Toni LaRussa has 50 shades, and we saw a few this week.
Their Chicago White Sox had a Happy Tony Monday before opening a homestand on the South Side on a night like the first of the summer, with Yoann Moncada and Joe Kelly back and their team riding a six-game winning streak. His eight-game skid was in the rearview mirror, and better days were ahead.
The Sox got a glimpse of Ornery Tony late Monday after the Cleveland Guardians took a six-run, ninth-innings lead and eventually lost 12-9 in 11 innings.
The Sox made four errors, including two by Moncada and Tim Anderson in the ninth before a Grand Slam tie over Josh Naylor’s Liam Hendrix. Asked about the two errors, La Russa defended Moncada, saying the ball had hit the third baseman.
“What was the other thing that you didn’t like?” La Russa asked CHGO reporter Winnie Dubber.
Dauber pointed out the error by Anderson.
“Have you ever tried throwing something?” La Russa asked.
Dauber pointed out that Anderson’s fault was on a missed catch from the outfield relay.
“We didn’t lose that game because of our defense,” La Russa said. “I disagree with that, so…”
It’s all part of La Russa’s competitive nature, we’re told, which is why chairman Jerry Reinsdorf kicked him out of retirement to finish the job Rick Renteria couldn’t. No one takes it personally when La Russa questions the validity of a valid question. occupational hazard.
Happy Tony returned on Tuesday after a 4-1 win over the Guardians before an unfortunate COVID-19 outbreak in the Guardians coaching ranks led to a postponement on Wednesday. It was a good time for the Sox, giving La Russa’s bullpen an extra day to rest before a four-game series against the best team in baseball, the New York Yankees.
Before Thursday’s game, Dubber asked La Russa if Johnny Cueto, pitching at Triple-A Charlotte, was a substitute for Tuesday’s doubleheader in Kansas City, Mo. We then saw Funny Tony.
“You are a choice,” said La Rusa to Dubber, drawing strange laughs from those who remembered La Rusa, who had previously questioned Dubber if he had ever thrown.
Somehow Dauber not only convinced La Russa that he could throw but could start for the White Sox.
Then came the befuddled Tony on Thursday night, when Kelly recorded the first two outs of the eighth inning on four pitches of 7-7 games, before going three straight, which included seven balls on his last eight pitches. This was Kelly’s second outing in the past six-and-a-half months after recovering from a right biceps injury.
La Russa let Kelly face Aaron Judge, who had hit a home run off Ryan Burr, who nearly made it in his previous at-bat on 35th Street. Kelly prompts Judge to hit a weak chopper in the middle, a tough game but a good second baseman could make up for with the huge Judge running for first.
Leuri Garcia was not that second baseman. His throw was not strong enough to beat the judge in a blistering game. As the go-forward run was made and the first base umpire signaled the judge to be safe, first baseman Jose Abreu fell asleep for a second as Gleber Torres motored around third and scored a second on the play.
Abreu attempted to throw an oddball at the plate that NBC Sports Chicago analyst Ozzy Guillen outwardly scoffed at during the postgame show. In real time, analyst Steve Stone pointed directly to Abreu’s inattention to allow the second run to be scored.
Kelly then splits completely, walking four pitches to Anthony Rizzo. Instead of calling on Dubber, who was writing his story, La Russa called on left-handed Tanner Banks to face right-hander Giancarlo Stanton, who had twice scored home from Dylan Siege.
With the Sox already trailing, Rasa did not want to use high-leverage reliever Hendrix, who last pitched on Monday, or Kendall Graveman, who had a rest day after the postponement.
“At that point we’re already down, I don’t think you can waste an arm,” La Russa said before later correcting himself. “Don’t waste a hand, use a hand. That’s what I think.”
Stanton scored another home run at the change of 0-2. Banks then served a three-run home run to hit Josh Donaldson with a right hand, making it 14-7. After the 15-7 loss, we saw the bemused Tony, who was still surprised at the ridiculous turn of events in the eighth after two quick outs in a tie game.
“I mean, you have to see it to believe it,” La Russa said. “I still can’t believe it.”
This would have made a great marketing slogan for the 2022 Sox, a team that has to be seen to be believed. Just 20,050 fans turned up on a beautiful night for the start of the season’s biggest home series on Thursday, and the team averaged 16,596 in two matches against the Guardians in the same season.
The socks haven’t really helped their cause. They entered Friday’s game 15-15, finishing last in fielding and .225th in pitching and hitting as a team. It’s not the kind of performance that gives off “World Series vibes.”
So what shades of Toni La Russa will we see for the rest of the season?
We can hardly wait to find out.