As La Russa takes heat, clubhouse 'close-knit' and Sox still tops in AL

  • Tony La Russa continues to take some heat, but there's no denying the team is the best in the American League.

    Tony La Russa continues to take some heat, but there's no denying the team is the best in the American League. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/20/2021 2:45 PM

With the White Sox off Thursday before opening a three-game series this weekend at Yankee Stadium, the manager might still be hot and so is the top team in the American League.

• The Tony La Russa-Yermin Mercedes blowup is still going strong, with public opinion leaning heavily against the Sox's old-school manager both locally and nationally.

 

On his R2C2 podcast, former Yankees starter CC Sabathia joined the anti-La Russa crowd, saying: "He shouldn't be (bleeping) managing that team."

Another national voice, MLB Network's Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, supported La Russa, inferring that today's players are too sensitive to criticism.

The White Sox's manager said Mercedes was "clueless" for swinging at a 3-0 pitch and homering late in Monday's 16-4 win over Minnesota.

That started the firestorm, which figures to keep burning in New York this weekend.

• Sox starter Lucas Giolito is more aware than most, and he said the clubhouse is not going to be distracted by the La Russa-Mercedes drama.

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"We're definitely a close-knit team," Giolito said. "We're friends on and off the field. We hold each other accountable, all that good stuff. And I feel like we're only growing closer with the better baseball that we're playing."

• It would be accurate to say Yasmani Grandal and Yoan Moncada are doing a good job of making opposing pitchers work.

Grandal is the first player in White Sox history to draw 4 walks in 3 games during a season, and all of them have come in May.

Moncada has walked in 8 straight games, the longest streak for a Sox hitter since Jim Thome did it in 2009.

• In 2019, Tim Anderson had the most errors (26) and worst fielding percentage (.951) among major-league shortstops.

Look at him now.

Anderson has made only 1 error while handling 108 chances this season, and his fielding percentage is a sizzling .991.

One of the best hitters in the game, Anderson has spent long hours working on his defense. He is an all-around star.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I've been working my butt off since I got in this organization to prove I could be a shortstop," Anderson said. "It doesn't stop here. I've got to continue to work and continue to get better."

• Crowds at Guaranteed Rate Field increase to 60% capacity (24,300) starting with Monday night's game vs. the Cardinals.

Single-game tickets for home games from May 24 to June 16 go on sale Saturday, and the first 10,000 fans at the May 28 and 29 games vs. the Orioles get a Tim Anderson Bat Flip Bobblehead.

• For as good as the White Sox have been over the first two months, try to imagine how much better they might be if outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert return.

Both players are recovering from major injuries -- Jimenez ruptured his left pectoral tendon late in spring training and Robert tore his right hip flexor on May 2.

Jimenez could be back in the lineup as soon as September, and Robert could return in August if his rehab goes well.

• One of the many reasons the Sox (26-16) have the best record in the American League?

They are 14-2 after losses this season.

"There's a stat I like," La Russa said. "This team inspires me and the coaches. I didn't know that stat. That's a really good stat. That's well earned."

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