Following up: White Sox manage to manage the manager

The White Sox came to Target Field on Monday 10½ games up on the Twins. After three games, they left Target Field 11½ games up on the Twins. They beat up on a left-handed starter for a route in the opener. They paired an excellent start with barely adequate offense against an ordinary right-handed starter to take the finale. It’s the same script they’ve been using all season, and it’s good enough to lead the AL Central standings by 2½ games.

As for what happened in between, the White Sox appeared no worse for the wear. In fact, the conversation as they departed for New York concerned what they wore.

And while Lucas Giolito defended Yermín Mercedes postgame and Tim Anderson dropped a “keep swinging 3-0” into an IG live, Tony La Russa wasn’t completely invisible during the proceedings.

One could look at the display of teamwide unity and regard La Russa’s unwritten-rule addiction as grandmaster-grade chess. When La Russa was hired, I thought one of his selling points was a long track record of managing friction, which is necessary to be good at the job. The friction is positively chafing, and yet here he is, looking askance at anybody who thinks it odd.

However, the kind of conflict he confronted head-on before was standard managerial fare — demanding a level of effort and performance within his clubhouse, and doling out retaliation for those who attacked his team from the outside. Nobody has been able to cite examples of him inviting/excusing retribution against one of his own players like he did with Mercedes.

What we’re seeing out of La Russa — the replaying of his public-comment hits over the last decade while actually running a team again — looks like a guy who treats his Hall of Fame ring as a shield against public input, and it doesn’t help that the only guy who wanted to hire him is similarly insulated. There are myriad benefits of not caring what anybody thinks, but some level of awareness is necessary in order to properly function in a society.

Fortunately, the players seem to like playing for each other, which is something that couldn’t be said about previous White Sox teams. One of the benefits of the rebuild was the opportunity for players and coaching staffs to iron/work/smoke out any major personality conflicts while the stakes were lower, rather than adding Todd Frazier to Adam LaRoche to Adam Eaton to Brett Lawrie to Jimmy Rollins to Mat Latos at The Exact Moment Where Everything Needed To Work.

The result is a stable hierarchy, one that has been able to integrate and elevate veterans like Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn while also circling the wagons around a guy like Mercedes. As long as that’s the case, they might be durable enough to withstand La Russa stumbling in new and curious ways every 10 to 14 days.

I like the way David Roth put it in his post at Defector, which is worth reading if only for his description of the Mercedes-Willans Astudillo matchup as a meeting of “two all-beef parties.”

The idea of a team tuning out its manager entirely certainly sounds bad, and it is by now a familiar part of the postmortem stories that get written about underachieving or otherwise doomed teams. But while a manager can certainly influence games by screwing up important managerial decision-making stuff, which La Russa has already done, it seems clear by now that the White Sox don’t really need whatever broader lessons La Russa will, pompously and seemingly by reflex, try to impart. They seem to be doing just fine on their own. “Lance has a locker and I have an office,” La Russa said after Lynn publicly contradicted his manager’s stance on the primacy of the game’s unwritten rules. As high-handed executive kiss-offs go, it’s not bad—a little spicy, a little salty, nicely economical in its expression. It is so well-turned, in fact, that it is easy to miss how much it sounds like something that someone who is outnumbered might say, to himself, while business continues as usual outside his office door.

If there’s any wizardry to what La Russa’s doing, it might be the way he’s spun the White Sox’s lack of depth into a sort-of asset. He might’ve hung Mercedes out to dry in public, but he kept Mercedes in the lineup, because there’s no better play at DH. As long as the team needs all the arms and bats it has to fill the front lines of the depth chart, all his oddities and antiquities might be met with a pleasant lack of actual consequences.

(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn / USA TODAY Sports)

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

Articles: 3917
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

CC has an opinion, Tony has an office.


Like, do I like CC Sabathia now?


I certainly do.


I’ve always liked C.C., the one Yankee I could stomach.


That is a very appropriate take




I’m a little unclear on how Sabathia really feels about the whole thing. It would be nice to listen to an unedited segment where he isn’t trying to be so polite.

Root Cause

I can see this as a tipping point for ‘changethegame’.
TLR can’t punish half the team for having fun.
I am waiting to see if others become more demonstrative to show support for Yermin.
Kendrick’s duck walk could be seen as such.


Perhaps his strategy is to act like such a pompous ass that everyone on the team will bond over their hatred and indifference to what he says and believes. Seems to be working.
I still can’t believe how badly the LaRussa hiring has looked for the first 2 months. And how well the Sox have overcome his blunders to be one of the best teams in baseball.

As Cirensica

TLR has a plan and we don’t know it, and he does not give two shits if we know it or not. Maybe that’s why he has won more than 2,700 games. He is a manager hard to scrutinize because it is difficult to be mad at success.


It’s the 2021 reboot of Major League, but they win to spite the owner and his best friend manager!


