For whatever reason, Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa tried to do his best Joe Maddon impersonation by trying to over-think a situation during the team’s 11-9 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in their series finale at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Even the most ardent supporters of Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa have to admit there is no way to defend his decision to intentionally walk Dodgers’ shortstop Trea Turner in the sixth inning with a runner on first, two outs, and a 1-2 count in order to pitch to Max Muncy.
To the dismay of all White Sox fans, Muncy made the decision backfire on La Russa as he drilled a three-run homer off of reliever Bennett Sousa.
La Russa made the call for the intentional walk after Sousa had thrown a wild pitch on 0-2 which put Freddie Freeman at second. Turner was given the free pass in an effort to set up a lefty-on-lefty matchup between Sousa and Muncy.
The decision was inexcusable at the time and became even more egregious when La Russa talked to the press following the game. La Russa answered a question about the move by saying:
"“Let me ask you a question. Is there some question about whether that was a good move or not? Do you know what he (Turner) hits against left-handed pitching with one, oh-one or two strikes?”"
The reporter didn’t have an answer for that response, but a quick search on baseball-reference.com produced this information:
0-1 count/20 at-bats/ .400
0-2 count/13 at-bats/ .077
1-2 count/39 at-bats/.256
2-2 count/35 at-bats/.314
3-2 count/23 at-bats/.130
To be fair, those numbers are his overall stats in those counts and not just against lefties. For the season, Turner is hitting a solid .286 against lefties but an even more impressive .309 versus right-handers.
The Chicago White Sox needs Tony La Russa to be a better manager.
Still, Turner is not Barry Bonds but judging by La Russa’s logic he is. Thus, he opted to pitch to Muncy instead and stood behind the decision to do so:
"“Do you know what Muncy hits with two strikes against a left-handed pitcher? Is that really a question? Because it was one and two? Turner with a strike left against a left-hander, is something you can avoid if you can,” La Russa said. “We had an open base and Muncy happened to be the guy behind him and that’s a better match-up.”"
La Russa was right about Muncy being a better match-up on paper as he was hitting a woeful .125 against lefthanders and a weak .150 overall for the season. But it doesn’t justify his decision to let Turner get off scot-free by awarding him first base when he was behind in the count.
If he was that worried about what Turner might do, then why not just walk him from the start and not throw any pitches to him? La Russa’s reasoning in letting Turner get to first on a 1-2 count was because of the wild pitch Sousa tossed on 0-2. That makes no sense.
Either put Turner on first right from the beginning or, with the count being what it was, pitch around him to try to get him to go fishing. Giving up on it was a cowardly and a poor decision.
This is just another example of the issues La Russa has brought upon himself in running the club this year. While it is true that players need to produce better than they have, it is situations such as this that make one wonder how long La Russa can remain at the helm of this team.