Sports | May 19, 2021 1:55 pm

It Pains Me to Side With Trevor Bauer Over Tony La Russa on Baseball’s “Unwritten Rules”

Yermín Mercedes swinging away on a 3-0 pitch during a blowout win has led to much debate

Chicago White Sox Manager Tony La Russa
Manager Tony La Russa of the Chicago White Sox.
Steph Chambers/Getty

In the ninth inning of a blowout win over the Minnesota Twins on Monday, Yermín Mercedes of the Chicago White Sox stepped to the plate with infielder Willians Astudillo on the mound because the game was so out of hand.

Not actually being a pitcher, Astudillo quickly fell behind Mercedes 3-0. That’s when Mercedes broke one of baseball’s unwritten rules and swung away on the 3-0 pitch Astudillo tossed in at about 47 mph. In the last 20 years, MLB hitters have seen 557 pitches on 3-0 counts with their teams up by 10 or more runs. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Mercedes was the first to swing — and he hit it a mile.

Though members of the Twins were upset with Mercedes swinging away on a 3-0 count with the game seemingly out of reach, the 28-year-old, who spent nine years in the minors before finally reaching the majors last year, was in no mood to apologize for hitting his sixth home run of the season. “I’m going to play like that. I’m Yermín. I can’t be another person because if I do that, everything changes,” he said. 

Speaking to reporters, White Sox manager Tony La Russa took a different tone when talking about what Mercedes had done and said he was “upset” with his player. “With that kind of lead, it’s about sportsmanship, respect for your opponent and respect for the game,” he said. “There’s going to be a consequence that he’s going to have to endure within our family. It won’t happen again. He’s not going to do that again.”

The hypocrisy of La Russa talking about consequences is somewhat glaring considering he has kept his job and suffered few repercussions after being charged with multiple DUIs as well as been accused of using a sign-stealing scheme while managing the White Sox in the ’90s. If he cares so much about the unwritten rules, shouldn’t he follow the written ones?

Then there’s the fact that, unlike La Russa, Mercedes is not set for life financially and could easily find himself back in the minors if his numbers dip. Also, as former pitcher Brandon McCarthy tweeted Tuesday, Mercedes’s ability to get paid is directly tied to his ability to hit.

“[T]here is a direct correlation between numbers and what you get paid,” McCarthy posted. “This stuff matters for hitters- you put a [position] player throwing lollipops, then back up cause guys should try to launch.”

Painful as it is to admit given some of the other comments he’s made both in-person and online, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Trevor Bauer may have put it best when clapping back against La Russa, the Twins and the rest of the traditional baseball establishment on social media.

“Dear hitters: If you hit a 3-0 homer off me, I will not consider it a crime,” Bauer wrote on Twitter. “Dear people who are still mad about a hitter hitting: kindly get out of the game. Can’t believe we’re still talking about 3-0 swings. If you don’t like it, managers or pitchers, just be better.”

Rules were made to be broken. Unwritten rules were made to be smashed by 3-0 bombs in the ninth. Keep ’em coming, Mercedes.