This group of players has so much fun playing together that I don’t think they really care who is managing this team. They are so fun to watch, with the pointing to the dugout after every hit to the almost constant laughing and talking every time they show the bench. I don’t think they care what Tony says, because at least Tony is smart enough to know that he needs to keep Mercedes in the lineup. And it really is amazing that they are getting key contributions lately from Leury and Lamb and Billy Hamilton and Mendick. They don’t pout when another key player goes down- it’s just next man up!! Tony just needs to stay out of the way and let them perform- which he hasn’t done a very good job of doing yet. But the bottom line is they have the best record in the AL, the best run differential in the majors, a 5-headed monster of a rotation and an easy division to run away with. Don’t stop now boys! Take it to the Yankees this weekend.


the last part sums up why we should be enjoying the heck out of this year!! stop getting in the way of our enjoyment TLR!!!


Obviously I assumed this hire would be a disaster, but I had no idea it would get this weird.

I also had no idea that TLR would look so creepy on a regular basis. Big-time Penguin from Batman Returns vibes. He needs better lighting in those Zooms.


Penguin, LOL!

Greg Nix

I’ve also been shocked at just how damn weird the guy is.


Makes me want to go to a game just to hold a big sign saying “Fire Tony”. At least the players are united, even if it is in resentment toward him. Not that different a concept than people who despise our government and yet support their communities and fellow citizens.


What’s Hawk doing these days?


Broadcasting Yaz stories for the SETI network


I’m surprised that no one has brought up La Russa turning a blind eye to McGwire and Canseco’s obvious steroid use. Seems like you should care more about actual written rules of the game than the unwritten ones. I don’t know if sanctimonious hypocrisy is a firing offense but I for one would be thrilled for TLR to step aside and Cairo to be named manager.


I’ve heard a lot of people mention it. The downfall to being such a judgmental ass is that you naturally invite people to wonder why you think you deserve to be on such a high horse. It’s comical that someone with seemingly so many skeletons such as Tony doesn’t get that. Or maybe he doesn’t care.

Papa Giorgio

Did I understand TLR’s comment wrong?

Lance has a locker and I have an office

I took that as, ‘we’re in two very different situations so he’s entitled to his “locker” opinion and I have my “office” opinion.’ Which is to say he’s trying to somehow avoid the friction of having a very different opinion on the situation, and everyone on his team doesn’t have to agree with him.

I didn’t take it as “I’m higher in the hierarchy than he is”. Maybe that’s what he actually meant, which would be super douchey, but I took it as the other way.

As Cirensica

Who knows what is really on his mind sometimes.

However, you need the whole quote to gain context:

Lance Lynn last night said “there are no rules” when a position player is pitching, adding: “The more I play this game, the more those (unwritten) rules have gone away.”

Tony La Russa said of those remarks: “Lance has a locker. I have an office. … I don’t agree.”

I think La Russa is saying :He is wrong, and that’s why I have an office and he has a locker” which is funny considering Lyn makes a heck of a lot more money than La Russa which by the way we don’t even know how much that is.

I could be wrong. I hope I am.

Papa Giorgio

Yeah, if that’s the implication, then I have no idea how this team can like him at all at this point.


Lynn can voice his opinion that TLR is wrong because he makes more money?

As Cirensica

Lynn can voice his opinion that TLR is wrong because he is right.


Tony’s previous comments about Yermín suggest he’s not cool with a variety of opinions on the situation.

Yet, even if we give him the benefit of the doubt and interpret his comments as you suggest, it shows he’s completely tone-deaf. The difference between a locker and an office is explicitly hierarchical. Imagine disagreeing with a friend about economic policy and he responds, “I drive a Ferrari and you drive a 2000 Camry.” He could be making a completely reasonable point—we come from different situations and so are bound to see things differently. But it doesn’t make him any less of an ass.

Papa Giorgio

To Jim’s point in the article, he does somehow have a way of managing friction, and keeping the on field product solid, maybe this is it. It’s entirely feasible and likely that they’re just playing for each other and succeeding in spite of him however.


You’re giving TLR way too much credit, especially since everything I’ve seen makes it seem like he DOES think everyone on the team has to agree with him.


I know sometimes words can be interpreted differently and taken out of context, but I think it is pretty clear that TLR was basically expressing his “superiority”. A more humble and reasonable explanation does not fit TLR’s personality, and I think you’d really have to use an imagination to think he was trying to diffuse the situation and leaving tolerance for opinions other than his.


Tony put in a quarter and got a book of unwritten rules.


Kevin Goldstein included Jake Burger in his scouting notes. Quotes a scout saying he needs to simplify in order to not get beat by velocity, says the slimmed down version projects as an average defensive 3B with a plus arm.

Last edited 1 year ago by jorgefabregas
As Cirensica

Holy shit. Reds-Giants is still in the 7th inning and the Giants have already scored 18 runs.


I sure hope they don’t embarrass the Reds and try to score more runs.


Tony has his people in the stadium making sure no 3-0 swings occur

TLR patrol

Last edited 1 year ago by dwjm3
As Cirensica

Reds’ 3B pitched a 1-2-3 inning. No shenanigan.


