The White Sox entered Wednesday with a 16-12 record that was good for a first-place tie in the American League Central. That is to say, it's not like the season has been a failure or anything like that. Still, there have been issues with manager Tony La Russa, the 76-year-old who was hired this past offseason after not having done the job since 2011.
On Wednesday, La Russa had a rough 10th inning in Cincinnati in a 1-0 loss to the Reds.
Thanks to a double switch, the fifth spot in the batting order was the final out of the ninth inning and closer Liam Hendriks was in that spot. The new rules for extra innings stipulate that the offense will begin with a runner on second base. The player from the batting order spot who made the last out in the previous inning is who starts on second base. There is an exception, however, that states that if that spot in the lineup is a pitcher, the team can elect to have "the player preceding the pitcher in the batting order."
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La Russa didn't know this. And instead, the White Sox used Hendriks on second base instead of Jose Abreu, who was in the four hole ahead of Hendricks. Abreu isn't a burner or anything, but he's an experienced baserunner. Hendriks has only been on base one time in his career (in 2015) and he didn't even get to second base.
Yasmani Grandal led off the inning with a walk and then Leury Garcia grounded into a fielder's choice. Hendriks was on third base with Garcia on first. There was one out with Billy Hamilton coming to the plate. Hamilton can fly, so there isn't a huge risk of a double play in this situation. Still, La Russa decided to send Garcia. He was easily caught stealing at second base. One has to believe Hendriks being on third was a factor for the Reds' decision to throw through without a second thought.
Hamilton then struck out, and the Reds walked it off in the bottom of the 10th.
After the game, La Russa stood by his decision to steal with Garcia and also admitted he didn't know the new extra-innings rule and had it explained to him by a reporter.
The White Sox are an American League team, but when they play in the ballpark of an NL team, they have to abide by the NL rules. La Russa should have brushed up on his knowledge of the NL rules, notably the new ones like extra innings. He didn't and it's possible it cost his team the game. Sending Garcia didn't help matters, either. We can't know if there was any impact on Hendriks' pitching in the bottom of the 10th after he ran the bases, but it also couldn't have helped.
Former Marlins president David Samson broke down La Russa's gaffe on Thursday's Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:
This isn't just a single game error. Earlier this season, La Russa admitted he made a mistake and said it was "lousy managing." ESPN's Jeff Passan on Monday reported that "the patience in some parts of the White Sox's clubhouse is growing thin" with some of La Russa's decision-making.
The White Sox are 16-13 right now and have plenty of talent -- though they've lost some big names to injury. They'll likely be a contender all season. In order to get where they want to go, they need their manager to stop making blatant mistakes.