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When I first saw the video of Charlie demanding Tony La Russa to pinch-run Adam Engel for Eloy Jiménez as La Russa pondered the move at the top step of the dugout two weekends ago, my reaction was one of disbelief and dismay.
Not at the notion that a fan had to give him the idea to replace the defensive liability with a defensive asset late in the game. More that the wheels turned so slowly that the chorus could participate, complete with effective cinematography.
La Russa said he wouldn’t have been able to hear a single fan over all the other noise, and his delayed response was due to a conversation about the risk of losing Jiménez’s bat, which is probably true. It just wasn’t the first time that a decision unfurled gradually enough that a single fan had the time and pipes to turn subtext into a proclamation.
And Monday’s events showed that the ability to first-guess La Russa loudly in real time is still going strong.
Michael Kopech tweaked his right knee — or something in his knee area, we’ll get to that in a bit — during warm-up tosses prior to the first inning, and his discomfort was visible enough to require a visit from the trainer. He stiff-armed them and started the first inning, but when he short-armed his first pitch at 88 mph, it triggered immediate alarms.
The White Sox heeded the call 18 pitches later. Kopech threw just nine of them for strikes, failed to retire any of the four batters he faced, and left the bases loaded for Jimmy Lambert.
That’s not the only time that La Russa presented the situation in a way that could be refuted by others who witnessed it.
“You could tell his velocity was down, so we got him out of there,” La Russa said.
Sure, after 18 more pitches and three more batters, all of whom came around to score for a 4-0 hole from which the White Sox had to spend the rest of the afternoon attempting to escape.
After the game, Daryl Van Schouwen relayed what appeared to be an unusually direct self-assessment from La Russa …
… but in his column this morning, Paul Sullivan presented it as an overreaction:
“It’s a frustrating loss,” La Russa told the reporter. “We were down 4-0. We came back to tie it. It’s the same club. We lost 6-4. You want to say we’re lousy? Say we’re lousy. We came back 4-0. The frustrating part, we had what? Ten or 11 hits?”
The reporter did not say the Sox were “lousy” or even suggest it. But La Russa tried to turn it into an us-against-them situation.
And yeah, I can see how it should be taken as inauthentic self-hate that’s more intended to generate sympathy or blunt incoming fire. If La Russa is pretending to loathe himself more than everybody watching his team does, he’s going to have to work a helluva lot harder than that.
Regardless of whether you doubt his sincerity — and remember that theme from his introduction — the question remains: “What is anybody actually going to do about it?”
Kopech got a chance to bury the Sox before his supervisors removed him. Luis Robert’s wrist is not injured enough for the injured list, but it’s rough enough to where he can’t start for a week. Eloy Jiménez takes one slightly awkward swing and leaves the game, but Leury García spends 20 swings looking like Kirk Gibson’s outtake reel before anybody intervenes. Yasmani Grandal’s latest knee injury — facilitated by Joe McEwing’s ninth questionable-or-worse send this year — interrupted his otherwise smooth progression through a nine-month rehab stint for a season that’s only six months long.
Above everything else, the White Sox have hit just one homer over the last seven games — which came with the Sox trailing 10-0 in a game they lost 21-5 — and Frank Menechino still has a job. I’ve seen too many hitting coaches come and go to have any real confidence about the influence Menechino actually has, but if there’s no real chance of him hanging around after the season, as well spend a few months troubleshooting by testing variables, even if they’re mostly hoping for the token jolt/well-timed positive regression.
Whether we’re discussing big or small pictures, there’s no sense of urgency from White Sox leadership. Normally I avoid the phrase “sense of urgency” because it’s a palliative prescription at best, but I mean it more literally here: There’s no way to determine what kind of priority number the White Sox are placing on most problems that have arisen this season. The number for poison control only leads to an automated answering service. There’s a beep, but it didn’t actually say if you were supposed to leave a message, or if anybody is going to call you back.
White Sox fans are left to cling to anybody or anything that attempts to accurately represent and address the scope of the problem, which is why Johnny Cueto needed mere months to become universally revered. He just won Player of the Week, but he probably deserves something closer to canonization.