Tony La Russa’s Leury García problem is also Leury García’s Tony La Russa problem

It seemed like just yesterday we were complaining about Tony La Russa and Leury García, and how the former keeps throwing the latter into key situations because the consequences of disappointing results have pretty much been limited to a Dallas Keuchel DFA.

That’s a lie. It was Sunday.

In the three games since, La Russa and García teamed up for two more decisions that characterize the combination’s tendency to break logic in high leverage.

Monday: La Russa uses Leury García as a defensive sub for Gavin Sheets in right field entering the bottom of the seventh inning and the White Sox holding a fresh one-run lead. The impulse is understandable, because Sheets flubbed a deep-but-playable ball García likely would’ve caught in the right-field corner. It also isn’t without risk, because Sheets was due for one more plate appearance.

Sure enough, Sheets’ spot comes to the plate with two outs in the ninth, but the White Sox are instead trailing by 1 because Reynaldo López blew the lead in the bottom of the seventh. Despite the game state reversing course from requiring defensive subs to offensive ones, García hits for himself and grounds out to second.

Wednesday: Shohei Ohtani is lifted after 5⅓ innings for lefty Jose Quijada, but he allows a two-out single to AJ Pollock, putting runners on the corners with two outs. Up comes García representing the go-ahead run. The White Sox have a pair of power-hitting righties on the bench in Andrew Vaughn and Jake Burger, along with a true outfielder in Adam Haseley should La Russa want a better defensive option.

García hits for himself and grounds out to the pitcher.

In between, the White Sox beat the Angels 11-4, and while it’d be too strong to say that Scott Merkin’s game recap offered a defense of García, it attempted advocacy for likeable fellow.

Yes, there were more powerful or impressive performances than García in Tuesday’s victory, but it was García’s single to left opening up that five-run fifth. He has become somewhat of the talking point for the team’s offensive shortcomings to date, after agreeing to a three-year, $16.5 million deal as a free agent this past offseason.

But García believes results are the only difference between 2022 and the ‘21 season, when he drove in 54 over 474 plate appearances and hit a key three-run home run during the Game 3 home American League Division Series victory over the Astros.

“I don’t have the results that I want, but I’m not frustrated about it. You just have to keep working. Just keep playing and try to help the team,” García said. “I’ve been hitting some balls right to them, and bad games, good games — it’s something you can’t control. Just play the game right and play hard and do what you can do.”

And I feel for García, because we shouldn’t be talking about him as much as we are. He’s hitting .197/.219/.264, but even if he’s an inevitability on the roster due to his contract, he should be more hideable. The problems are twofold:

  1. The White Sox offense relies more on singles than homers, so instead of quick strikes, (potential) rallies get strung out until they reach a hitter who’s not likely to get the job done.
  2. La Russa has no interest in hiding García.

This isn’t the first time La Russa hasn’t hit for defensive replacements while trailing. Aaron Bummer’s collapse against the Twins in May 2021 is a vivid example, or the infamous “looking for a single” Billy Hamilton/Leury García game the month before.

And it doesn’t sound like it’ll be the last, judging on La Russa’s indignant postgame response after Wednesday’s loss.

“I’m watching Leury’s at-bats,” Tony La Russa said of the decision to stick with García. “You see Leury’s at-bats? You know? He also, he walked against Ohtani, which nobody was doing. Put the ball in play. In the ninth, the two hitters who had the best numbers against (Raisel) Iglesias were the two guys that led off: García and (Josh) Harrison. So, I like what I’m seeing.” […]

“García deserved it and had the at-bat. He put the ball in play, fouled off some tough pitches. That’s the way I look at it. I don’t look at results. It’s too easy that way.”

The White Sox are 73 games into a season that opened with a 73 percent probability of making the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight. It’s now down to 43 percent. In this context, it’s understandable why the guy in charge of the results wants you to ignore them.

The condescension would be infuriating if I still had the capacity to get angry at the White Sox, but my own process-over-results considerations merely make me mildly satisfied that the organization’s suboptimal processes in hiring a manager and allocating payroll are working out as well as they should. If you actually want to feel better about the on-field product, both the results and the decisions driving them are designed to disappoint.

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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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vanillablue

Think you’re tired of Leury now? Wait until 2027, when Michael Reinsdorf makes him the manager.

asinwreck

The optimism that Jerry Reinsdorf will not be in charge five years from now is sweet.

gibby32

Tony LaRussa has sucked all the joy out of watching this team. But I still have the capacity to get angry; his condescension is infuriating to me.

Root Cause

You and Renteria!

funkerdan

It would be interesting to get his take on how he thinks we’re doing and what he thinks the record would be with him still large and in charge.

