Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Tony La Russa’s Post Game Comments Show How Out Of Touch He Is


Tony La Russa is managing like he is trying to get fired. On Wednesday night he batted Leury Garcia in the leadoff spot despite his .180 batting average and .450 OPS. It was a move so dumbfounding that he even had the Dodger’s broadcast team questioning him live on air. As it turned out that was just the tip of the iceberg.

The White Sox dropped a wild 11-9 game to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday afternoon that was packed with storylines.

The White Sox scored four runs in the fourth inning and knocked Dodgers starter Tyler Anderson out of the game. But in the fifth inning, a Jake Burger error opened the flood gates. Four consecutive Dodger hits and a wild pitch led to the White Sox coughing up their lead. When the dust settled they found themselves trailing 6-4. All six runs were unearned.

Jake Burger redeemed himself by hitting a solo home run in the bottom half of the frame. The Dodgers responded by scoring four more runs in the top of the sixth. But the White Sox didn’t quit. They chipped away with an opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. An AJ Pollock single cut the lead to 11-9. With runners on the corners and just one out, Yasmani Grandal had a chance to play the hero. Instead, he popped out to Justin Turner in foul territory. Tony La Russa then called upon, Gavin Sheets to pinch-hit for Adam Engel. Sheets struck out swinging.

There were plenty of things to discuss after the game. Burger’s 2-3 performance that was overshadowed by a costly error. Dylan Cease shutting down the Dodgers for four innings only to get tagged with six unearned runs in the fifth. AJ Pollock continuing to torment his former team by driving in two runs. The bullpen getting lit up for five runs.

But all of these things were overshadowed by Tony La Russa’s baffling move in the sixth inning. With two outs and a runner on second base, Trea Turner came to the plate. White Sox reliever Bennet Sousa, who had already allowed a run, quickly jumped ahead 1-2 in the count with a chance to limit the damage. La Russa then made the dumbfounding decision to intentionally walk Turner to get to Max Muncy.

Muncy hit a three-run homer that wound up being the game-winning hit.

If you ask La Russa the decision was easy.

“Do you know what (Turner) hits against left-handed pitching? With 0-1, or two strikes, do you know what he hits? Do you know what Muncy hits with two strikes?”

Turner hits .286 against lefties. With an 0-1 count he is hitting .400 and with two strikes he is hitting .227. Max Muncy on the other hand is hitting .125 against lefties and .097 with two strikes. In theory, walking Turner to get to Muncy makes sense.

However, walking him after your pitcher has already thrown three pitches and is one strike away from ending the inning does not. If they were that concerned about Turner they could have pitched around him. In the worst-case scenario, he doesn’t chase a pitch out of the zone and walks. In a best-case scenario, he chases a pitch out of the zone. La Russa didn’t even give Sousa a chance. It should be noted Sousa has a 10.29 K/9 strikeout rate with a 1-2 count this season.

But La Russa couldn’t seem to understand why his decision was being questioned. He went off on reports for having the audacity to question a Hall of Fame baseball person.

“I mean, is this really a question? Because it was 1-2? Turner with a strike left against left-handers is something you avoid if you can. And we had an open base, and Muncy happened to be that guy behind him. And that’s the better matchup. If somebody disagrees that the beauty of the game. You’re welcome to it. But that wasn’t a tough call.

Maybe if Smith was hitting behind him, it’d have been a different thing. But Muncy’s there, it’s an easy call. I mean, it’s an easy call for me. If Turner gets a hit there, I’d be walking into a lake or something, because that would’ve been stupid.”

La Russa has many White Sox fans wanting to walk into a lake after watching him operate this season. There are so many things to unpack from that statement.

He brings up avoiding Turner with one strike. The easiest way to do that would be to intentionally walk him before throwing him a pitch. La Russa didn’t do that. Not only did he not do that he waited until his pitcher was ahead in the count. Would it have been better if Sousa was behind in the count? Turner is hitting .299 this season when he gets ahead 1-0 in the count. Maybe then an intentional walk would make sense.

But Sousa got ahead 0-2. Turner is batting .146 this year with an 0-2 count and .212 for his career. That doesn’t sound like something to avoid. Sousa then did his job by not giving Turner anything to hit. He never got the chance to finish the job. Not only that, he brought up what Muncy is hitting with two strikes. There is no guarantee he is going to get two strikes on him by intentionally walking Turner. The entire sequence was bizarre.

If La Russa had said that he was in the bathroom or fell asleep in the dugout, and that’s why they waited to walk Turner at least that would be a reasonable explanation. Instead, he laid out a convoluted explanation and doubled down on it, and challenged reporters.

“Does anybody in this room really think that Turner should have-even with the count-we should have gone after Turner?’

Nobody in the room lifted an arm.

“I would say that’s no chance,” La Russa continued. “Muncy’s the guy to get out of the inning, we just missed him.”

Multiple DUIs, forgetting a rule, head-scratching lineups, getting embarrassed in the ALDS and a slow start to the 2022 season haven’t been enough to get La Russa fired. It’s safe to say his job isn’t in jeopardy despite another roller-coaster week.

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