There are plenty of armchair general managers and managers out there in the baseball community, particularly among White Sox fans. Everyone thinks they know best, and frankly, given what White Sox fans have seen from their notable manager, Tony La Russa, they probably do.
The most triggering part of the baseball season for fans has been La Russa’s questionable bullpen decisions (allowing Matt Foster to get shelled for almost 40 pitches against Seattle) and his lineup construction. Sure, everyone has their own opinions about their team’s lineup. The fun part about baseball is debating who should play with fellow fans, but this is different, even than in years past.
For starters, the White Sox are supposed to contend for a World Series title, but fans would not necessarily know it based on some of the lineups La Russa trots out day-to-day. White Sox fans can complain about roster construction, but unless general manager Rick Hahn makes any sudden trades, this roster is set until the trade deadline (outside of players set to return from injuries and the corresponding moves). Nevertheless, the current and most pressing concern is La Russa.
Plenty of fans, even the most defensive of the White Sox and their decisions, had at least something to say about Tuesday’s lineup. Here is why:
Nick Williams, whom the White Sox signed in January as an outfield depth piece, appears to be a mainstay in the lineup when facing right-handed pitchers. Jake Lamb, whom the White Sox signed on March 30th after the Eloy Jimenez injury, got the nod over red-hot Yermin Mercedes at designated hitter. Prized prospect Andrew Vaughn has ended up getting the short end of the stick among this list.
According to Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald, Tony La Russa had the following to say about Vaughn’s playing time:
Apparently, Vaughn, who sports a 104 wRC+ and .400 OBP, has not earned his way to the plate.
Nick Williams, who has a 55 wRC+ and .333 OBP, has earned his way to get consistent at-bats. Since he is 27 years old and hit well in 2017, he gets more at-bats than the highest-rated prospect in the White Sox system.
Jake Lamb, who played for the Arizona Diamondbacks while La Russa was an executive with the team, gets the advantage over Vaughn because he was also good in 2017.
Since Billy Hamilton, whom the White Sox signed on March 16th, is now on the injured list along with Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, and Adam Engel, La Russa is unable to play yet another player who barely made the roster ahead of one of the more promising young prospects the White Sox will see in some time. Only Vaughn needs to earn at-bats ahead of ailing major leaguers who may find themselves in the KBO next season.
Lineup construction matters, no matter how much some people will say it does not. Starting two players who should not even be on this roster and batting them fifth and as designated hitter is about as bad of a lineup offense a manager can commit.
The bottom line? Andrew Vaughn needs to play. Otherwise, there is no reason for him to be on this roster as only a platoon piece. He earned his way onto the roster; therefore, he earned his way into the lineup. He is the best left field option unless the White Sox trade for a real major-leaguer. Given the current White Sox roster, the front office needs to step in immediately and take the reins on the lineup. If they do not do so, La Russa will continue to embarrass what should be a contending team night in and night out. It is 2021, after all.