When you hear “the call is coming from inside the house” does your mind go to the 1979 thriller “A Stranger Calls”? It used to for me until Tony La Russa was hired to manage the 2021 White Sox.
According to an article for ESPN by Jeff Passan, “patience in some parts of the White Sox’s clubhouse is growing thin.” This once highly praised team seems to be falling apart, despite being high in the power rankings and second in their division. Tension rises for the 2021 White Sox team ahead of their second month.
I don’t think this is a typical whodunit, but let’s look back on the telling signs from the first month back.
2021 White Sox: The First Road Trip
The White Sox finished their first road trip of the season with a 3-4 record. The defense was missing in action, offense rarely took advantage of the 10 walks provided by the Mariners. Dallas Keuchel was pulled while the White Sox had a 4-1 lead, sitting at 93 pitches.
“We were in an excellent position going into the sixth inning, and the best way to explain it is, I did a really lousy job managing that inning,” Tony La Russa said. “It really hurt our chances to win.”
At the time there were two runners on and no outs. Matt Foster faced eight hitters in 34 pitches and no one was getting warmed up to relieve him. Five hits including a three-run double by Kyle Seager and one walk finally prompted La Russa to bring in José Ruiz to finish the inning.
“That’s the clearest example of why I’m upset with myself,” La Russa said. “He faced too many hitters. That’s lousy managing. Pushed him too far. Stupid, lousy, no excuse.”
The Giolito Is Out Of Gas, Yet So Is the Offense Game
Once again, offense struggled to capitalize on any runs, continuing to leave runners stranded. The White Sox were 0-13 with runners in scoring position. Inexcusable for this “championship-caliber” team.
“They’re very frustrated that they didn’t do more with the opportunities we had,” La Russa said of his hitters. “When you miss them, man, you get haunted. You give them the chance to come back like they did. Position players are not very happy right now.”
Then La Russa had to explain himself for letting Billy Hamilton and Leury García bat after they both struck out with two men on base in a three-run game. “At that point, you’re looking for a single. I’m confident that Billy can do that. And I’m confident that Leury can do that,” he said. “(In baseball, you) make seven outs, you hit .300. You don’t always get hits.”
Yet leaving Lucas Giolito in and not realizing he was out of gas is just as damaging as the lack of offense. Giolito reached a season high 114 pitches against the Tigers and gave up three score deciding runs against. After the game, Giolito admitted he was gassed, but this was news to La Russa.
“If he felt like he didn’t have much left, then that’s something I should have recognized,” La Russa said. “I’m watching that game, and I’m confident he’s capable of getting the outs that inning. If I had seen something different, I would have gotten him.
Who Takes the Blame?
Chrystal, we’re only a month into the 2021 White Sox season. You’re overreacting.
Yes, we’ve only seen a sample size, but when frustrations mount, tension builds, managerial decisions are questioned and players don’t perform even close to what we know they’re capable of, it’s time to question what is going on in the clubhouse.
La Russa isn’t the only one to blame, despite making very questionable decisions with lineups and poor bullpen management. The bullpen has underperformed. The White Sox have been plagued by injury, as Luis Robert is now out for the next 12-16 weeks in addition to Eloy Jiménez and Adam Engel. The offense can best be described as hot and cold, leaving everyone wondering if it will be the good offense or the bad offense for each game. The defense, while improving, is still not on par.
Another thing to consider is the front office. Any office that thought Jiménez, Robert and Eaton or Engel would be perfectly healthy all season is delusional. That didn’t stop them from deciding not to bring anymore depth to the roster. If there won’t be any trades, it’s time to at the very least bring up the younger players – a certain Céspedes comes to mind. Even Micker Adolfo would do in a pinch.
Will the White Sox be okay? Yes. Does it feel like everything is currently on fire right now? Yes. The front office needs to figure out if it’s a La Russa problem and/or pickup some actual depth to cover the serious hole in the outfield. La Russa needs to figure out if it’s a bullpen and/or offense problem. It’s time to get back on track if this “championship window year” is going to pan out at all. This 2021 White Sox team had too much potential to fall apart this early on.
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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images