Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa says respect for game is important priority

Tony La Russa doesn’t think there’s a rift in the Chicago White Sox clubhouse, but some players have indicated publicly that they disagree with the Hall of Fame manager’s comments about rookie slugger Yermin Mercedes.

La Russa called Mercedes “clueless” for homering on a 47 mph pitch with a 3-0 count from Minnesota Twins infielder Willians Astudillo in the ninth inning of a 16-4 blowout win on Monday.

The manager on Wednesday emphasized it was a teachable moment, especially considering Mercedes missed the take sign. “What did I say publicly?” La Russa asked reporters on a Zoom conference Wednesday. “I said a young player made a mistake — which, by the way, he did — and we need to acknowledge it. Part of how you get better as a team is, if something goes wrong, you address it.”

Some White Sox players didn’t necessarily agree with their manager, noting the Twins were pitching a position player at the time.

“The way I see it, for position players on the mound, there are no rules,” veteran pitcher Lance Lynn said Tuesday night. “Let’s get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there. Can’t get mad when there’s a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing.”

The incident also resonated outside of the White Sox clubhouse, with Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer taking a similar viewpoint on Twitter.

“Dear hitters: If you hit a 3-0 homer off me, I will not consider it a crime,” Bauer said in his post. “… Can’t believe we’re still talking about 3-0 swings. If you don’t like it, managers or pitchers, just be better.”

La Russa on Wednesday said everyone has a right to their opinion, but he disagreed with Lynn, at least when the count is 3-0.

“Lance has a locker; I have an office,” La Russa said. “I would be willing to bet that there wasn’t anyone in that clubhouse that was upset that I mentioned that’s not the way we compete. If someone felt that way, then it’s my job to correct it. You don’t swing 3-0 when you’re up by that big a lead.”

La Russa said he walked around the clubhouse and no one was giving him the “Heisman.” The manager was adamant that he’s simply trying to teach good sportsmanship to a rookie.

“If you’re going to tell me that sportsmanship and the respect for the game of baseball and respect for your opponent is not an important priority, I can’t disagree with you more,” La Russa said. “… You think you need more [Notes:runs] to win, you keep pushing. If you think you have enough, respect the game and opposition. Sportsmanship.”

The White Sox manager actually didn’t expect the story to last several days.

“I’m surprised I’m getting so many questions on this,” La Russa said. “It’s not much to do about nothing. It’s much to do about a little bit.”

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