Here’s the factor to bear in mind as you digest this newest serving to of lukewarm curmudgeon soup, dished up by the 76-year-old supervisor of the White Sox: Tony La Russa just isn’t the longer term of baseball. His old-school views and strategy to the sport won’t form the longer term of this sport so many of us love, not just for what it was and is however principally what it may be.
The future of the game will probably be enjoyable. How do I do know this?
I watch the enjoyment with which Yermin Mercedes performs the sport — the enjoyment he has each time he swings the bat within the huge leagues, figuring out his journey to get thus far. I watch how his teammates, such as Tim Anderson, support and encourage it.
I watch Fernando Tatis Jr. I watch Shohei Ohtani. I watch Mike Trout — wait, dammit, he’s on the IL now — and I watch Mookie Betts and I watch Pete Alonso. I watch the present and future stars of this sport. They are usually not solely extremely proficient and pushed, but in addition obsessed with their sport. I watch their pleasure and I really feel pleasure.
La Russa? He’s not even the longer term of the White Sox, previous a yr or two. His days within the sport have been numbered from the very second he was employed by White Sox proprietor Jerry Reinsdorf.
Look, there are two very other ways to view La Russa’s Tuesday feedback, during which he stated his “clueless” rookie made a “big mistake” after hitting a 3-0 rely residence run whereas up 15-4 over the Twins within the ninth. I’ll defend to the bitter Twitter argument finish (wait, are there ever endings to Twitter arguments?) his proper to make these feedback.
He has earned that proper, completely. La Russa’s historical past with the sport, his staff’s successes on the largest phases and within the greatest moments, is unimaginable. His contributions to the game have been rewarded with a hard-earned spot in Cooperstown as a member of the Hall of Fame. He has lived his baseball life a method, and it has served him properly.
One facet of the way in which he has approached the sport is hopefully ending quickly, and that makes me pleased. Because right here’s the factor: La Russa’s criticism of Mercedes’ motion is dumb. Here’s the play that began the entire thing.
And right here’s one of the issues La Russa stated in response.
La Russa on Mercedes: “The fact that he’s a rookie and excited helps explain why he just was clueless. But now he’s got a clue.”
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) May 18, 2021
I’m not even going to rehash why this specific unwritten rule — don’t swing at a 3-0 pitch if your staff is profitable a blowout — is very ridiculous, even by the lofty requirements of ridiculousness of baseball’s unwritten rules. Just know that it’s dumb. It’s not OK to swing at a 3-0 pitch, however a 3-1 pitch can be nice? C’mon. And I’m not even going to belabor the purpose that the homer was hit off a pitch thrown by a place participant, Willians Astudillo, who lofted the 47 mph meatball to the plate with two outs.
Here’s what actually bothers me:
By criticizing Mercedes for swinging and homering on the 3-0 pitch — consider me, if he had swung and missed, neither the Twins nor La Russa would have talked about it — La Russa selected to facet with some antiquated notion of “respect for the game,” as an alternative of the very actual managerial obligation of “respecting the career struggles and successes of his player.”
Mercedes isn’t any extraordinary participant. His success this season is one of the easiest tales in baseball in 2021. His story of perseverance and self-belief is nothing brief of unimaginable. Mercedes turned 28 on Valentine’s Day, with precisely one profession MLB plate look beneath his belt. His skilled profession had began a decade earlier. He spent three years within the Nationals’ group, one yr in unbiased baseball after which three years within the Orioles’ group. He didn’t even attain Double-A till he was 24, or Triple-A till he was 26.
He performed 103 video games in High-A for the White Sox’s Winston-Salem staff in 2018 when he was 25 years previous, a full two-and-a-half years older than the common participant in that league. You play that many video games at that degree, at that age, and you don’t go on to even see the majors, a lot much less star within the majors.
But right here he’s. Not simply surviving, however thriving. Mercedes went 8 for 8 to start out the season, and has barely slowed down. Entering play on Tuesday, he was batting an AL-best .364 with six homers, 25 RBIs, a 177 OPS+ and a 1.5 bWAR. He has been unimaginable.
Mercedes’ story doesn’t imply he’s immune from criticism, of course. But for this little factor, a factor that shouldn’t even be a factor, La Russa selected antiquated notions over his precise participant. Some have tried to say it’s principally about Mercedes lacking a take signal. Nah. It’s not. Here’s a quote from La Russa on what occurred, from ESPN.com’s story on the incident.
“I took several steps from the dugout onto the field, yelling ‘take, take, take,'” La Russa recalled. “The way he was set up it looked to me like he was going to swing.
“I was upset because that’s not a time to swing 3-0. I knew the Twins knew I was upset … He missed a 3-0 take sign. With that kind of lead that’s just sportsmanship and respect for your opponent.”
Basically, Mercedes should have known better. There are many quotes from La Russa we could examine here, but I’m going to end with the one that has stuck in my craw:
“There will be a consequence he has to endure here within our family. It’s a learning experience.”
Consequence for hitting a house run. Consequence for a man who spent 10 years within the minors ready for his shot, lastly getting his alternative and cashing in. Consequence for a man who performed seven years of winter ball attempting to enhance as a participant and earn cash to proceed his profession. Consequence for lastly making his big-league dream come true, solely to commit the dastardly sin of swinging at a 3-0 pitch as an alternative of a 3-1 pitch.
I can’t be certain, nevertheless it seems La Russa meant there was one other consequence coming for Mercedes, after getting ripped by his supervisor in a Zoom information convention. Isn’t that sufficient?
One factor La Russa was proper about, although: This definitely is a studying expertise.
I’m simply undecided it’s the lesson La Russa thinks is being taught.