Tony La Russa Doubles Down on Intentional Walk Decision: 'Not Even a Close Call'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJune 11, 2022

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - JUNE 05: Tony La Russa #22 of the Chicago White Sox looks on prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on June 05, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Tony La Russa's curious choice to intentionally walk Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner on a 1-2 count during backfired immediately in Thursday's 11-9 loss, as Max Muncy followed it up with a three-run homer.

But the Chicago White Sox manager stuck to his guns on Friday.

"Pssssh, 24 hours later, I'm even more surprised," La Russa told reporters of the backlash to his decision. "That's not even a close call. I mean do you know what Muncy was hitting from the left-hand side this season? .125."

With Freddie Freeman on second base and first base open, White Sox lefty Bennett Sousa went up 0-2 on Turner before throwing a wild pitch. That was when La Russa chose to intentionally walk the star shortstop, and Muncy made him pay.


Tony La Russa intentionally walked Trea Turner on a 1-2 count... then Max Muncy hit a 3-run HR!<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBCSWhiteSox?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBCSWhiteSox</a>)<a href="https://t.co/TwFjZ4xGGT">pic.twitter.com/TwFjZ4xGGT</a>

Los Angeles Dodgers @Dodgers

Welcome back, Max! <a href="https://t.co/rX0dnXCI4x">pic.twitter.com/rX0dnXCI4x</a>

SportsNet LA @SportsNetLA

"I wanted to make them pay, I'll just leave it at that." 😂 <a href="https://twitter.com/maxmuncy9?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@maxmuncy9</a> spoke post-game with <a href="https://twitter.com/kirsten_watson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@kirsten_watson</a> about his 6th inning at-bat after Tony La Russa intentionally walked Trea Turner on a 1-2 count to get to him. <a href="https://t.co/ja7rbWsqNL">pic.twitter.com/ja7rbWsqNL</a>

Depending on how you break down the numbers and the sample size you employ, you could make a case for or against La Russa's unique decision.

Jesse Rogers @JesseRogersESPN

For perspective, FWIW: The average slash line this season for PA that feature a 1-2 count at any point is .164/.218/.254.<br><br>Trea Turner had a .269/.279/.388 slash line in PA that featured a 1-2 count this year <br><br>Turner's .279 OBP after a 1-2 count ranked 33rd in MLB entering today

Joe Sheehan @joe_sheehan

I feel silly even breaking it down, but...<br><br>Trea Turner, career vs. LHP after 1-2: .258/.310/.390<br>Bennett Sousa, career vs. RHB after 1-2: .167/.286/.167<br><br>TLR traded that for...<br><br>Max Muncy, career vs. LHP: .251/.365/.492<br>Sousa, career vs. LHB: .300/.389/.367<br><br>Unconscionable.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Turner is hitting .333 (5-for-15) in a 1-2 count against left-handed pitchers this season.

"Turner is a tough hitter with no strikes, one strike, two strikes," La Russa told reporters. "He shortens up and he's got all kinds of ways to put the ball in play and hurt you. Now, if it had been a right-handed pitcher, yeah, I probably would have tried to make a pitch."

The question, then, is why La Russa didn't simply intentionally walk Turner immediately. Why wait three pitches into the at-bat before pulling the trigger?

"That's when the pitch got away," La Russa answered after the game, referring to Sousa's wild pitch.

No matter what La Russa's argument was after the game, two things were abundantly clear. First, that White Sox fans and baseball pundits alike were beyond perplexed, and it some cases downright angry.

David Haugh @DavidHaugh

It’ll never happen but <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WhiteSox?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WhiteSox</a> fans deserve to hear Jerry Reinsdorf explain or defend why he believes Tony LaRussa is the manager capable of leading this team to the World Series that remains the goal. It’s that bad, yes. It’s that indefensible given the way this devolved.

Vinnie Parise @VinnieParise

Tony La Russa decided to intentionally walk a batter with two strikes on him so Max Muncy could hit a three run home run. <br><br>This team has NO CHANCE to win anything of significance with him in the dugout. None.

Shane Riordan @shane_riordan

This should be Tony La Russa's last game managing the White Sox. <br><br>Do the right thing.

And two, even if you agree with La Russa's process for choosing to walk Turner, the outcome was a game-changing home run. The move, quite simply, blew up in his face.