The game keeps finding Tony La Russa

Babe Ruth contributed many things to the game of baseball as we know it. Among the lesser accomplishments, he was thrown out at second to end the 1926 World Series, generating to go-to example for an ill-advised stolen-base attempt.

Ruth was good for about 10 steals a year, although he was usually bad for more unsuccessful attempts. That and moderation were the only things he didn’t do well, so you had a player willingly defining a Game 7 by his weakness.

But the situation — Ruth was walked with two outs in the ninth inning with Grover Cleveland Alexander on the mound — you could at least understand the value of getting to second, even if Ruth wasn’t the best guy to try it.

I regret to inform you that Leury García is not Babe Ruth. I regret to inform you further that García didn’t even have Ruth’s rationale when he was cut down at second for the second out in the 10th inning Wednesday afternoon. His run wasn’t meaningless, but it also wasn’t the priority. The priority was maximizing the number of chances for Billy Hamilton and the on-deck Jake Lamb to score Liam Hendriks from third, which would give the Sox a lead the Reds would have to answer in the bottom of the inning.

Neverthless, García’s attempt to steal second was thwarted for the second out, Hamilton struck out, the Sox didn’t score, and Hendriks allowed the losing run for the White Sox’s third extra-inning loss in as many chances.

There were three mistakes in the inning, and only one had to do with not knowing a rule in a National League park. La Russa had Hendriks on second because he didn’t know that he wasn’t required to have the pitcher run for himself as the automatic baserunner in extra innings. James Fegan had to read the rule to him afterward …

…. after which La Russa said, “I’ll re-read that situation. I’m guessing you know the rules better. Now I know.”

We’ll get back to that in a second, but let’s first tie up the loose ends of the standard on-field strategy. Because La Russa had his closer on third however it happened, Cincinnati didn’t have to respect his presence on third during an attempted steal of second, even if they weren’t in a standard defensive alignment. Tucker Barnhart could throw through, and he’s very good at throwing through, especially on an errant high fastball that was practically a pitchout.

Beyond the idea that a closer was on third, running García didn’t make sense because of who was at the plate. Hamilton has grounded into 18 double plays for his career. For comparison, José Abreu has topped that total in three separate seasons. Hamilton’s not a great bet to get a run home, but he’s a worse bet to make two outs during one of his at-bats, which is the thing that absolutely must be avoided. Except the Sox enhanced that possibility without Hamilton’s with García getting cut down at second, which then shifted the weight of the team’s most pressing weakness, which was Hamilton’s ineffectiveness as a hitter. The architecture of the inning buckled like a badly built balsa bridge.

Now, that’s all there for the picking, even if La Russa had to have Hendriks on second. But as Fegan so helpfully pointed out, La Russa could’ve chosen Abreu. Abreu isn’t a typical baserunning threat, but he can take the extra base when it’s presented, and thus he can’t be ignored.

Maybe it’s relatable that La Russa didn’t know the rule, but his counterpart in Cincinnati didn’t provide him any cover.

I don’t think Bell was out to embarrass La Russa, because here’s a Dayton Daily News story before the series about Bell’s admiration for his former manager. Nevertheless it reminded me of the game in 1993 I dug up for a post about Scott Ruffcorn, in which the Angels unapologetically ran on a 45-year-old Carlton Fisk. California manager Buck Rodgers told reporters afterward, “When you elect to play that extra year or two, that’s what happens sometimes. We all saw Willie Mays. A bunch of things happened.”

That seems like it’s playing out in the dugout, because La Russa now needs a second hand to count mistakes for which he’s had to apologize, and we’re barely into his second month.

He’s not acting alone. We know nothing about his new coaches, and while you can pin that more on COVID-19 protocols limiting media than anything else, here’s a case where Miguel Cairo or Shelley Duncan could have made presences felt. Some reliable veterans are struggling, and the fraying of the one-ply roster elsewhere makes a lot of decisions a helpless debate between “bad” and “worse,” and White Sox fans deserve better than Hamilton and Jake Lamb.

But Jerry Reinsdorf asked for the baseball world to put dugout decisions under the microscope by hiring La Russa after a nine-year layoff and with a pending DUI charge, rather than interviewing candidates who were qualified, relevant and not in any legal trouble. Now it’s a full-blown gaper’s block.

