(670 The Score) White Sox manager Tony La Russa expressed his frustration in rookie slugger Yermin Mercedes for homering on a 3-0 pitch in the ninth inning of Monday's blowout win against the Twins.
La Russa put up the take sign but Mercedes swung away at a meatball thrown at 47 miles per hour from Twins infielder Willians Astudillo, crushing a home run over the center-field wall at Target Field. It put the White Sox up 16-4 and stirred more controversy about the unwritten rules -- starting as Mercedes ran the bases and La Russa emerged from the dugout with words for his own player.
"That's just sportsmanship, respect for the game, respect for the opponent," La Russa said Tuesday afternoon. "He made a mistake. There will be a consequence that he has to endure here within our family.
"The fact that he's a rookie and excited does explain why he's clueless. Now he's got a clue."
La Russa apologized to the Twins for Mercedes swinging away in that situation. La Russa didn't specify what the consequences would be for Mercedes, who's hitting an MLB-best .364 with six home runs and 25 RBIs entering play Tuesday. Mercedes is in the White Sox's lineup against the Twins on Tuesday, filling the DH role and hitting fourth.
Prior to La Russa's comments Tuesday afternoon, Mercedes said the White Sox were supportive of his decision to swing and didn't indicate there were any consequences he would have to deal with. However, it appeared White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton spoke to Mercedes in the dugout after the home run Monday. As Mercedes left Target Field after the game, he heard words from Astudillo but didn't pay attention and kept walking with his teammates.
"I'm going to play like that," Mercedes said Tuesday afternoon. "I'm Yermin. I can't be another person because if I change it, everything is going to change.
"We're just having fun. It's baseball."
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson offered an apparent defense of his teammate Mercedes, saying on an Instagram post: “The game isn’t over. Keep doing your thing big daddy.”
The slow-pitch softball-like hack by Mercedes on a 3-0 meatball from Astudillo marked the latest clash over baseball's identity, an old-school game now being played by new, young talents. In April 2019, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson drew criticism from some for flipping his bat against the rival Royals, who later threw at him. The White Sox's defense of Anderson, one of the most joyful players in the game, became part of the organization's official mantra for this season: Change the Game.
Last August, Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. found himself in the middle of a similar scenario to Mercedes as he swung at a 3-0 pitch in the eighth inning a game that San Diego led 10-3 in Texas and crushed a grand slam. Tatis' own manager, Jayce Tingler, called it "a learning opportunity" while Rangers manager Chris Woodward said it "challenged the unwritten rules in today's game."
Mercedes has been one of baseball's best stories this season, as he's a 28-year-old rookie who rose from the ranks of the independent leagues to the big leagues. He was named American League Rookie of the Month in April.
La Russa, 76, was hired by the White Sox last October after being retired since 2011. His return to managing was its own controversy, in part because many wondered whether he could connect with the young players in Chicago's clubhouse. The White Sox entered play Tuesday at 25-15, owners of MLB's best record.
With two games remaining at Target Field, La Russa is hopeful the Twins won't seek retaliation against the White Sox and believes Mercedes will learn from his decision.
"I am certain that will not happen again with Yermin," La Russa said.
"It's a teaching moment."
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.