White Sox’s problems run deeper than the schedule

The hard part of the schedule is over. The hard problems hampering the White Sox remain.

Were the White Sox’s loss to the Dodgers on Thursday more ordinary — one bad pitch leading to a one-run loss, say — we could’ve talked about how they went 19-18 against a slate of mostly contenders, which leaves them primed to take advantage of the league’s softest remaining slate of opponents.

But ever since the White Sox went 1-8 against the two teams ahead of them in the AL Central and the one bringing up the rear back in April, the idea that the White Sox could once again thrive on bumslaying assumes facts not evidence in 2022. They have yet to display a competence that begets confidence, which is why they’re sporting a -57 run differential.

On top of that, three developments on Thursday hint at problems persisting even when the calendar finally forgives.

The first is Tony La Russa, of course. We already discussed his controversial decision on Thursday to issue an intentional walk to Trea Turner while ahead 1-2 with two outs in the sixth inning, and FanGraphs’ Ben Clemens took a run at it with a generous spirit, only to come up empty-handed. It doesn’t need further dissection here, but that singular decision can be filed in the manila envelope overstuffed with all the other incident reports documenting his blinding obsession with handedness overriding more practical concerns.

For example, on Wednesday, he ran out a lineup that featured a leadoff hitter with a .199 OBP, and it didn’t even stop there.

But maybe it’s because Leury García maintained confidence that a turnaround was right around the corner?

“It was a horsesh– night. I feel like sh– at the plate,” García said postgame.

And he looks as good as he feels.

The White Sox typically show respectably against left-handed pitching because Adam Engel, AJ Pollock and Jake Burger assuage the matchup concerns with their right-handedness, removing García, Yoán Moncada and Gavin Sheets from the proceedings, or at least getting them out of the way of guys who stand a chance.

When facing a righty, La Russa keeps reverting to blind faith in those three and Yasmani Grandal. I’d call them speed bumps, but they’re closer to spike strips. It’s a thoroughly deflating experience. The four of them have 82 plate appearances between them this month, and they’ve combined for one extra-base hit (a Sheets double) while hitting into three double plays. That’s a combined line of .160/.231/.173, and that’s half the lineup. often times getting in the way of more productive hitters.

Sure enough, the game ended with Sheets coming off the bench for Adam Engel with the tying runs aboard because of handedness. Sheets struck out.


At one point Eloy Jiménez was on his way to taking Sheets’ roster spot within a week, but that track is back under construction. The White Sox returned Jiménez from his rehab stint due to what Rick Hahn described as “normal leg soreness.”

By “returned,” it means that he must be held out of action for five days before starting a fresh rehab stint, as the first one was approaching the end of its 20 days.

By “normal,” well, who knows. There’s no reason to trust Hahn’s classification, because he went to the mat to disagree with the idea that Jiménez can’t stay healthy, and Jiménez has rewarded that faith by having his rehab stint interrupted twice. All Hahn has to show for it is an “unreliable narrator” sash.

Jiménez can’t be trusted to stay healthy, nor to produce at a meaningful level around the interruptions, especially if he has to play defense. Tim Anderson has the latter going for him, but he was being held out of lineups with care in order to preserve his legs, and that didn’t work. Lance Lynn got shelled in his last rehab start, and injuries are part of the Joe Kelly capital-E Experience.

Throw in the season-long rehab stints for Moncada and Grandal, and the White Sox might be experiencing Godot-like waiting times hoping for positions to be solved and saved.


For the time being, issues cascade. Guys who are healthy and productive are pushed until their weaknesses enter the chat. Jake Burger tied the team lead in homers with a mighty solo shot on Thursday, which is as much of a triumph for him as it is concerning for the big picture.

He also gave up far more runs than he produced, botching a pair of double play balls and waiting back on a two-hopper that Trea Turner outran. His defensive lapses became the turning point of the fifth and sixth innings.