Not that I like Renteria, but you know.

Last edited 5 months ago by funkerdan
As Cirensica

 I don’t look at results.

Say no more Tony because from this point on, in a Dave Gahan fashion, words are very unnecessary.

calcetinesblancos

All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is The Russa gone…

jhomeslice

There isn’t much to say really. The simple truth is that the La Russa hire has made the rebuild scorched earth until they replace him with someone who isn’t awful and willfully incompetent in every aspect.

GrabSomeBench

Technically TLR may be right that Garcia and Harrison have the best numbers against Iglesias. However, Burger, Vaughn and Hasley have not batted against the guy. Harrison, who has been much improved for June is 4 for 12 against him while Garcia is 1 for 4. I’m putting Vaughn in the box over Garcia

mrridgman

TLR forgot to mention in his praise of Leury’s walk vs Ohtani that Leury should have walked a few pitches before, when he swung at a 3-1 fastball 6″ inside. I called that from my recliner (which hardly makes me Nostradamus). Honest to God, If I was managing June 2022 Leury he would have the take sign after 2-3 balls until he got to 2 strikes, because he just can’t help himself.

ParisSox

This. I saw and thought the same thing.

gibby32

I would give him the take sign even after two strikes.

As Cirensica

I would give him the wave bye bye sign.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Can’t believe we’re less than 2 years removed from TLR being hired. It feels like a lifetime ago. I was so freaking optimistic coming off of a playoff appearance with a young, up-and-coming team, and money to spend. They had just fired Renteria (who wasn’t terrible, but in that situation it seemed like the Sox could have picked literally anyone they wanted to walk into that situation). Then they hired TLR. It didn’t make sense then, and now it just feels like “how did that even happen?”.

My dad was born in the mid-1920’s and lived most of his life a short distance west of the park. His all-time favorite players were Appling and Lyons and he had great stories about walking up to sit along 35th Street to sit and read during night games because the light was so much better than the lamps at home. He loved the Sox.

When a player, coach, manager, owner, etc. infuriated my dad, he would always say that we were fans of the team and the community it represented not the individual people and that we would outlast those individuals. One of the individuals who infuriated my dad the most was TLR (or as my dad called him “that arrogant SOB”) and my dad was thrilled to see the back of TLR.

My dad lived to a good age and literally cried tears of joy when the Sox won in 2005 but has since passed (buried wearing a gaudy Sox lapel pin as he adamantly requested). The fact TLR has returned infuriates me at a level I didn’t know something outside real life could.

chipporter

Thanks

As Cirensica

Have a drink Joliet. It is on me.

Foulkelore

Thanks for sharing this great story! I’m so glad your dad made it to enjoy 2005.

calcetinesblancos

It really is amazing that the hire feels like it was made five years ago.

a-t

the guy is nearly literally the worst player in baseball by fWAR, ‘saved’ only by rookies Pache and Torkelson. -0.9 fWAR is really an incredible feat.

BenwithVen

Yeah, but did you see how he looked in that one AB?

a-t

That’s the thing… his PAs are pathetic. Grounding routinely to the right side constantly. No threat of an infield hit or a seeing-eye ground ball even

JimMargalusBiggestFan

You say this as if La Russa has any idea what you’re talking about.

If you said this to him, he’d probably commend you for being a pacifist.

chipporter

You would think my capacity to muster anger and resentment at this point would dissipate, just from getting tired of it all. Then I read this article, and it’s all there on the surface again.

calcetinesblancos

I don’t look at results. It’s too easy that way.”

All joking aside, what does that mean?

GrinnellSteve

Not my intention to defend that stain of a manager…

I’m sure he means he’s looking at the process rather than the outcome. We see all the time at-bats where a pitcher saws off a hitter’s bat, but it’s a squibber that gets through. Pitcher executed. Hitter got lucky. Or hitters fighting off close pitch after close pitch only to make an out. Many more examples out there. You’re doing your job right, but it doesn’t work out.

As Cirensica

When you have the 7th most PAs of the team with piss poor results more often than not, then this is no longer “hitter executed, pitcher got lucky”

GrinnellSteve

I’m not defending anything that man has done. I was just explaining what I’m sure he meant with that one sentence.

Joliet Orange Sox

I really think is right on this. There’s so much to resent TLR for without misinterpreting the TLR quote about not looking at results.

I was never a good athlete but I’m glad I played enough organized basketball when I was young for a coach to drill into my head a concept that changed me beyond basketball. He preached that good shots don’t always go in and sometimes bad shots do go in and that our goal as players was to take good shots not to make shots.

