The Chicago White Sox tumbled to fourth in the AL Central after the team won just seven games in July. Former relief pitcher Keynan Middleton thinks he knows why.
Middleton, whom the White Sox sent to the New York Yankees before the trade deadline, said his old club had “no rules” and claimed players were “sleeping in the bullpen” during games, while others missed meetings and practices without repercussions.
“I don’t know how you police the culture if there are no rules or guidelines to follow because everyone is doing their own thing,” he said, via ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. “Like, how do you say anything about it because there are no rules?”
ESPN reportedly corroborated Middleton’s comments in regard to missed meetings and sleeping players. The White Sox responded to Middeleton’s claims Monday night.
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White Sox management responds
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn disputed Middleton’s account while speaking with reporters Monday evening before a 5-1 win over the Yankees, Middleton’s new team.
“I was surprised to see the report this morning,” Hahn said, per ESPN. “At no point during the course of the year had there been a reliever sleeping in the bullpen during that game. That’s just wrong.”
Hahn then accused Middleton of his own unprofessional behavior.
“Quite frankly, it’s a little bit ironic that Keynan’s the one saying this, because my last conversation with him face-to-face was a week ago in this clubhouse where he sought me out to apologize for his unprofessional behavior. Unprofessional behavior that Pedro had called him out on and had an individual meeting with him about,” Hahn continued. “At the time I figured that was a one-off.”
Grifol told reporters that cultivating culture was a priority in the White Sox clubhouse.
“I’ve been talking about culture here since Day 1 and brought it up again about three or four weeks ago,” Grifol said. “I feel like we’re not even close to where we need to be, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Grandal denies slapping Tim Anderson in the tub
Middleton’s comments arrived shortly before a report from 670 The Score’s Shane Riordan that White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal slapped shortstop Tim Anderson in the face during a clubhouse altercation before the All-Star break.
Riordan said Monday on the “Parkins and Spiegel Show” that Grandal wasn’t in the lineup for Chicago’s July 9 game against the St. Louis Cardinals and wanted to leave the team early since he wasn’t scheduled to play in the last game before the break. He expressed those thoughts in the clubhouse with Anderson nearby, per the report.
“Tim Anderson was in the tub,” Riordan said. “Tim Anderson says, well, ‘F you, f that. If he wants to get out of here now, I’ll pay for the flight and bring him there myself.’ …
“Yasmani Grandal walks over to Tim Anderson and slaps him across the face. And they got into a fight from there. They had to be separated.”
Grandal denied that report Monday afternoon, telling reporters that it’s “not real.” Anderson hasn’t publicly responded to the report. He was suspended six games by MLB earlier Monday for fighting Cleveland Guardians third baseman José Ramírez on Saturday and instigating a brawl between the two teams.
Middleton: Issues date to Tony La Russa’s tenure
Middleton said the issues with the White Sox existed before first-year manager Pedro Grifol arrived on Nov. 1, 2022, and started during Tony La Russa’s final season with the team. La Russa resigned after the 2022 season due to health concerns. That squad finished 81-81.
Middleton signed a minor-league contract with the White Sox in January and said he heard about the team’s dysfunction during spring training.
“When I got to spring training, I heard a lot of the same stuff was happening last year,” Middleton said. “It’s happening again this year, so not sure how I could change it. They don’t tell you not to miss PFPs [pitcher fielding practices]. They don’t tell you not to miss meetings, and if it happens, it’s just, ‘OK.’
“They say [expletive] rolls downhill,” he added. “I feel like some guys don’t want to speak up when they should have. It’s hard to police people when there are no rules. If guys are doing things that you think are wrong, who is it wrong to? You or them? It’s anyone’s judgment at that point.”
Middleton also criticized White Sox players
Another issue for Middleton was that the team’s veterans didn’t set the tone for the season. He pointed to pitchers Lance Lynn and Kendall Graveman, who both missed spring training for the World Baseball Classic in March, as two players who didn’t help the team develop before the season.
The White Sox lost 21 of 29 games to open the season, including a a 10-game losing streak in 10 days in mid-April.
“If you’re trying to create culture, you need your big dogs,” Middleton said. “The guys who played in the WBC were our big dogs, and those are the guys I feel like can police the things that are happening.
“There was no jelling of the team. We’re supposed to find our identity in spring training so we can roll out for the season. If you don’t find your identity, you’re scuffling from Day 1.”
Lynn and Graveman were also dealt at the deadline — Lynn to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Graveman to the Houston Astros.
Middleton, meanwhile, had a solid stint with the White Sox before his departure. He had a 3.96 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 33 hits allowed in 36 1/3 innings. He has pitched in three total innings in two games since joining the Yankees, both losses for New York against the Astros. Middleton didn’t allow a hit or a run in either of his appearances and struck out five batters.
This week will be an interesting one for Middleton, as his new team will play his old team in Chicago. Neither the Yankees nor the White Sox are playing particularly well: New York is 58-54, fourth in the AL East and 4.5 games out of the wild card, while Chicago is 45-68 and very much out of postseason contention.