J-Ram, TA get heated as benches clear in Cleveland

August 6th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- Guardians starter Noah Syndergaard hardly knew any of the names of his new teammates when he walked into the visitors' clubhouse in Chicago after he was traded last week. But it didn’t take long for him to realize the elephant in the room.

“I could tell that these two teams don’t like each other,” Syndergaard said, “and I don’t think that’s going to be resolved any time soon.”

Aside from a Terry Francona ejection in Chicago last weekend, there weren’t many signs that tensions were flaring between the two clubs until the White Sox came to Progressive Field on Friday, when White Sox shortstop tagged Guardians rookie shortstop Brayan Rocchio on a play at second that after a failed challenge play, resulted in Terry Francona’s ejection and ignited some life into the Guardians.

In Chicago’s 7-4 victory over Cleveland on Saturday, the Guardians reached their tipping point with Anderson.

Francona said Anderson had been chirping at first baseman Gabriel Arias all night. And after his actions caused so much frustration in Cleveland’s clubhouse the night before, the Guardians had no interest in hearing more from the shortstop.

“I know that Anderson was yelling at Arias because the umpire went and told him to knock it off,” Francona said. “[Anderson] said some things he probably shouldn’t have.”

It all led up to José Ramírez’s double in the bottom of the sixth inning.

As Ramírez slid into second base, he went between Anderson’s legs and took exception with how hard Anderson tagged him. The two then exchanged some words, with Ramírez pointing at Anderson as he stood up off the base, which led to them jawing while second-base umpire Malachi Moore stood between them.

“I think [Anderson has] been disrespecting the game for a while,” Ramirez said after the game through interpreter Agustin Rivero. “It’s not from yesterday. It’s from before. I even had the chance to tell him during the game, ‘Don’t do this stuff. That’s disrespectful. Don’t start tagging people like that,’ because in reality, we’re here trying to find ways to provide for our families.”

Once Ramírez stood up, Anderson dropped his glove, assumed a boxing stance and threw a punch that Ramírez ducked. Before their teammates could get between them, Ramírez connected on Anderson’s jaw with a wild haymaker that sent Anderson onto his back and set off a 14-minute altercation that resulted in both benches and bullpens clearing, six ejections and a screaming Anderson being carried off the field by teammate Andrew Vaughn.

“[Anderson's] reaction was, ‘I want to fight,’” Ramírez said. “If he wanted to fight, I had to defend myself. … I feel I was able to land one.”

Anderson was unavailable to the media after the game.

After the initial smoke had cleared from the first altercation, things kicked back up when Anderson began yelling at members of the Guardians from across the field. From there, managers Francona and Pedro Grifol found each other in the center of the scrum by the mound, shouting and pointing fingers at each other while chants of “José, José, José” rained down from the fans at Progressive Field.

“I think [Grifol] was more yelling at me and I yelled back,” Francona said.

“I just saw them getting after it at second base,” Grifol said. “I’m not really going to comment on the call. I’m going to let MLB figure this out. They’ve got some work to do."

“I didn’t appreciate the fact that I thought Anderson, once he had like 11 or 12 guys in between him, that’s when he started [jawing],” Francona said. “I said something to him and that’s probably what their manager was yelling about.”

While that was happening, White Sox outfielder Eloy Jiménez limped away from the fracas on one foot and stood near second base. As the dogpile moved towards the White Sox first-base dugout, Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase had to be held back by teammates Syndergaard and David Fry, which added another tentacle onto the growing number of disagreements. As that argument moved towards the third-base side of the field, Vaughn lifted Anderson up and carried him off the field.

“We love Timmy and we’re always going to support him. He plays with passion and gives 100% on the field,” said shortstop Elvis Andrus, who was on the field when Rougned Odor famously punched Jose Bautista in 2016.

At one point, Triston McKenzie delivered water to Ramírez, who ended up on second base by himself. Ramírez had never been ejected prior to Saturday, which showed just how aggravated he had gotten. Moments later, he learned he had been ejected from the game and left the field to thunderous applause as the teams began to move to resume the game.

In total, Ramírez, Anderson, Grifol, Francona, Guardians third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh and Clase were ejected.

“I mean, even when I get frustrated with umpires, I try to take that down with myself in the dugout,” Ramírez said. “I don’t want to disrespect the game. I just want to play the game.”

The Guardians tried to build off the passion Ramírez demonstrated that inning, scoring two runs and adding two more in the ninth, but failed to overcome the hurdle that was put in front of them by Syndergaard giving up four homers to the White Sox earlier in the night.

Now, the table is set for the final game of the season with a national television matchup early Sunday (12:05 p.m. ET on Peacock) between two clubs that have struggled to live up to expectations this year and clearly hold some animosity against each other.

“There's been a lot of mouthing between the teams the last few series,” said White Sox starter Michael Kopech, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and picked up the win. “We're not playing our best baseball but we're not going to get bullied by a team that's also playing less than .500 baseball.”