Tony La Russa messes up key extra innings rule in White Sox loss
MLB’s extra innings rule is posing a big challenge for Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa.
The White Sox and Cincinnati Reds found themselves in a scoreless tie after nine innings on Wednesday afternoon. The game went to the tenth inning, where the rule placing a runner at second to start each half inning came into play. The rule states that the baserunner at second is to be whomever bats a spot ahead of the inning’s scheduled leadoff hitter. As the result of a double switch in the bottom of the ninth, the runner would be the occupant of the pitcher’s spot. That meant White Sox closer Liam Hendriks had to take second.
Beyond the risk of injury to the pitcher, Hendriks’ speed — or lack thereof — impacted Chicago’s strategy; Leury Garcia was thrown out trying to steal while Hendriks was on third with one out.
However, the MLB rule comes with an exception for pitchers. It states that if the pitcher would be the extra innings baserunner, teams are allowed to substitute the previous spot in the order instead. That would have put Jose Abreu on second, not Hendriks.
After the game, La Russa admitted he was unaware of that part of the rule when it was read off to him by The Athletic beat writer James Fegan.
Tony La Russa did not know that he could have used Jose Abreu at second base as the free runner instead of closer Liam Hendriks. Was informed of an amendment to rule by @JRFegan. "I'm guessing you know the rules better. Now I know," he said.
— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) May 5, 2021
At the very least, it’s embarrassing for La Russa. Yes, the rule is fairly new, and it’s a clause that most fans probably wouldn’t know. However, he’s the manager, and it’s his job to be on top of a rule like this that could impact the game. Even if he didn’t know, someone on his staff should have been aware of it and said something.
La Russa is 76 years old, and one of the concerns when he took the job was whether he was still in touch with the modern game. One of his players downplayed that in a funny way, but this won’t help combat that perception.
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