Of course that coach wanted us to make shots but he understood that taking good shots was what we could control and it would lead to making shots in the end.

The same thing is true about pitchers making good pitches and hitters taking good swings.

Transferring this idea to school was a pivotal moment in my life. Prior to that moment I was someone who tried to get good grades in school and after I was someone who tried to understand the course material. I’m pretty sure I said words like “I don’t look at grades.” when I was a student. I’ve certainly said those words to my own children in talking about school and learning.

Last edited 5 months ago by Joliet Orange Sox
GrinnellSteve

You certainly said that better than I did. Thank you for your wisdom.

I tried to drill that in to my son. Did you execute your pitch? That’s all you can control. More often that not, good things will happen if you’re executing.

Joe Sheehan is always harping on process. Whether the outcome was good or bad, was the process that led up to it good?

calcetinesblancos

Thanks for the attempt, I was legitimately curious.

funkerdan

When we’re at home in October and someone else is drinking the champagne, we’ll all have to remember this. “Well, we tried but the hitters just never got lucky”. 🙁 I fear this.

As Cirensica

In my opinion, what TLR meant here are things like:

Look at his composure during that walk, that stance, his focused eyes, the aura he emits, ..oh yeah, that’s what I call a heck of a ballplayer, look at that swing!!! He missed, but that’s what I am talking about, screw the results, look at those hips, yes, he is a player. Fix me another drink please. I think he definitely deserves those at-bats. I think I’m I’m putting him leadoff tomorrow.

calcetinesblancos

Ok now I am even more confused lol.

As Cirensica

I am joking :p
(I hope)

calcetinesblancos

Oh I know. Joking seems to be all we have left.

HallofFrank

I’m watching Leury’s at-bats.”

I don’t think you are.

StockroomSnail

Squint harder, Tony. That’s Andrew Vaughn.

soxygen

See, this is just another thing Tony and I don’t have in common. I really try to avoid Leury’s at bats.

Last edited 5 months ago by soxygen
StockroomSnail

The other night I saw Leury up with men on base and did not hesitate to use the restroom.

lifelongjd

There’s just such a lack of consistency with reasoning and strategy, especially when it comes to Leury. Not pinch hitting Burger there is mind bottlingly stupid if only because the same move worked to gain a win in Tampa a few weeks back.
Further, the post game comments are very disturbing as they are incredibly arrogant. LaRussa is so dug in at this point he won’t consider “results” for reasoning to make future decisions? Isn’t that, like, his god damn job?

StockroomSnail

It allows him ample nap time to have decisions all made in advance.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

I love Leury. By all accounts he’s a great guy and is a weird bridge to a pre-rebuild White Sox, which is a decidedly different feeling era.

But he is who he is. Expecting him to be anything else is insanity at this point. I’m never going to fault a player for taking the money they’ve been offered. However I absolutely will criticize the people offering him that money and the people placing completely impossible expectations on him.

vince

I can’t even muster anger at this team anymore.

I would like to see an article that takes a microscope to Sox pitching. I feel like the offensive struggles have overshadowed our pitching struggles. We’re third to last in team ERA in the AL.

SocksO’Graham

Is Garcia the 1984 and beyond version of Julio Cruz?

PauliePaulie

The ability of this team to consistently hire bad managers who suck all the oxygen out of the room for the majority of a season is as impressive as it is sad.

Last edited 5 months ago by PauliePaulie
ParisSox

OMG I didn’t even think about this. Ozzie post 2008 or whatever, then Robin, then Renteria, now TLR. That’s at minimum 12 years of crap. Holy hell. And all this time there were so many better managers available at various times.

How is this entire front office still employed? If they do not make the post season, it’s not the team that has to rebuild (the building blocks are still there), it’s a wholesale makeover of the front office and coaching staff that has to happen.

BuehrleMan

Robin Ventura hardly consumed any oxygen at all.

dongutteridge

After this season ends and forever more when the subject of 2022 is brought up, only one response will be required….TLR. Everyone will understand.

StockroomSnail

Grandpa showed up to the reunion… we wish he hadn’t.

To Err is Herrmann

I believe Jerry Reinsdorf shares TLR’s view that results are not important. I believe it does not matter to JR at all whether the White Sox succeed or not.

670WMAQtheElder

Results don’t matter? In major league baseball? TLR insults the sport and us the fans. And his players and all the underpaid young people trying to sell tickets everyday. And the sponsors who buy billboards and commercials. The beer vendors, too. Everyone of us want results and so do they.

Amar

Who could be available to take his place in ‘23 should TLR conveniently retire?

ForsterFTOG

Definitely Ron Kittle or someone of that ilk.