It’s not great that I was already planning on writing about La Russa because Ken Rosenthal offered his own report into whether La Russa had started losing the clubhouse. Rosenthal’s assessment was less acidic than Jeff Passan’s, softening the possibility of strife by saying that every manager has to feel out a new team, and every manager has players who don’t like him. He also included a defense from Rick Hahn, and independent of Rosentahl’s story, Abreu maintained steadfast public support of the old new guy.

It’s also not great that there’s a fresh new example of managerial ineptitude that could theoretically render Rosenthal’s measured assessment outdated after just a couple of days. Here’s where I’ll also mention that no baseball reporter, Chicago or national, has referenced the turbulence at La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation. I’m hesitant to harp on something I only know from a handful of stories from a couple of Bay Area papers last reported more than a week ago, but La Russa keeps managing as though he’s thinking about something else, and those stories are truly something else.

The White Sox are 16-13 despite these issues, and there are ways to improve that record without even bringing La Russa’s decisions into it. The problem is that baseball is tough, and so one can’t merely rely on their talented players besting another team’s talented players in a zero-sum game, which is why dugout decisions can often overshadow what happened on the field even if they had less to do with a game. Most decisions on the field are spontaneously forced upon players who have only fractions of seconds to react. The decisions in the dugout usually can and should be anticipated, so wrong turns are harder to defend. But what if the the guy in the dugout is a product of a spontaneously forced decision? All this is what it might look like when the call is coming from inside the house.

(Photo by David Kohl / USA TODAY Sports)

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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.

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I remain far more ticked about the steal attempt, which shows a complete lack of awareness of your situation and personnel, than not knowing that rule. Yes, someone on that bench probably should have known that rule to keep from having to have the expensive pitcher out there. But “Billy Hamilton exists on a baseball roster because he is incredibly fast, he’s not going to GIDP, don’t chance the free out” is something the manager simply has to know, period.


Its all real bad. TLR doubling down on wanting that steal in the post game is horrific too.


So, even if it was an incorrect assumption that the pitcher would have to be the designated runner on 2nd base, Tony went ahead with a double switch for Vaughn who made the last out. Were there no other options for the switch than Vaughn, or am I misunderstanding the concept?


If you don’t know the pitcher exclusion rule and think the last hitter must run regardless, then Abreu could have been swapped out with Lamb (Abreu hit before Vaughn) so that Vaughn is the runner and the pitcher hits in Abreu’s spot.


Agreed, there were ways around it even before the thought of your star closer having to run the bases. Obviously I’m just speculating, but it sure seems like TLR will yank Vaughn out of the game without hesitation. Very odd.


TLR could’ve done a double switch with anyone in the lineup or done a traditional pitcher for pitcher switch and had Hendriks take the 9th spot in the batting order. It’s pretty typical to do a double switch with the player who made the last out of the prior inning. Had our half of the 10th gone better, Hendriks would’ve been the fourth batter scheduled and likely pinch hit for requiring another pitcher to close out the game.

Speaking of pinch hitters, are we give TLR too much credit for only counting three mistakes – in addition to all that’s stated, why were Garcia and Hamilton hitting for themselves again when Collins, Lamb, Mendick, and Eaton were all on the bench. Not a great CF option amongst them, but if you don’t score a run the defense is largely meaningless.


I don’t know what the standard approach is for these new extra inning situations. But Kasper and Benetti were talking about it, and Kasper said something about playing for two runs on the road. They seemed unsure about how it should be handled themselves. But Benetti commented after the steal attempt that the Sox did a mixed approach. I think what he was suggesting was the steal attempt was agressive but not pinchhitting was conservative so inconsistent overall. At any rate, I don’t get the sense it is a given that teams won’t be aggressive in that situation. I can understand teams not wanting to simply try to trade a run for a run each inning

Last edited 1 year ago by metasox

Doesn’t make sense to “play for” two runs if it comes at the expense of 1 run. Because while you increase your chance of winning by scoring 2, your chances of winning are 0% if you don’t score at all…


Chances aren’t zero if the reliever can hold the other team. And if not, best case is just pushing to the eleventh and starting over after each team scores one. That is better than losing, but I can understand the rationale of trying to win. I don’t know how much of a “book” on how to play these extra innings has been established or if managers are making it up as they go. Judging by what was happening in the bottom of the inning, if the Sox score one, they probably lose anyway.


I think that reasoning works if you’re at home. If you aren’t you need 1 run. Period. All the other team has to do is score and you’re done. So risking an out by stealing a base is stupid, especially with a guy on third. Get the run, then hope your bullpen can keep it and win. If not, hopefully they only give up 1 and you’re back to the same spot.


