Tension had been building for at least two and a half weeks between Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil when it reached a boiling point on May 7 in the tunnel connecting the Mets’ dugout to the clubhouse at Citi Field.
Details were not released by the players involved or organization at the time, but The Post has learned the details of what transpired in the “Rat / Raccoon” altercation that night.
Shortstop Lindor, frustrated by second baseman’s latest positioning error and its ensuing argument, according to a club source, grabbed McNeil by the neck and pinned him against a wall in the tunnel. Before the situation got worse, Mets players who heard the commotion came to dissolve it.
After the Mets beat Arizona 5-4 on a walk, neither Lindor nor McNeil would acknowledge the altercation other than to say that an animal had been seen in the tunnel and the two players were arguing over whether it was a rat or a raccoon. prompting Mets players to the scene.
Lindor had been visibly nervous on the field after McNeil, lined up to the left of second base on the shift, wandered too far into the hole while chasing Nick Ahmed’s groundout. Lindor fielded the ball and McNeil ducked, allowing shortstop a throw to first base. But Lindor’s brief hesitation at launch may have cost him any chance of expelling Ahmed, who was safe.
McNeil had two previous defensive positioning errors involving Lindor, two weeks earlier at Wrigley Field. At some point, either before or after the series at Wrigley, coach Luis Rojas had threatened to put McNeil on the bench if he didn’t accept the team change. Rojas, according to sources, made good on that threat, but it is not clear if the bench occurred on April 22 in Chicago or on April 25 at home against the Nationals; McNeil was absent from the starting lineup in both games.
Lindor’s anger at the situation apparently stemmed as much from McNeil’s dismissive attitude toward positioning issues as it was from actual mistakes.
“[Lindor] I was always trying to get him to move and Jeff was like, ‘Shut up, I’ve got it,’ “said a source. “I was building and building.”
After the tunnel explosion in which the source said Lindor grabbed McNeil by the neck and pinned him against a wall, the two players appeared to reconcile. But the Lindor-McNeil double-game combination was soon dissolved, more due to circumstance than personality conflict.
Lindor and McNeil going at it in the tunnel? 👀 pic.twitter.com/VnAcOWIXBY
– Master flip (@Masterflip_) May 8, 2021
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Francisco Lindor allegedly “hanged” Jeff McNeil in the dugout