Tony LaRussa ended up on the wrong side of a social media dog pile over the last 48 hours. He’s an easy target: a 76 year old manager more than a decade removed from his last managing gig. He also got hired despite being busted for a DUI, facing charges the day before his hiring.
He in many ways represents for many reasons the lack of progress in baseball and its hiring process; prioritizing crony-ism over opportunity.
He’s also the three time World Series champion and inarguably one of the most influential, successful managers in baseball history.
Now, I’m in the uncomfortable position of defending a manager I believe should never have been hired in the first place.
Two nights ago, the LaRussa’s White Sox were leading 15-4 in the 9th inning; with a position player on the mound for the Twins, White Sox catcher Yermin Mercedes ignored a take sign from his third base coach and manager to jack a bomb on a 3-0 46 MPH “fastball.”
LaRussa sharply criticized Mercedes after the game, publicly backed the Twins for throwing at his player and continues to double down on his reaction to the whole debacle.
Immediately the Twitter mob piled on LaRussa for being an out of touch, buzzkillington old man who was wrong to reign in his player.
At the risk of reawakening the twitter mob, I don’t have a problem with what LaRussa did.
First of all, its a basic competitive principle in professional sports and all competition to not unnecessarily run up the score on a team that’s already lost. Secondly, the basic function of LaRussa’s job is to hold players accountable and given the very obvious mistake by Mercedes to ignore multiple take signs, LaRussa was holding a player accountable. And thirdly, this has nothing to do with other unwritten rules that stymie the joy of baseball. The only rule I want followed in an 11 run game in the 9th inning is to get the game over ASAP.
Mercedes isn’t being demoted. He’s not being sent to solitary confinement. He didn’t listen to his coaches, got called out for it and will now have to try to re-earn trust for his manager.
Why the pile on? LaRussa is an easy target for plenty of other reasons but in this instance, leave Tony alone.