New York Mets Francisco Lindor Grabbed Jeff McNeil by the Throat?
The 2021 New York Mets season was not a total disaster. However, to say it was full of disappointment and unwelcome drama, would be an understatement. Before fans returned to the stands with hopes of their new owner, Steve Cohen, delivering an all expense paid trip to the World Series, the team had already fired their general manager in mid January. Another famed highlight of the season was, of course, the "Rat or Raccoon" controversy.
New owner Steve Cohen and his $15 billion check book had Mets fans dreaming when he delivered a brand new $341 million shortstop for the next 10 years in Francisco Lindor, whom the team had traded for during the off-season. At least one Mets player felt that his new middle infield mate was more of a nightmare or maybe it was the other way around.
According to a report by Mike Puma in Wednesday's New York Post, Lindor and Jeff McNeil were not gelling in the middle infield for the Mets in April and it finally came to a boiling point on May 7th, with their famous "Rat or Raccoon" comedy sketch that was preceded by Lindor grabbing McNeil by the throat and pinning him against the wall. The commotion and the subsequent post-game stand-up act was a focus of the SNY-TV broadcast.
Puma reports that the altercation stemmed from Francisco Lindor's growing frustration with Jeff McNeil's defensive positioning missed assignments. The Post reporter said that "McNeil had two previous defensive positioning miscues involving Lindor, two weeks earlier at Wrigley Field. At some point — either before or after the series at Wrigley — manager Luis Rojas had threatened to bench McNeil if he didn’t get on board with the team’s shifting. Rojas, according to sources, made good on that threat, but it’s unclear if the benching occurred on April 22 in Chicago or April 25 at home against the Nationals — McNeil was absent from the starting lineup for both games."
Jeff McNeil was terrible at the plate for the entire year after hitting over .300 for his career prior to 2021. It was obvious on May 7th to the entire Mets viewing audience that there was an issue between the Gold Glove shortstop and his new double-play combo partner. I don't condone violence but athletes are passionate and fights like this between teammates happen all the time and usually they fix something.
My initial take is, McNeil was consistently missing his defensive assignments. You can do that in the big leagues. It doesn't matter that you struck out or you're 0 for 20. You have to take care of business in the field. You are paid to do both at a high level. Missing positioning placement on a scouting report can be the difference between winning and losing. The Mets lost a lot. Francisco Lindor takes his defensive responsibility seriously. All of the Mets should from now on.