The Mariners had an altercation among teammates before Tuesday's game.
Dee Gordon was very polite in his request.
As the media stood near the doors of the Mariners’ clubhouse in Safeco Field, waiting for a 3:20 p.m. media availability with manager Scott Servais, Gordon approached the group and said quietly, “Could you guys clear out of the clubhouse for just a few minutes, please?”
It wasn’t an unreasonable request. Perhaps a meeting of some sort was going to take place. It was quickly obliged and people moved from the entryway in the clubhouse out into a small foyer area of hallways as Gordon shut the doors. Of course, the windows of clubhouse manager Ryan Stiles’ office still offered a small view into the clubhouse.
After asking the media to leave, Gordon basically remained in the same spot. But then just a few minutes later, there was the sound of yelling, bodies moving and commotion. The once-closed doors to the clubhouse crashed open, showing an altercation between two players and about six players, including Cameron Maybin, Mike Zunino and Nick Vincent trying to break it up. Robinson Cano and others could be seen coming over to help defuse the situation. The actual participants couldn’t be seen in the mass of bodies. And the doors were shut again. But Gordon could be heard screaming obscenities.
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Sources indicated the incident was between Gordon and shortstop Jean Segura and stemmed from Gordon’s misplay on a ball in center field during Monday’s win over the Orioles.
When asked about it, multiple players refused to comment and offered up some version of “what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Cano said postgame. “What happens in here, stays in here. Everybody’s good.”
The frustration of a season that has slowly devolved into another year without the playoffs despite an 11 1/2 game lead in the wild card in mid-June had reached its nadir.
While incidents and scuffles and exchanged fisticuffs between teammates isn’t uncommon, it was surreal to see it happen up close. It doesn’t usually happen with the media standing 10 feet away.
Manager Scott Servais was on the field when the fight happened, but was informed of it when he returned to the clubhouse. He then opted to do his media session in the dugout instead of in his office next to the clubhouse.
“I’m getting details of it,” Servais said. “Things happen in the clubhouse when you are talking about 25 guys, and in this case now 35, of the most competitive of guys you are ever going to be around and they spend what seems like every waking moment together. I’ve been on a number different of teams and it’s something you will see at some point. Our guys are working through the situation. You have to be professional and we’ll be ready to play tonight. It’s unfortunate, but it’s something that happens. “
Servais felt like his team would be able limit it to the one flare-up and move forward from it instead of it becoming a lingering issue.
“You have to talk to guys and talk through it,” he said. “There’s usually a root to the problem and you need to dig in there and find out where it’s at, and then build back relationships from there.”
Before the game, Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano, two of the veteran leaders on the team, spent a fair amount of time talking during the team stretching period, which was unusual.
Servais said his role in the situation is pretty simple.
“You listen,” he said. “You listen first to the players and talk to them and hear where their concerns lie. Certainly with how our season has played out, we just haven’t been consistent and frustration mounts in a number of different places. It’s manager, coaching staff, players, it’s everybody. We just want to get the best out of everybody and along the way there are going to be bumps in the road and (expletive) happens. That’s all you can really say about it.”
The Mariners have had similar incidents in the past. The most memorable was an altercation between manager Don Wakamatsu and Chone Figgins in the dugout during a game in 2010. That was exacerbated by Russell Branyan, who went after Figgins for talking back at the manager. Jose Lopez also got involved. There were rumors of small tiffs last season with players and Danny Valencia. There was also report of a group of players wanting “to get” Ichiro in 2008.
So how much does it happen?
“A lot more than you think,” Servais said. “I played for 11 years in the big leagues and it’s almost every year with every team I’ve been a part of. Sometimes it brings teams together. Sometimes certain things hit a boiling point and you have to get things off your chest.”