Earlier this year, Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa issued an intentional walk to the Dodgers' Trea Turner after his pitcher had worked the count 1-2. It was as perplexing in the moment as it is now given the knowledge that Max Muncy would immediately blast a three-run homer. Thankfully for South Side fans, the legendary manager took full accountability in the post-game, saying "hey, that's on me, now I understand why no one in the history of baseball has ever done that with any type of regularity."
Just kidding. Here's what he actually said in his never-ending quest to chase bad first decisions with doubling and tripling down.
"Pssssh, 24 hours later, I'm even more surprised. That's not even a close call. I mean do you know what Muncy was hitting from the left-hand side this season? .125 ... Turner is a tough hitter with no strikes, one strike, two strikes. He shortens up and he's got all kinds of ways to put the ball in play and hurt you."
So you just knew his stubbornness was going to win out and he was going to do it again. Either to prove a point or, actually, I'm unsure exactly what the other strategic reason would be.
That opportunity came last night in Cleveland as the White Sox compete for a playoff spot in what has been a largely disappointing year. They took a 2-1 lead into the into the bottom of the seventh before the Guardians struck for four runs. With two outs and Jake Diekman on the hill, the home side executed a double steal. Which gave La Russa the perfect window to do something that no one else would do.
Even though Oscar Gonzalez was down in the count 1-2, TLR put him on and ushered in confusion. Listen to Jason Benetti and Steve Stone handle the situation for a second time.
There's no use litigating whether this was the right move because the next batter flew out to end the inning. Because it wasn't. Run expectancy goes up and good hitters become average hitters when they have two strikes. More importantly, though, how in the hell are you taking the ball out of your pitcher's hand after he's battled to get to this point? What type of message does that send?
White Sox players deserve sainthood for putting on a happy face over the last two years and not letting their honesty creep through for the good of the collective. This entire project feels as unsustainable as ever. How long can anyone who cares about the team be forced to channel Jesse Pinkman and wonder how TLR keeps getting away with it?
Then, of course, came the victory lap postgame. After the Sox lost.
Pat yourself for being the smartest person in the room. If it worked once and it didn't work once, then we need a rubber match to see if there's anything to the maneuver. If it's a winning move then it will catch on.
Not exactly holding our breath there.