Remember way back to May 17 — a thousand years in Internet time — when White Sox catcher Yermin Mercedes blasted a home run on a 3-0 lob from Twins catcher Willians Astudillo late in a blowout win?
It was a "talker" for a couple of days, with a debate brewing over whether Mercedes had violated one of those sacred "unwritten rules" of baseball.
And then, to be honest, I sort of forgot about it. Unless you're a White Sox fan, you probably did, too.
But that single event seems to have started a chain reaction that has had the worst implications for Mercedes' career.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa, a lover of those unwritten rules, criticized Mercedes at the time.
One quote from the veteran manager: "He made a mistake. There will be a consequence he has to endure here within our family."
Another: "I heard he said something like, 'I play my game.' No he doesn't. He plays the game of Major League Baseball, respects the game, respects the opponents. And he's got to respect the signs."
It was natural to wonder at the time how the situation would play out within the Chicago clubhouse, given that players defended Mercedes. Record-wise the White Sox have been just fine; they were 25-15 after that win and they have gone 33-22 since.
But unless it is a coincidence or a natural regression after a hot start, the incident seems to have been a pivot point in Mercedes' season and perhaps even his career.
Mercedes was hitting .364 with six homers and a .984 OPS after launching Astudillo's slow-speed offering into the stratosphere. From that point in mid-May through June 30, Mercedes hit just .162 with one homer and a .443 OPS.
He was demoted to Class AAA in early July; on Wednesday, the 28-year-old rookie posted on Instagram that he is pondering retirement and wrote that he is "stepping aside from baseball indefinitely." He apologized to teammates for "failing as a human being," though it wasn't clear to what he was referring specifically.
Again, it's a little too convenient to draw a direct line from the home run and the fallout to what has happened in the last two months. But it's also quite possible that being publicly shamed by his manager had a significant impact on Mercedes.
What does La Russa think about the current developments?
"I understand you're in Triple-A, away from the big leagues, you can get emotional," La Russa said after the White Sox lost to the Twins on Wednesday. "Don't know more than that. Will reach out to him. Could be just a little frustrated. I'll try to explain to him that he has a big league future."