It is a manager's duty to always be in the corner of his own players, and if he is not, he handles business behind closed doors. That has not happened with the White Sox in the last couple of days.
Tony La Russa singled out 28-year-old slugger Yermín Mercedes for hitting a home run on a 3-0 count against a position player in the White Sox' 16-4 rout of the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.
These comments started a waterfall of disapproving reactions from the baseball community, White Sox fans, and even White Sox players. Tim Anderson noted his approval of Mercedes in response to an Instagram post on the subject from NBC Sports Chicago:
Evan Marshall liked his fair share of tweets defending Mercedes for hitting a home run because baseball is a fun game.
Lance Lynn also voiced his opinion about La Russa's criticism of Mercedes after Tuesday night's loss:
Unfortunately, for Mercedes' sake, when all seemed to be going fine in Tuesday's game, Twins' reliever Tyler Duffey threw a fastball that nearly hit Mercedes.
The umpires rightfully ejected Duffey and did the same with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who disputed the ejection. On the White Sox side, Tony La Russa was nowhere to be found.
When asked about Duffey intentionally aiming to hit Mercedes, after the game, La Russa said the following:
He did not have a problem with it. Now, I (and plenty of other White Sox fans) will criticize La Russa for being responsible for possibly 3-4 of 16 losses for the first place White Sox. He deserves the criticism, but it is also a part of the game for many managers. Fans will always censure a manager for making mistakes when it comes to lineup construction, bullpen decisions, or leaving a pitcher in for too long. Because of the success of this young, fun team, I was willing to give La Russa a longer leash until he made these most recent comments.
This is toxic. This is unacceptable, and this is wrong. La Russa failed his first duty as manager by throwing Mercedes under the bus in front of the media instead of handling disagreements about unwritten rules in private. As if that was not bad enough, he now has sided with an opponent rather than protect the safety of his player.
Throw out the litany of other issues La Russa has had with managing this team. By saying this, he is a traitor who would rather put his own fragile ego (and another team) ahead of the safety of his player -- one who is batting .364/.410/.574 as a rookie. Ozzie Guillen proclaimed that he would have stood up for his player in this situation.
Ricky Renteria would have done the same. Even Robin Ventura would have at least made the maneuver to talk to the umpire. This is as rock bottom as it gets for a manager.
Look, I know owner Jerry Reinsdorf is Tony La Russa's buddy and was the pivotal reason for his hiring, but La Russa should no longer manage the Chicago White Sox. Before completely losing the locker room, before losing the respect of every single player in that clubhouse, and before squandering away the American League Central lead, he needs to be out of the door. This is the most exciting and prolific White Sox team in over a decade, and they are playing incredibly well without two of their best players. Why waste that to protect a guy who won't even protect his players?