Think back to the end of the 2020 season. Yes, the Dodgers would end up winning the World Series but as the off-season came there was one team firmly in the spotlight: the Chicago White Sox. One of the hottest young teams in the league, it seemed as if they could have any manager they wanted. Eventually, Jerry Reinsdorf and the White Sox settled upon Tony La Russa. To say that La Russa is accomplished would be putting it lightly. In fact, he was already a Hall of Famer when he was hired by the White Sox for the second time.
Under La Russa, the White Sox were promised a competitive advantage by having one of the game’s greatest managers in the dugout. So, despite the obvious concerns about how a 77-year-old would manage a team loaded with young talent, ownership promised results.
Ruining The Lineup
In 2021, the White Sox fielded one of their best teams in recent history. So while they dealt with the occasional La Russa blunder none of them were enough to slow Chicago. While the mistakes were plentiful, fans were convinced they could win in spite of their manager.
In 2022, La Russa has seemingly made it his mission to prove otherwise. Now his mistakes pop up in seemingly every avenue possible. Even the basic act of setting the lineup has become a spectacle for Southside fans.
In fact, over the last seven games, the White Sox have had the same lead-off hitter for back-to-back games just one time. In the absence of Tim Anderson, La Russa has often employed Leury Garcia as the lead-off man. While he is a fine utility man for any team, he does nothing at the plate. His .184 batting average and 29 OPS+ should make that clear, but not for La Russa who appears to only see that he is a switch hitter.
The constant reshuffling of the lineup this season has been curious, to say the least. Some days Andrew Vaughn will hit second, sometimes he will hit seventh. Perhaps Garcia will hit first tonight or maybe he will hit ninth. The only consistency in the lineup is no consistency.
It could be argued that, for the White Sox front office, nothing is more important than the bullpen. Between Joe Kelly, Liam Hendriks, and Kendall Graveman, Chicago will spend over 28 million dollars in 2022. This will be well worth it however as they are all highly valuable members of the team.
Despite having loads of bullpen talent, which also includes Reynaldo Lopez and Aaron Bummer, La Russa has preferred to use lesser players in huge spots. The most blatant instance came against the Yankees.
With a lefty up in Anthony Rizzo, La Russa appeared to be bringing in fellow lefty Tanner Banks to deal with him. After Kelly was clearly rattled, it only made sense. However, La Russa evidently planned to use Banks for the next hitter. Who was that hitter you may ask? None other than the red-hot Giancarlo Stanton with the bases loaded.
Stanton quickly smoked a single that scored and then fellow righty Josh Donaldson stepped up and hit a three-run homer. A manager’s job is to put his players in the best position to succeed. Alas, La Russa appears content giving the other team the advantage.
The Final Straw?
After a litany of questionable decisions, the Tony La Russa madness reached a new level during Thursday’s White Sox versus Dodgers game. After allowing Freddie Freeman to get on, left-hander Bennett Sousa was slated to face Trea Turner. One of the league’s best players, this was always going to be difficult. However, Sousa got up in the count 1-2 before Freeman advanced to second on a passed ball.
It was then that La Russa decided that he was going to intentionally walk Turner in a 1-2 count with two outs already in the inning. This indefensible decision was immediately followed by a three-run home run by Max Muncy that turned a two-run lead into a five-run lead and effectively ended the game.
If there was ever an example of a manager costing his team games, La Russa is it. Of course, he is one of the game’s greatest managers there is little debate about that. However, the game has clearly passed him by. While the correct time fro the White Sox to fire La Russa has come and gone, Reinsdorf can not continue to hold their fans hostage.