I am not going to claim I know for certain, but I can see the opposite logic. For sake of argument, if you believe your bullpen will have a tough time preventing an inherited runner from scoring and that the home team is good at these situations and likely to score in every inning, then at some point you have to score two. The home team is in the position of knowing exactly what it has to do each time so has a distinct advantage.


I go back to the still largely unanswered question of why Tony La Russa took the job in the first place. The going in assumption was that he took it because he saw the chance to win another title – that he wouldn’t come out of retirement just for a paycheck and a pastime – but he’s behaving as if his goal is anything but that.

He’s clearly not prepared; he’s clearly inconsistent in his communication with his players; he’s clearly not (to channel my inner Hawk) not asking players to do what they can’t do (I think I got that triple negative right). Based on player comments he’s probably meeting the bare minimum expectation of an MLB manager, but if he’s just here to do the bare minimum then he was the wrong hire.

As Cirensica

I think he took the job because he was bored. I know it sounds petty, but when you are 76 with more money than you need, and nothing else to do, you might get bored. I don’t even think he did this for the chancer to get another ring. Sure, that would be gravy, but I think Tony was just bored.

Last edited 1 year ago by As Cirensica

Maybe he knew things were going to hell at his foundation so he wanted an excuse to be on the road?


The reasons for hiring Tony despite all the baggage he brought were that he was always so well-prepared, was always one step ahead of the game, and manged a roster very well. So far, he has been an abject failure at all three. Do you think there’s any chance that he will realize he’s in over his head at 76 years old, and resign? If he really cared about this organization, that’s what he should do.


Having TLR looking, sounding and acting senile and out of touch tarnishes his reputation. Reinsdorf needs to consider a way for TLR to gracefully exit to preserve what’s left of TLR’s reputation and dignity.

‘Tony LaRussa has vacated his duties as White Sox manager to (care for his family, or some other transparent excuse).

Greg Nix

Has anyone ever retired from humiliation before? Asking for a Hall of Famer Baseball Person.


Not that Chicago Sports Radio is known for it’s insights, but I tuned into ESPN1000 for one of the first times this year on the way home yesterday and I did head one salient point. There is an aspect of age that is inescapable when discussing La Russa. Any criticism of him will almost invariably be met with a criticism of that criticism. Older fans seem to be the ones that are quicker to defend him, and while the constant cries of “agism” or “you wouldn’t be criticizing a younger manager like this” are loudest, they seem to mask what’s really going on.

As Ken Rosenthal points out, it’s not 2011 anymore but La Russa’s managing style seems to still fit in with that era. Leaving pitchers in to work out of jams, treating stolen base attempts as crafty strategic moves rather than calculated risks, relying on veterans over more talented young players: all things that wouldn’t make you think twice if you had just woken up from a 10-year long coma. The times have changed and (most) baseball people and fans have gotten more savvy.

The defenders of La Russa seem to overlap with those who are likely to prefer a style of baseball that they grew up with, those who criticize the most visibly modern aspects of the way the game is played today. For the rest of us who’ve been following along closely over the years, this is a trip down memory lane that we neither wanted nor thought the team needed.

La Russa needs to adapt quicker than he has, there is just no way around it.


You are spot on. I was an early defender of LaRussa because I remember when he managed the Sox the first, and was probably the best manager the Sox have had. But I can in no way defend him any more. The game has changed. Tony hasn’t adapted to that. Hopefully they can come up with a way to exit gracefully.


AARP sends me mail, and I am more than capable of having empathy for older workers who still seem capable. Houston hiring Dusty Baker after his relatively recent successes is a move I thought was a good idea.

Exhuming La Russa was a rotten move by a man who has made many rotten moves. Seven months in, it doesn’t smell any better.

Greg Nix

Agreed. Hard to separate the man from Reinsdorf’s original sin here. But even if you do, he’s done nothing to prove the doubters wrong.


Yeah I think another way of putting it is that it has nothing to do with his age, but everything to do with the age of baseball thinking that he still lives in.


“Exhume” is the absolute perfect verb to describe the hiring of La Russa. Well done.


