Is La Russa losing support in White Sox's clubhouse?

  • Sox manager Tony La Russa isn't backing down from his comments about Yermin Mercedes' homer in a lopsided win Monday night.

    Sox manager Tony La Russa isn't backing down from his comments about Yermin Mercedes' homer in a lopsided win Monday night. Associated Press

  • Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli is ejected by plate umpire Jim Reynolds after complaining about the ejection of pitcher Tyler Duffey in the seventh inning Tuesday night. Duffey tried to hit Yermin Mercedes in the leg with a pitch in response to Mercedes' home run the night before in the ninth inning of the Sox's blowout victory.

    Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli is ejected by plate umpire Jim Reynolds after complaining about the ejection of pitcher Tyler Duffey in the seventh inning Tuesday night. Duffey tried to hit Yermin Mercedes in the leg with a pitch in response to Mercedes' home run the night before in the ninth inning of the Sox's blowout victory. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/19/2021 5:16 PM

A day after the White Sox blew a 4-0 lead and lost 5-4 to the Twins at Target Field, there was a much bigger question.

Has manager Tony La Russa lost the clubhouse?

 

It was a tempestuous three days in the Twin Cities for a Sox team that exited Minnesota with the best record (26-16) in the American League after Wednesday afternoon's 2-1 win.

La Russa sparked the controversy by calling rookie designated hitter Yermin Mercedes "clueless" for swinging on a 3-0 pitch and homering off position player Willians Astudillo late in Monday's 16-4 win over the Twins.

The White Sox's 76-year-old manager also sent an apology note to Minnesota counterpart Rocco Baldelli after he felt Mercedes displayed poor sportsmanship and respect for the game.

La Russa hoped the gesture would ease any tensions in Tuesday night's game, but Twins reliever Tyler Duffey and Baldelli were ejected in the seventh inning after Duffey tried hitting Mercedes in the leg with a pitch. He missed.

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After the game, La Russa said he was fine with the Twins' response.

"I wasn't that suspicious," he said. "I'm suspicious when someone throws at someone's head. I didn't have a problem with how the Twins handled that."

Mercedes said he's not going to change who he is or his approach to the game, and his teammates have had his back.

On social media, Tim Anderson wrote: "The game wasn't over! Keep doing you big daddy (100%)."

Lance Lynn, who started Tuesday for the Sox, is as old-school as they come. He also supported Mercedes.

"If a position player is on the mound, there are no rules," Lynn said. "Let's get the (darn) game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happened, then put a pitcher out there. That's the way I see it. Can't get mad when there's a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing."

Lucas Giolito, who was brilliant in Wednesday's start against Minnesota, said: "No negativity. We all support Yermín. We love home runs here. That's it. We're going to move on."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On Wednesday morning, La Russa was asked if he's concerned about losing his players' support.

"I don't think there is anything, and I am willing to bet there isn't, anybody in that clubhouse that was upset that I mentioned that's not the way we compete," La Russa said. "And if somebody felt that way ... you don't swing 3-and-0 with that big of a lead. I walked around the clubhouse last night after the game and no one was giving me the Heisman, so I'm not sure where you're coming from.

"I think the team agrees, and we started it in spring training, this is how we play. Play hard, play the game right, play it with respect."

Even with the White Sox overcoming some major injuries and playing such good baseball, fans have been vocal when it comes to La Russa, and not in a good way.

The Mercedes incident has cast La Russa in more bad light.

"I'm really surprised that I'm getting so many questions on this," La Russa said. "Evidently, there is some chatter about it. I'm not going to say it's much ado about nothing, it's much ado about a little bit. (Mercedes) missed a sign. By the way, if he misses a sign and it's a 3-2 game he would have been talked to because you don't miss signs."

As for Lynn's comments, La Russa was asked if veteran pitcher's view changes his mind on old-school thought.

"No, it doesn't," said La Russa, who managed Lynn as a rookie with St. Louis in 2011. "Because Lance has a locker, I have an office. And at some point, leadership is (what) you're supposed to represent. If you ask Lance right now does he disrespect my opinion, I'll take my chances."

La Russa was asked about Mercedes again after Wednesday's win, and let's just say he did not appreciate the question.

"Why are you bringing that up?" La Russa said. "We talked about it before the game. You think it's an issue. You think the club didn't play today? Like they're divided? I'm doing my best to answer the questions. I said already how I handled that situation and it included a conversation with Yermín."

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