Raul Mondesi was liked by many of his teammates. He played hard. But on Sunday night, the mercurial right fielder committed a baseball cardinal sin -- he deserted his teammates.
Mondesi left the visitor's clubhouse in Boston after being pinch-hit for in the eighth inning of the Yankees' eventual 6-4 loss to the Red Sox on Sunday. Two days later, he was traded Tuesday to the Arizona Diamondbacks. His teammates spoke out in Wednesday's edition of The New York Times, not willing to forgive Mondesi for that transgression.
"To see a guy leave before the game is over, well, you're not supposed to do that," catcher Jorge Posada said to The Times. "You've got to have a little more respect for your teammates."
Yankees captain Derek Jeter told the Times: "There are always rules on every team and you want everyone to be on the same page. It wasn't a situation where it was all right to just leave. Everybody gets frustrated. You want to have a player who wants to play and gets upset when someone is doing the job and you think you can do it better. But you have to understand who makes the decisions. The decisions are made by (Yankees manager Joe Torre) and you have to respect the manager."
Mondesi, acquired July 1, 2002, never provided the Yankees with the offense they expected. The Yankees attempted to trade him last winter, but George Steinbrenner blocked the move.
Mondesi reported to spring training this season in better shape and got off to a good start, but was upset at being benched on July 10 and then left Fenway Park on his own after Torre sent Ruben Sierra to the plate for him. Sierra grounded into a fielder's choice.
Mondesi also skipped the Yankees' charter to fight to California for the Anaheim series and arrived on his own later, according to The Times report.
Torre told The Times that Mondesi's frustrations finally got the better of him.
"I know Mondy was very sensitive about not playing or whenever I pinch-hit for him," Torre said. "When that happened Sunday, maybe he got to the point where he was so frustrated that he didn't think about what he was doing or he didn't care about the repercussions. He was never a volatile guy or anything like that. I keep coming back to the word frustrated because that's a word that covers everything."
Torre made it clear he was in no way condoning Mondesi's actions.
"It was not acceptable what he did," he said. "George Steinbrenner was obviously aware of what was going on, but this was our decision. I think George was rather fond of Mondy. Brian and I were the ones who pulled the trigger on this."