I would like to see an objective look at management of the pitching staff which is one of the main areas where a manager can make a difference. There have a couple of weird lapses (and it isn’t clear if other coaches were involved there) but, those aside, it has seemed ok. Some calls will work out and some won’t, but at least what I have seen doesn’t seem bizarre. Kopech is being juggled pretty well. Keuchel was moved up and Rodon pushed back which was probably a good idea. Cease was given less leeway until he showed he could handle it. Most of the bullpen hasn’t lived up to expectations but that wouldn’t be on the manager.

Last edited 1 year ago by metasox

I largely agree with this, but there were some notable lapses (e.g., Foster, Giolito) that were simply egregious. As in, I’m not sure another manager in the league would have handled them like that.


Sure, what isn’t known is how much of that is just a communication issue between new players and coaches that will just resolve itself.

Last edited 1 year ago by metasox

I’m not sure what you mean by that, but those egregious errors lie with Tony 100%.


The ultimate call rests with the manager, but when the pitching coach talks to the pitcher, he has the opportunity to come back and say something to the manager. Maybe the fact they are new to each other has an impact

Last edited 1 year ago by metasox

I thought it was a questionable move to fire Renteria at the time and I thought it was a totally rotten move when they ended up hiring TLR. Basically everything since has convinced me that was right. Renteria would have been doing a far better job. They screwed him over because Jerry is a jagoff


I haven’t been able to watch many games this year, but of the few I have, Billy Hamilton has come to bat in an extremely high leveraged situation twice with basically the game on the line. In this year where offense is down all over the league, Billy Hamilton still has a wRC+ of…….6. 6.


His ISO is 0.

Last year, in a similar number number of at bats, his wRC+ was 3.

He has never had a league average season. Even his BABIP (which you think he would be able to manage a high one given his speed) is consistently below league average.

His fly ball % is 25, compared to Zack Collins at almost 50. or Danny Mendick who is consistently above 50%.

Once deserved a stern talking to. Twice deserved a firing.


Another thought. I never bought the “he’s just trying to feel out his players to see what they can do” line. There are numbers for that. Numbers I can access on my phone anytime and anywhere. Billy Hamilton is bad. He has always been bad. He will be bad always and forever. La Russa is just either not paying attention. Or doesn’t care.

Feeling out your players would be changing the lineup to see if Collins or Mendick could come through. Leaving the lineup exactly as it is is called being asleep.


Who cares about ISO when you’re looking for a single?


You’re not looking for a single. You’re looking for runs. Which means the ball needs to leave the infield.


he was sarcastically quoting TLR when he said “I was looking for a single there”



As Cirensica

With Hamilton, you are looking for an out.

Root Cause

proof that he is using old school, gut feelings, and not interested in data.


So much this. This is the reason I can’t stand LaRussa. Mistakes happen. Leaving a pitcher in too long or even screwing up a rule. That I guess I can understand. But his lineup construction and loyalty to below average players is just beyond explanation. He sends Hamilton up when he has more qualified guys like Mendick and Collins on the bench. And Lamb was ON DECK. How does this situation happen? Better yet, why DOES IT KEEP HAPPENING??


I pray that the injuries to Eloy and Robert aren’t the cover needed for giving LaRussa a pass

A) right now, and

B) next year.

He should be released today. Find some face-saving way to do it, but get it done. Failing that, don’t use the injuries as an excuse to bring him back next year to see what he can do with a full complement of players. His decision making is flawed.


This is what happens when you continuously skip a sensible and thorough hiring process. It happened with the Bulls for all these years and it’s happening here.

Many Sox fans were against the TLR hiring for various baseball reasons; been away from the dugout for ten years, possibility that he can’t connect with today’s players and the fact it was pretty obvious Rick Hahn’s plan of firing Rick Renteria probably didn’t include TLR.

Here we are, worse case scenarios have hit because of injuries and the organization will now have to lean very heavily on TLRs ability to get the best from this roster. So glad that he would rather take his chances with Billy Hamilton and Jake Lamb over Vaughn/Collins. Certainly feels like this season could spiral out of control quickly if this keeps up.


We can pick up Pujols now that he’s been cut. He just needs to be reunited with LaRussa…

As Cirensica

Oh good lord, please don’t joke like that because I can actually see it happening.


Well, we do need a CF…


Oh no. They’re totally going to do this. Well, it was nice having a good DH for a while.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I wish the White Sox were the organization being accused of ageism right now, and not the ARF.

