Zack Scott admits Lindor-McNeil fictional rat story was ‘not ideal’

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NEW YORK — Zack Scott, in his four months as Mets acting GM, has typically refrained from outlandish statements or unpopular assessments that may not sit well with his players.

But he went against the grain Saturday and honestly detailed how he would have handled the messy and heated situation in the Mets’ tunnel during Friday’s game. (Spoiler alert: Scott would not have made up a story about a debate over a rat, raccoon, or opossum, which is what Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil said led to a disagreement in the seventh inning.)

“They can choose to handle things the way they want,” Scott said. “Probably not ideal ... These things, when something is not that big, why make something into more of a story than it needs to be? They’re obviously having fun with it a little bit. But to me, the interpretation of what they were saying was essentially they didn’t really want to comment on it. They wanted to keep it in-house, which I respect.”

Mets manager Luis Rojas said he spoke to both Lindor and McNeil about the situation and reiterated that the team is a family, and the infielders are like brothers who will have disagreements over a long season.

“We’re a better ballclub tonight because of whatever happened last night,” Rojas said.

Scott said he knows “the code of the clubhouse,” so he didn’t divulge any details about the incident between Lindor and McNeil, which remained covered up by the bizarre notion that a rat, raccoon, or opossum entered the corridor between the Mets dugout and clubhouse. Scott, who arrived at the Mets via a decade-plus of experience in the Red Sox front office, said he would have been more transparent after SNY, the Mets’ broadcast, showed several players and coaches ran into the tunnel to check out the scene.

“The best way to handle these things is typically to just be as transparent as you can be without divulging things that people don’t want out there,” Scott said. “As a Northeasterner, I feel like we like straightforwardness. We like feeling like we’re getting honesty even if it’s sometimes things we don’t want to hear. Just be upfront about it and be real about it. I always think that’s the best way to handle it.

“I’m not saying it to criticize what the players decided to do last night necessarily. That wouldn’t be my recommendation and probably no one with the organization would make that recommendation to handle it that way. But that’s what they chose to do for whatever their reasons and it was essentially a no comment.”

The GM does not believe the disagreement between Lindor and McNeil escalated to the point where he needed to address the team. Scott indicated the clubhouse would have to be dysfunctional for him to step in, and the relationship between the double-play partners seemed to improve after the tunnel incident. During Friday’s game, Lindor and McNeil miscommunicated on a ground ball up the middle which caused a runner to reach base. Miscommunication between the pair of infielders has happened a few times this season.

“Francisco, one of his biggest strengths is he holds his teammates to very high standards of how they go about it, and that’s true of anyone,” Scott said. “It’s not specific to Jeff. If the two of them aren’t playing at their absolute best, and that includes himself, making an error or whatever it may be, he’s going to recognize that he needs to be better and the people around him need to be better, and he’s going to hold everyone to that high standard, which I think is great.”

So why did Lindor and McNeil put out the ridiculous rat/raccoon/opossum story instead of simply saying they wanted to keep the disagreement in-house and, instead, emphasize their come-from-behind, walk-off win over the Diamondbacks?

“You’d have to ask the players that, why they chose to handle it that way,” Scott said. “It’s definitely, like I said before, not how I’d go. And I think what’s unfortunate is, it’s a little bit bigger of a story than it needs to be and it takes away from one of our best wins of the year.”