Oakland because they held an eight-game lead in the wild-card race as recently as July 3.
Two days later, tempers flared. Maybe there’s no connection, but I’m guessing there is.