White Sox manager Tony La Russa has weighed in Yermin Mercedes’ home run coming off a 3-0 count in Chicago’s 16-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins Monday and his comments are exactly what you’d expect from a manager who last saw MLB action more than a decade ago prior to this season.
Tony La Russa called it a "big mistake" for Yermin Mercedes swinging at the 3-0 pitch from Willians Astudillo, admitting there will be consequences.— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) May 18, 2021
Said La Russa: "That's just sportsmanship, respect for the game, respect for the opponent. ... He's not going to do that again."
Mercedes has been on an absolute tear this season, hitting .364 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 36 games. La Russa mentions sportsmanship and respect for the game, but he may actually be more upset about Mercedes not respecting his calls.
La Russa said he gave the take sign to Mercedes on the 3-0 pitch. He made a mistake. There's a consequence he'll have to endure within the family, per La Russa. "He's not going to do that again," La Russa said. He said it's more about sportsmanship and respect.— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) May 18, 2021
Now the White Sox were well on their way to a win, up 15-4 before Mercedes sent a 3-0 pitch to the stands. Here’s what he had to say on the incident.
Yermín Mercedes: "I'm going to play like that. I'm Yermín. I can't be another person because if I do that, everything changes."— Vinnie Duber (@VinnieDuber) May 18, 2021
There was widespread criticism of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf making a seemingly unilateral decision to hire La Russa in the offseason. There were questions about whether his managerial style would gel with a team full of young, rising stars. His response to Mercedes’ quote shows there’s still a ways to go to bridge the gap.
La Russa rejected Mercedes rationale that he was just being himself:— James Fegan (@JRFegan) May 18, 2021
"I heard he said something like, 'I play my game.' No he doesn't. He plays the game of Major League Baseball, respects the game, respects the opponents. And he's got to respect the signs."
It does seem like La Russa is more upset about Mercedes not following the signs, but this is suddenly a major story over a rather minor incident. If the Twins were really that upset about losing 16-4 instead of 15-4, maybe the problem is in that thought process instead of an up-and-coming player making the most of his opportunities. As for any reaction from Mercedes’ teammates, it looks like he’s in the clear.
Tim Anderson shares his thoughts on Instagram about Tony La Russa being upset with Yermin Mercedes. pic.twitter.com/3L89ohckBa— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) May 18, 2021
The La Russa hire hasn’t done much damage so far; the White Sox are leading the AL Central and have the highest winning percentage in baseball. They are still among the contenders for the AL title and the World Series crown. But as the season progresses, it’ll be worth monitoring whether La Russa’s “old school” managerial style is helping the White Sox fulfill their championship aspirations or holding the team back.