Root Cause

Meanwhile, back at Kaos Headquarters,

Sox fan and Receptionist: Mr. Rear, Mr. Williams is here to see you sir.
Mr. Reinsdorf:  My hearing is off, what did you say, Oh Good morning Mr. Yams, can I call you Will?
Mr. Williams: Good morning Jerry, it’s Kenny, sir.
Mr. Reinsdorf: Of course, Kenny. I though you looked familiar. What, has it been a week or more?
Mr. Williams: It’s been about six weeks, just before the season started.
Mr. Reinsdorf: Of course. How’s Hoff?
Mr. Williams: He’s fine. We’re using an ankle monitor to track him on off days. So far, the security team has gotten him to the ball field on time, every day.
Mr. Reinsdorf: Ok. Oh, I remember now, the last time your were here you wanted more money for a left fielder to replace Eloy. We decided to implement secret project “Rebuild2” publicly referred to as, “SPENT THE MONEY!”.
Mr. Williams: Yes, sir. We did start moving people out of position to create holes for the next sell off.   Right now, we are just saying that we are filling gaps due to injuries.
Mr. Reinsdorf: How is it going?
Mr. Williams: It’s a work in progress, sir. First of all, our AA catcher is leading the majors in batting average as our new DH. Our old DH is looking pretty good playing left field. We had no idea he has such a good arm since we had him working out at 1st base in the minors.
Mr. Reinsdorf: That’s terrible. What are you doing about it?
Mr. Williams: Yes, sir. We blew a couple of games. Then we had our #1 starter throw 114 pitches in hopes of wearing him down by July. 
Mr. Reinsdorf: Is it working?
Mr. Williams: There’s more. Hoff is limiting the new left fielder to fewer games to hold him back. Our catcher isn’t hitting so he’s using him every day. He’s using Hendricks as a pinch runner. If a slow player gets on base, late in the game, he is having them steal. Our center fielder is out and we replaced him with a replacement level player. If we are behind in the late innings, Hoff is using those with the lowest batting average’s late in the game as well.
Mr. Reinsdorf: I don’t know if that’s enough?
Mr. Williams: Our analytics says we will most likely miss the play offs and we will blame it on injuries.
Mr. Reinsdorf: I don’t remember meeting Anna and what does she know about baseball?
Mr. Williams: Yes, sir. She’s good at math and we will make sure we stay in 2nd or 3rd place in the division over the next 2 years to insure a smooth transition into “Rebuild2”.
Mr. Reinsdorf: Well, keep me posted and I wanna meet this Anna sometime soon.
Mr. Williams: Next time, sir. Have a good day.


Who are some good options to take over if La Russa steps down?
-External hire?


Ozzie’s already on Reinsdorf’s payroll, so that’d probably be the lowest administrative burden.

But if you want to think outside the box, I’d nominate Jim. Not sure if he can manage a clubhouse from Nashville, but he can tweet his lineup and in-game decisions and just have an intern in the dugout communicate them to the coaching staff.

Right Size Wrong Shape





Totally whitesoxian.


Can we hire Hawk on a 1 day contract to fire TLR again?

As Cirensica

Off topic:
I was thinking and tweeting about the lack of offense at the MLB levels

Zack Wheeler with his 2nd shutout of the season The quality of pitching this year is just nuts. MLB needs to do something about it. Baseball is boring when nobody hits.

In 2019, there were 26 shutouts. In 2021 we already have 11 with three no hit no runs. It is just early May. Insane!

Last edited 1 year ago by As Cirensica

I have to think this isn’t exactly what MLB wanted when they messed with the ball design yet again.


In fairness, regarding the number of shutouts we’re around what would have been the halfway point of last season.


I read that as 26 shutouts last year. So, yeah, the pace has greatly increased. My bad.


Baseball is more boring when everybody hits.


I’m not a fan of the TLR hire at all. Was it to assuage JR’s 1986 guilt? Or to give a old man with time on his hands a job? It doesn’t matter now. JR’s the owner. TLR is here for 2021 at least. Baseball is a great sport to expose weakness in all its facets, including managing. And TLR is being exposed, especially now with two or three key elements missing from the starting lineup. And so is Hahn. Garcia and Hamilton cannot be everyday players. Eaton is probably hurt. Vaughn is a work in progress. The season is young, so we need OFs who can replace what we lost better than Eaton, Garcia and Hamilton can. This means Hahn might have to give up some players to get that level of production even if it runs counter to the “rebuild.” It is too soon to write off 2021. TLR is staying, but players can be moved and acquired, and Hahn needs to make some moves, and not just Goodwin.