Burger took full responsibility for his mistakes after Thursday’s loss, going into great detail about what he did and comparing it to what he should’ve done. It’s fascinating as a pure baseball discussion, and it’s an example of accountability so open and pained that I want to take him out for an ice cream afterward.

“It’s baseball and errors happen, but at the end, I kind of gauge my errors based on where I’m at positionally. If I didn’t take a good first step, if I didn’t put myself in the best possible position to make a play and today I didn’t do that. That’s how I kind of gauge that.” […]

“Lost a game today, I take full responsibility for that. I need to be better in the field. It’s just move on and keep working.”

Burger’s bat makes it easy to dream about moving on from Moncada. Burger’s defense shows why Moncada was vital to the team’s plan. During the time in between La Russa’s hiring and the resolution of the DUI charge against him, those who worked with and for La Russa talked about how he put players in a position to succeed.

Between Burger at third and Andrew Vaughn in an outfield corner, La Russa is forced to sell past the close with players who are succeeding, crossing fingers that the failures are well-timed. A lot of that is out of his control, which is why the decisions well within his purview are so magnified.

As refreshing as it is to hear Burger assess and accept all criticism, it’s undercut by a La Russa who rejects it out of hand, because the latter has far more impact on the status quo. Burger is an overstretched rookie, while La Russa is a Hall of Famer Baseball Person who was hired by the owner, so it’s safe to assume that he can only be fired by the owner. If Hahn wants to add this to his haters-said-I’d-never checklist, by all means. If he doesn’t have the means, everybody else is left to hope that the Sox aren’t saddled with dead ends.

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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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Joliet Orange Sox

My dad was not a take-the-boy-out-for-ice-cream-after-an-open-and-pained-discussion kind of guy. Mini Margalus is fortunate child.

asinwreck

Throw in the season-long rehab stints for Moncada and Grandal, and the White Sox might be experiencing Godot-like waiting times hoping for positions to be solved and saved.

The Beckett play that comes to mind is Krapp’s Last Tape, with the demented protagonist listening to decades-old recordings of himself when he was in different stages of what could be called his prime.

The play works equally well as Tony’s Last Tape or Jerry’s Last Tape.

MrStealYoBase

I’m genuinely concerned for Tony’s well being and am convinced at this point that he’s suffering from cognitive decline.

The lack of cogent reasoning for any of his decisions and defensiveness when he’s challenged are big red flags. Being an MLB manager is an incredibly physically and cognitively demanding job. It’s totally unfair to ask a guy his age who is clearly slowing down to shoulder that kind of pressure. Anyone who claims to be his “friend” should step in and save him the stress and embarrassment of trying to do this job in his twilight years.

Jerry Reinsdorf, this goes beyond bad baseball or bad business. This is cruelty.

Augusto Barojas

I am not sure that TLR would fail a cognitive test. But he is of course too old. He is 4 years older than anyone who has ever coached an NFL or NBA game, and only two others his age have ever managed an MLB game – with disastrous results. McKeon did it for part of a season several years ago, along with Connie Mack in the 1940’s. Someone close to 80 cannot handle the mental and physical demands of an MLB managerial job, obviously. And cognitive decline or not, TLR is too much of a fucking douchebag to admit a mistake, so it is literally impossible for him to learn anything because he is a narcissist and egomaniac. His response to the police office “do you know who I am?” is all you need to know about how much of a complete prick he is.

The Sox need to move on from TLR, or the fans need to move on from them.

chipporter

But wouldn’t that make Jerry as cognitively declined, or more so, than the guy he hired? For all we know, Jerry could think the Sox are in first place and The Russa made it happen.

I thought the cowards move of the season, was him not showing up at the WS charity event.

Greg Nix

They don’t need to move on from Moncada, but they at least need to put him on the IL. Guy is a shell of himself.

