This isn’t the first time, even recently, that Tony LaRussa’s name as come up in this space. It was just a few weeks ago that his lack of knowledge of the current rules came into question here. Now, it appears he remembers some rules all too well.
This time, it’s the infamous “unwritten rules” of baseball. The rules handed down from generations of players that ensures that everyone on the field acts within a decorum that will define them as the ultimate gentlemen athletes.
Those unwritten rules quite possibly reached their pinnacle of existence during Tony’s run as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Not only were the rules at the forefront of conversations in those days, the Cardinals were often the enforcers of those rules.
But baseball has changed a bit. Even the league has adopted a “Let Them Play” mantra, encouraging players to let their personalities and emotions flow. It has added some exciting moments in the game and moved the style of play forward considerably.
Enter the Chicago White Sox. The south siders were putting the Minnesota Twins down in a big way on Monday. The Sox had the lead 15-4 in the ninth inning and the Twins decided to put backup catcher Willians Astudillo on the mound. Astudillo proceeded to loft eephus level pitches to the plate in an attempt to save the bullpen a few pitches.
White Sox slugger Yermin Mercedes had worked the backup backstop to a 3-0 count before unloading on a home run of epic measure.
The problem comes back to the unwritten rules and the definition of sportsmanship to those that live by them. Swinging at a 3-0 pitch, late in a game, with a blowout score on your side and a position player on the mound is surely against those rules.
The Twins voiced their displeasure. The following day, Mercedes had a pitch thrown behind him in an at bat during the 7th inning, an appropriate retaliation under the unwritten rules.
LaRussa took to the media to voice his displeasure. He suggested that Mercedes missed a take sign. He called the slugger “clueless”. He suggested that Mercedes would face internal consequences within his own team, referred to as his “family”.
All of this feels very out of touch. Calling the player out publicly in this manner seems against those same unwritten rules. Suggesting that his “family” would take care of the issue feels about as possible. It all reeks of a man far out of touch with today’s game. It’s an old school manager in charge of some of the game’s exciting young players.
Tony LaRussa is a Hall of Fame manager that deserves his place amongst the game’s greats. His return to the dugout in 2021 was a surprise to most everyone. It appears that it may have been a poor decision and runs the risk of tainting his legacy.