Under Fire Tony La Russa the Focal Point in White Sox-Cardinals Series

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The Chicago White Sox host the St. Louis Cardinals tonight to begin a three game set that is absolutely bursting at the seams with storylines. The Sox are about to embark on a series where if they help themselves out by winning, they’re also helping out the team their fans hate the most (Chicago Cubs) by beating up on the team that Cubs fans hate the most.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and that is certainly something that 76-year-old Hall of Fame skipper Tony La Russa knows quite well. La Russa led the Cardinals from 1996-2011, reaching the playoffs nine times and winning two World Series titles. Out of baseball for nearly a decade, he returned to the dugout this season with the Sox, the same team he led in the 1980s.

If you’re betting on this game, like you would at https://22bet.com/mobile/ then you would find the Cardinals priced at +1.5 and +145 on the moneyline. The Southsiders can be had for -1.5 or -175 on the ML, with the over/under for this contest set at 8.5. First pitch is 8:10 EST.

Tony La Russa would have been the focal point of this series even if it were not for the firestorm of criticism that currently surrounds him. Last week TLR called out rookie Yermin Mercedes, one of the most exciting players in baseball on this young season, for missing the take sign, swinging on 3-0 and homering during the late stages of a rout over the Minnesota Twins.

La Russa has refused to backpedal his stance on that play, regardless of the fact that it yielded positive results for him and his team. When pressed, TLR has only doubled and tripled and quintupled down on his belief in adhering to the unwritten rules, while at the same time, his lack of awareness for the newer, actually official and stated rules.

At least in the latter case, when he was unaware of the new rule put in place that permits managers to keep a pitcher from being a baserunner to start on second base in extra innings, he owned up to his transgression.

“I should have known the rule,’’ La Russa says of that incident. “My mistake alone.’’

The Cards are the only team he’s never managed against, and that comes in a career that has spanned close to 5,200 games. The beginning of this series should honestly be a feel good story, a light and warm moment, but instead it’s anything but. Right now the narrative around La Russa is that he’s just to archaic to be where he is right now.

“He’s just so out of touch with the game,’’ former Major League All-Star CC Sabathia recently said on a podcast. “He shouldn’t be (expletive) managing that team.’’

Sabathia is far from alone in thinking that way. La Russa is feeling the heat from all corners, and it’s something that was entirely predictable. When he was hired in the offseason the decision was widely panned, and what’s happened so far this season has done nothing to prove those critics wrong.

La Russa’s defenders are quick to point out that the Southsiders are winning, and off to a tremendous start this season. That is of course what matters the most, but detractors swiftly point out that the Sox are getting Ws in spite of him, not because of him.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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