OldMMJ87

Has there been any reports on what is ailing Moncada? I know that Grandal has been dealing with leg problems stemming from his off-season knee surgery

Joliet Orange Sox

I definitely think Moncada should have been on the IL for a good portion of the last few weeks. I think he’s actually looked healthier the last few days but has been out of sync at bat. I thought the 9-pitch walk he took in the ninth yesterday was a good sign. I think an IL stint should have happened but I’m not sure it should happen now.

a-t

yeah I think maybe he tweaked something (maybe the oblique) a little when he came back after hammering AAA pitching, but he’s looked visibly better & more comfortable the past few days

Right Size Wrong Shape

Didn’t he tell Ozzie a few weeks ago that he had leg (hamstring?) soreness? Maybe I’m thinking of someone else.

joewho112

Jim, do you have a pre-prepared “Tony LaRussa gets fired/resigns” post like how news sites have pre-prepared obituaries for elderly celebrities and politicians?

Torpedo Jones

I wonder how many scenarios Jim is preparing for. This reminds me of the excellent Dana Carvey Show bit where Carvey as Tom Brokaw was pre-recording a variety of increasingly-bizarre death announcements for Gerald Ford.

“Gerald Ford was mauled senselessly by a circus lion in a convenience store.”

joewho112

Gerald Ford dead today, from an overdose of crack cocaine.

Foulkelore

Tragedy today, as former President Gerald Ford was eaten by wolves. He was delicious.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I believe that was on SNL when Carvey was hosting, and yes it was great.

Torpedo Jones

You are correct. If I’m not mistaken, the bit was first recorded for The Dana Carvey Show, but never aired (what with the dismal ratings and cancellation). It was then used on SNL when he hosted.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I remember being blown away by The Dana Carvey Show. I think it was a little too ahead of its time.

Foulkelore

That’s interesting. I didn’t know that it was a planned segment for his show. That’s always been one of my favorite SNL sketches: a clever concept (Tom Brokaw pre-recording every possible news story in order to take an extended vacation) executed very well.

Torpedo Jones

“He’s a hall of fame baseball person. Are you gonna say he was not delicious?”

Alfornia Jones

Larussa’s wife and daughters resigned from the family run animal shelter, because Tony wouldn’t fire a toxic and divisive director running the operations.

He’s not a good guy and he is always in the right. He won’t quit ever, he’ll die in the dugout before that happens. Turning up the heat on him won’t work and he doubles down like the former shithead commander and chief.

This guy going down in flames and ruining his legacy is worth a 3rd place finish. Fuck this guy.

Torpedo Jones

I’m with you until the last sentence. As much as I don’t like LaRussa (the man himself and the fact that he is the Sox manager), I’d still take a competitive year with a real shot at a WS over wasting a year of our supposed window just to see him tarnish his already tarnished legacy. People know he’s a drunk driving d-bag and it’s already clear that he’s way past his prime – I can’t make a moral victory out of seeing the Sox do badly enough that he gets fired.

calcetinesblancos

Was that the first set of wife and kids or the second?

Augusto Barojas

What’s funny is that if TLR got fired, I might actually enjoy that more than if they won the World Series.

Joliet Orange Sox

Having been through TLR being fired as Sox manager and the Sox winning a World Series, I enjoyed the World Series win a lot more.

Augusto Barojas

You’re probably right. However in this particular circumstance, TLR being fired would bring immensely more joy than his first firing. I think a parade would be appropriate.

Joliet Orange Sox

I hated TLR more back then than I do now (and it’s still plenty). Now a small part of me feels sorry for him. His arrogance was much much more in-your-face back then.

Augusto Barojas

His arrogance last night was pretty in your face. As he was to the police officer who arrested him with his DUI. I don’t hate him actually – it’s completely Reinsdorf’s idiotic fault for hiring him. Tony is just being himself.

Joliet Orange Sox

When TLR was hired the first time,he was 34 years old. He definitely sought out the spotlight back then. The “TLR is a genius” narrative was everywhere (he had also recently graduated from law school which impressed my grade-school dropout uncles to no end).

