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The Mets’ Todd Frazier and the Nationals’ Adam Eaton were teammates once upon. The year was 2016. The Chicago White Sox were... the best they’ve been in the last seven years (78-84). It was also the season when their manager, Robin Ventura, quit. The whole year can be summarized in this amazing tweet and subsequent piece in The Athletic (subscription required):
Adam Eaton & Todd Frazier’s feud began during a season in which Adam LaRoche, Drake LaRoche, undercover operations to break up sex slave rings, Chris Sale & jerseys & James Shields traded for Fernando Tatis Jr. were all headlines tied to the #WhiteSox. https://t.co/ZJouGCiKuD— Dan Hayes (@DanHayesMLB) May 22, 2019
Yeah, maybe I should’ve just referred to it as the Drake LaRoche season.
Anyway, Frazier’s marooned with the Mets and Adam Eaton’s on the Nationals, but whatever happened between them on that 2016 season hasn’t been forgotten, to the point that it bubbled over in last night’s game.
This carried over into their post-game interviews, where both dudes held court and staked their claim for being the alpha in the dispute. Said Eaton:
“I’m a 30-year-old man with two kids, I got a mortgage and everything,” Eaton said. “I try to stay patient with the childishness.”
“It’s nothing,” Frazier said after the game. “Nothing at all.”
”You can ask guys from when I played with the White Sox in 2016, there’s 23 of those guys and they know what happened,” Frazier said, seeming to reference to an undisclosed incident during their days as teammates. “I don’t know how you can talk after that.”
Ozzie Guillen, former White Sox manager — though not the manager when both Frazier and Eaton were teammates — chimed in on the White Sox post-game show with his own thoughts on Adam Eaton:
Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén goes at Eaton.— Sporting News MLB (@sn_mlb) May 22, 2019
If you can’t watch the video, Guillen says, “I can say one thing about it. Eaton: nobody liked you in a White Sox uniform in the clubhouse, okay? I’m just being honest.”
Is that true? Is Adam Eaton a persona non grata in the White Sox organization? Readers of this site might not 1) know the inner workings of that particular organization and/or 2) give a damn what happens in the White Sox clubhouse. Or the clubhouses of the Mets and Nationals for that matter.
But this is a baseball beef, and over the course of an achingly long season, beefs are good. They remind us that we’re alive. The cold, emotionless failure that the game itself imposes on those who try to win at it sting a little bit less when the players’ humanity is able to come to the fore. That so rarely happens when everyone’s just trying to win. When you’re the Mets and the Nationals, that’s not really an option.
The Mets are a perpetual mess and the Nationals cursed themselves by letting Dusty Baker go. It should be noted that Eaton arrived in Baker’s last year, but suffered a season-ending injury that limited him to all of 23 games while the Nationals went on to win 97. Correlation does not equal causation, but on the other hand... consider the cause of Eaton vs. Frazier:
It all stems from ill will between the two as White Sox, with Eaton the sore loser of an alpha male locker room stand-off. With veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins let go after 41 games [...] and no other English-speaking position player seeking to step into a leadership role, Eaton decided he’d try to fill the vacuum.
Frazier, who just happened to have the locker next door, called out Eaton for being a phony and made it clear that he lacked the standing in that room to be taken seriously as a leader.
Eaton’s locker was moved well away from Frazier’s shortly thereafter [...] Eaton claimed that he had actually wanted to move lockers the whole time, because its proximity to the doorway to the dugout tunnel made him “too cold.”
Eaton was also one of 14-year old Drake LaRoche’s most ardent supporters, saying on local radio after the kid’s ouster from the clubhouse:
“We lost a leader in Drake. Which is crazy enough that a 14-year-old could be looked at like that, but the kid was so tremendous.”
Both the Mets and the Nationals have been made miserable by how spectacularly they’ve fallen short of expectations over the years. The Mets inheriting some random beef feels right for them, just as the Nationals being loaded with talent but awful personalities that ultimately work to sink the ship itself makes so much sense it warrants a solemn prayer of thanks. One the one end of working against them, they’ve had the strategic nightmare of Matt Williams. On the other end, the personality apocalypse of Adam Eaton. It’s beautiful.