Losers of three in a row, the Chicago White Sox currently sit at 6-6, tied for second place in the AL Central with the Kansas City Royals. Lo and behold, The ChiSox’s adversaries yesterday were the Cleveland Guardians. Cleveland took both games of Wednesday’s doubleheader, so you’d assume that manager Tony La Russa was going to pull out all the stops yesterday in an effort to avoid the three-game sweep. You’d be wrong. (Clarification: This was supposed to be a four-game series, but two games were rained out and one was rescheduled for July 12)
When Chicago’s lineup was announced around 10 a.m. EST, many White Sox fans, and baseball fans in general, scratched their heads at La Russa’s decisions, and wouldn’t you know it, the White Sox lost again 6-3.
Leury Garcia hitting third?! I know you had him hitting third in the second game of the doubleheader on Wednesday. Once I can understand, but twice?! You’d have to be out of your damn mind! Vegas has to be involved in this somehow. Maybe it’s an inside joke La Russa has with some friends of his. That’s the only way making this decision for two consecutive games makes any sense. The third hitter is supposed to be your best guy. You’ve got Garcia hitting in front of Abreu, Grandal, and Jiménez? Make it make sense! Someone, anyone, PLEASE! MAKE IT MAKE SENSE!
Of every hitter in the White Sox lineup yesterday, Garcia is dead last in both career OPS (.660) and OPS this season (.226). Obviously, it hasn’t been a long season, but still, I had to accentuate just how enormously dumbfounded this decision was.
In all fairness to La Russa, this wasn’t the first time that such a hitter was placed in the three-hole in White Sox history. The first, and only other time the player with the lowest-career and seasonal OPS on the team was hitting third for Chicago was September 1, 1979. In a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, who were still in the American League at this point, White Sox manager Don Kessinger had first baseman Mike Squires hit third. Prior to 1979, Squires had a career .650 OPS. He had yet to hit a home run at the Major League level and his career slugging percentage (.321) was lower than his career on-base percentage (.329). It was a disastrous move from Kessinger, and I’m not at all shocked to learn that Kessinger was fired after the ‘79 season.
That’s the only other time in White Sox history that a lineup decision of this magnitude of idiocy was ever made. However, unlike La Russa’s team, the White Sox actually won that game! Squires went 2-for-3 and actually surpassed his teammate Kevin Bell in seasonal OPS by the end of it. La Russa couldn’t manage to win either game with Garcia hitting third. Even worse, Garcia went just 1-for-6 in those two games. He did draw two walks, but if La Russa was hoping that a move in the lineup would wake up Garcia’s bat, he was clearly dead wrong.
Here’s the thing though, I’d be willing to give La Russa the benefit of the doubt here if he hadn’t made another equally stupid decision in the second game of Wednesday’s double-header. Down one run heading into the ninth, the White Sox had their backs to the wall. However, La Russa had an ace up his sleeve. He sat two of his best hitters (Abreu and Jiménez) for the second game of this doubleheader. With first baseman Gavin Sheets slated to lead off the ninth, it would make perfect sense for Abreu to come in and pinch hit in that situation. Then, La Russa could’ve gone nuts with the lineup. Jiménez is a natural outfielder so it would make sense to have him hit for Andrew Vaughn. However, Vaughn has been hot lately, slashing .310/.375/.552 prior to yesterday’s game. You don’t want to take him out of the lineup. Perhaps La Russa could’ve moved Grandal, the DH, to catcher, moved the catcher, Reese McGuire, to DH, and then slotted Jiménez into the DH role. That would’ve put him in line to hit third in the ninth.
A three-headed monster of Abreu, Vaughn, and Jiménez would’ve given the White Sox a perfect opportunity to tie the game up. Instead, La Russa opted to do nothing...nothing at all. Absolutely brilliant. I know I’ve mentioned this already, but the White Sox lost that game. They went three up, three down in the ninth.
The White Sox are a very good team. They have tons of talent and are a favorite to win the World Series, but if La Russa keeps pulling moves like we’ve seen the last two days, it’ll be a miracle if they win their division.