It is not at all surprising that Tony La Russa has mismanaged the Chicago White Sox so poorly so quickly. If you had built a time machine and told me after his offseason hiring that there'd be a mob of fans and media with pitchforks pounding down his door with righteous and understandable anger before Memorial Day, I would have asked what took so long.
La Russa, who doesn't know the actual rules, has chosen sides in the battles of Unwritten Rules vs. Protecting His Players and Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox. And he's aligned himself with the teams and ideas he doesn't manage. Which is super weird!
Here he is late Tuesday shrugging off Twins pitcher Tyler Duffey throwing behind Yermín Mercedes, who a day prior blasted a dinger off utility man Willians Astudillo on a 3-0 pitch. Duffey was ejected but La Russa failed to see anything suspicious, even after a day of controversy and his own extended commentary on the incident.
“It was a big mistake,” La Russa said before the game of Mercedes hitting a homer on a position player. “I was upset because that’s not the time to swing 3-and-0. The Twins knew I was upset. With that kind of lead, it’s about sportsmanship, respect for your opponent and respect for the game. There’s going to be a consequence that he’s going to have to endure within our family. It won’t happen again. He’s not going to do that again.”
Again, it cannot be mentioned enough that Mercedes is on the White Sox. Because it is tremendously confusing to see a baseball manager repeatedly publicly side with the opponent instead of his own guys. It honestly feels like he's doing a bit. Some sort of experimental Galaxy Brain method where you try to so thoroughly confuse your players they perform better.
It is not too early to ask how in the world this team can continue to play for this manager. It's a question that's begged asking for months. And any reasonable answer is only becoming more and more difficult to find.
It's a giant mess, whether there's any public admission or not. La Russa will continue to fill out the lineup card until Jerry Reinsdorf wants to admit he made a mistake. There's no reason to hold one's breath. But as far as actually managing and leading? Well, that will fall to the veterans.
This is a roster that can win the World Series in October. Which makes it doubly frustrating that the biggest threat is coming from inside the clubhouse.