‘Mad Dog’ Russo defends Tony La Russa: ‘You think Hank Aaron would swing in that situation?’

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Chris “Mad Dog” Russo of Sirius XM had plenty to say on the Yermin Mercedes controversy, which has since fueled a much larger discussion on baseball etiquette and the “unwritten rules” that continue to govern America’s stuffiest sport.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the farce that transpired in Minnesota this week. The Twins arguably invited this circus themselves by putting their fate in the hands of novice pitcher Willians Astudillo (whose repertoire consists exclusively of 46-mph meatballs), then escalated matters by brushing back Mercedes after he had already been scolded by Tony La Russa for ignoring the take sign on his ninth-inning blast a night earlier. Even more baffling was that the White Sox skipper sided with Minnesota, then embarrassed starting pitcher Lance Lynn for coming to his teammate’s defense (“He has a locker. I have an office.”).

Throughout this ordeal, La Russa has largely found himself on an island, receiving intense scrutiny for publicly shaming an ascendant player many would consider the feel-good story of the 2021 season. La Russa’s griping is a perfect representation of the outdated, “get-off-my-lawn” aesthetic that is driving away baseball fans by the thousand.

However, La Russa appears to have found an ally in Russo, who agreed with his decision to reprimand Mercedes. “Everybody wants to go home. The groundskeeper, the official scorer, the stadium operator, the scoreboard operator, they want to get the hell out of there. They’re not interested in seeing some meaningless home run,” said Russo. “And the idea that how dare they get on the kid, what a job, it’s baseball, old school rules go to hell—nonsense!”

Russo, who recently went berserk over the Nets sitting their stars for “load management” purposes, invoked the late Hank Aaron, insisting the former MLB home run king would never have shown up an opponent by swinging 3-0 in an 11-run game. “Do you think Henry Aaron, in that situation, is going to swing the bat?” asked Russo. “If you think he would, you know NOTHING about Henry Aaron. What’s good for Aaron is good for the gander. Don’t swing.”

In 23 seasons in the majors, Aaron never padded his stats by slugging a meaningless late-inning home run, not once? While Russo’s rant certainly makes for entertaining radio, the idea that Mercedes, a player with less than $1 million in career earnings, should sit idly by while a backup catcher lobs up 46-mph freebies, simply because Mad Dog doesn’t think Aaron would have swung or because the groundskeeper may want to go home is quite a leap.

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