Nowadays, I think he’s just as arrogant but he doesn’t seem like he is enjoying being in front of the cameras/microphones like he did back then. I thought he looked like he would rather be somewhere else during the press conference clip yesterday.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joliet Orange Sox
GrinnellSteve

Of course the one could lead to the other.

Foulkelore

Sheets sent down. I’m glad. Maybe something can click for him back in AAA. That probably opens the door for Burger to stay in the lineup almost every day at DH, especially if Moncada can get things going and become the everyday 3B again. More Moncada at 3B and more “anybody but Sheets” in the OF helps the defense too.

GrinnellSteve

Who was brought up?

Foulkelore

Lambert, nothing exciting

GrinnellSteve

Can he hit righties?

itaita

If they crowd the plate sure.

Last edited 3 months ago by itaita
jorgefabregas

Anybody but Sheets helped unless it’s Vaughn (like tonight), but I guess if they still had Sheets up it might be both of them in each corner.

Foulkelore

Right, my “anybody but Sheets” comment was for the other outfield corner spot, since Vaughn is usually playing one most days.

soxygen

Again, if he was so close to being sent down then he probably wasn’t good enough to use with the game on the line as a pinch hitter for a legit major league baseball player. Ugh.

Bad hitters are bad hitters, and pinch hitting is hard. That he had the platoon “advantage” yesterday does not matter.

Last edited 3 months ago by soxygen
a-t

the top story on espn is “was Tony La Russa’s intentional walk the worst in MLB history? an investigation” lmao

Augusto Barojas

The investigation/story should be “is TLR (in 2022) the worst manger in MLB history?”

Joliet Orange Sox

I thought Davis Martin was starting tonight but @whitesox says it will be Reynaldo López. Anybody know what’s up?

a-t

Per Merkin, Reynaldo is acting as opener, Martin will get the bulk of the innings

Foulkelore

See, Tony’s hip to all of the new, advanced baseball strategies.

mrridgman

Well, kinda. Usually the second guy you put in pitches with the opposite hand. Brings back the days of Renteria experimenting (poorly) with the opener concept for the first time in the playoffs.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Yeah, it’s more of a piggy-back than an opener.

jorgefabregas

A funny thing is, if you look at the wikipedia page for the Opener, Tony plays a prominent role as a pioneer. Maybe it was more of a Dave Duncan thing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opener_(baseball)

dongutteridge

I’m more confident about the win now.

soxygen

Or maybe he’s already been fired. They say Friday afternoon is the time to do that…

Foulkelore

I’d love Rick Hahn to come by Tony’s office right before 5 pm, sounding like Lumbergh from Office Space. “Hello, Tony, what’s happening?”

shaggy65

I can’t help thinking about Steve Stone’s story the other day–broadcasting with Ronald Reagan. The sitting President needed Steve to point to either a giant B or an S on the table for balls and strikes because Reagan thought there was foggy glass obstructing his view of the field. He was in his *checks notes* late 70s.

Our last 2 presidents have also been in their 70s. Tony’s up there, too, and Jerry is 86. Old men rarely recognize that the young whipper-snappers around them know better and will often hold onto power… to the detriment of everything around them.

As Cirensica

Gotta admit it, Hawk Harrelson was a visionary in 1986.

a-t

It would never happen because Jerry has no sense of humor, but it would be a tremendous bit to get Hawk to come in and give Tony the news for the second time

metasox

Firing Dave Dombrowsi?

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1986-06-06-8602100698-story.html

Set the org back decades

Last edited 3 months ago by metasox
#3 for HOF

No, hiring Hawk as the GM did.

OJ the Bouvier

I feel sorry for anyone who must write about this organization for a living. One would have to stylize a thousand creative ways of saying “we’re fucked”.

a-t

Hey, never a dull moment!