I now understand why Hawk fired him. There wasn’t enough room in old Comiskey for those two egos.


The scary part is the person who thought Hawk was capable of being a GM and thought LaRussa should be rehired is still in charge.


Can you imagine them having a drink (or ten for Tony) together? It would be like a five-hour nonstop old white guy rant.


I can’t believe I’m defending LaRussa or weighing on this topic of all things, but LaRussa’s basic position is defensible. Mercedes was given the take sign, which he ignored. He was given the take sign because the unwritten rules of baseball exist, like them or not. We, and LaRussa are dealing with the world as it is, not as one would like it.

That Mercedes swing would result in retaliation was eminently foreseeable. LaRussa did the right thing in trying to head it off with an apology. Luckily, Durfee didn’t injure Mercedes when he retaliated, and a bean ball war with the inevitable suspensions and possible injuries was avoided.

The goal is to make the playoffs, not score meaningless runs in a blowout game. LaRussa has to look out for the big picture and a pointless swing during silly time really offers no benefit, only risk.
I can’t believe I’m defending LaRussa or weighing on this topic of all things, but LaRussa’s basic position is defensible. Mercedes was given the take sign, which he ignored. He was given the take sign because the unwritten rules of baseball exist, like them or not. We, and LaRussa are dealing with the world as it is, not as one would like it.

That Mercedes swing would result in retaliation was eminently foreseeable. LaRussa did the right thing in trying to head it off with an apology. Luckily, Duffy didn’t injure Mercedes when he retaliated, and a bean ball war with the inevitable suspensions and possible injuries was avoided.

Last edited 1 year ago by kingkellly

He can take issue with Mercedes disregarding the take sign (assuming he even saw it which is questionable given how fast the pitcher was working) without publicly endorsing throwing at his own player. There is an unwritten rule of not publicly calling out your own players that LaRussa should follow. Handle that shit in house, not in the press.

If he was concerned about his players’ safety, he wouldn’t endorse throwing at them for doing good baseball plays.

Last edited 1 year ago by joewho112

I logged in to respond to kingkelly and then I read your comment and I couldn’t have put it much better, but ill expand on it.
If LaRussa is upset he swung on 3-0 there, fine. I don’t agree but that’s not really a big deal. However, I think what he did after that is HUGE deal. He trashed his own player, a rookie trying make his place in the league after being in pro ball for ≈10 years. And I agree 100% that loyalty to your own club is a rule any manager needs to follow. LaRussa showed more support to the twins player there.

I think baldelli was dead wrong about throwing at Yermin but at least he backed up his guys, and I can forgive that. It’s okay to be wrong, but you always must back up your club, especially a manager of a club that’s trying to win a World Series! I’m not into the unwritten rules, but if someone wants to argue about following these god damn unwritten rules, I would argue that should be rule #1. You back up your players, right or wrong.


The pitch was behind his knees which is very tame as far as purpose pitches go.


Duffy missed him by less than a foot, with Mercedes jumping out of the way. 10 walks in 14 innings this year; do you think his control is good enough to know that he can put it close without causing any harm?


To whatever extent criticism toward Mercedes for ignoring a take sign, or “unwritten rules” is defensible, the way TLR handled it is not. He could have handled it in-house, without saying anything publicly to put down his player or condone the opposing team for retaliating – before they even did. He could have showed some class and talked to Mercedes privately, conveying the same message – as others such as Cora have suggested, and nobody would be talking about this. Even if you agree with TLR having a legitimate point, I don’t see how anyone can defend how he responded to this situation and what it turned into as a result. He proved beyond a doubt that he is not calm or thoughtful when it comes to handling any disagreements he has with players, and that he lets anger and ego rule his responses, putting his own ego above the team or his relationship with them. He’s pretty much somewhere between immature/childish and a complete psycho, basically. That’s a pretty accurate assessment of TLR as he is, not as one would like it.

Last edited 1 year ago by jhomeslice

Nah, the goal is to beat the team across the field from you. Tony, following the ‘unwritten rule book,’ asked his players to show mercy and stop playing hard against their division rival IN THEIR HOUSE. Good wisdom to impart on a young team: take your foot off the gas with a comfortable lead. If I’m a player in that dugout, then I’m going to need my manager to understand the actual written rules of the game before I conform to your foolish unwritten rules. Wonder what Tony’s rule book would say about his usage of Foster while he surrendered some 7 runs or so in a relief appearance against the Mariners earlier in the season. Oh, I guess that makes another point: big comebacks can happen. Play hard until the game is over. If the Twins don’t like it, then play better in front of your home crowd and don’t put a position player out there when pitchers are available.

Lastly, if those unwritten rules were important, then they’d be written rules. I venture to say these pitchers throw a bit harder than when the ‘unwritten rules’ were established.

As Cirensica

In the end, the Twins used a position player to save arms to later lose an arm for three days. Fabulous logic.