Mets acting general manager Zack Scott seemed not to be amused by the goofy lies told by his middle infielders Friday.
After a tense exchange in the tunnel next to the Mets’ dugout — the details of which are not publicly known — shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jeff McNeil spun a tale about a debate regarding the animal they allegedly saw. In the version told by an unusually animated Lindor, he believed it was a rat and recalled that McNeil called it a raccoon. McNeil later said he thought it was an opossum.
Scott opted not to debate. He honored the players’ various version of the incident.
"Well, clearly it’s something that they didn’t want to get into too much detail about, so I respect that," Scott said during a pre-planned video news conference Saturday. "I know the code of the clubhouse. The one thing I’ll say just generally — not specific to this situation but just broadly — is these guys are competitive. They want to win.
"They are like a family. You spend so much time together and just like a family, sometimes there’s disputes and debates and arguments. But at the end of the day, you go out there and grind out a great win and you walk away still brothers, still family. That’s all I’ll say to that."
He added that the way Lindor and McNeil handled it in their respective news conferences was "probably not ideal" and "probably no one with the organization would make that recommendation to handle it that way."
"I’m not saying it to criticize what the players decided to do last night necessarily," Scott said. "The best way to handle these things is typically to just be as transparent as you can be without divulging things that people don’t want out there, to not be disparaging in any way but to address it, to hit things head on.
"They can choose to handle things the way they want. When something is not that big, why make something into more of a story than it needs to be? They’re obviously having fun with it a little bit. But to me, the interpretation of what they were saying was essentially they didn’t really want to comment on it. They wanted to keep it in- house, which I respect."
Why, then, concoct the animal story?
"You’d have to ask the players that, why they chose to handle it that way," Scott said. "It’s definitely, like I said before, not how I’d go. And I think what’s unfortunate is it’s a little bit bigger of a story than it needs to be and it takes away from one of our best wins of the year."
After pulling starter David Peterson due to ineffectiveness in the second inning Friday, the Mets got 8 1⁄3 innings from six relievers who combined to allowed one earned run. Minutes after his private visit with McNeil, Lindor hit a tying two-run home run. The Mets nabbed the walk-off win in the 10th on rookie Patrick Mazeika’s dribbler between the pitcher’s mound and first that resulted in a fielder’s choice, an RBI and the winning run.
The relationship between Lindor and McNeil, for what it’s worth, "looks like a typical relationship" between double-play partners, Scott said. He noted that in addition to being new to the team, Lindor is new to how the Mets align their infielders in certain defensive shifts, a philosophy that Lindor has been clear that he does not like.
In the top of the seventh, moments before the mid-seventh meeting in the tunnel, Lindor and McNeil both were on the left side of the infield and nearly collided while going for a ground ball. Lindor fielded it, but his throw to first base was late.
"One of his biggest strengths is [Lindor] holds his teammates to very high standards of how they go about it, and that’s true of anyone," Scott said. "It’s not specific to Jeff."