David Ross wasn’t about to “bash another manager,” least of all Hall of Fame White Sox manager Tony La Russa.
But the Cubs’ second-year manager has an easy way to solve this whole unwritten-rules, respect-the-game, 3-0-swing-against-a-position-player brouhaha that has taken on a life of its own since La Russa threw his own player, Yermin Mercedes, under the bus this week for the unwritten violation:
A major-league mercy rule for major-league blowouts.
As in a big enough margin after seven innings, and it's game over.
“When I bring in a position player to pitch, I’m conceding that the game is over and I would like to go home as fast as possible and turn the page,” Ross said. “Having my position player take, or be upset if the other team swings 3-0 is not something I want to get caught up in. I’m already mad we’re getting our butt kicked from one side.”
It probably goes without, uh, writing, but this one needs to be a rule of the written variety.
“I’ve thought about that a while when I was doing TV,” said Ross, the former ESPN broadcaster. “Yeah, for sure. … We’re talking about players’ health and safety.”
Ross suggested taking the largest lead ever overcome in the late innings and adding a run to that number to set the threshold for triggering the end to the game after seven innings — the shortened length for games of doubleheaders under a rule now in its second year.
“Bringing [Anthony Rizzo] in the other day for Freddie Freeman was really cool, how he punched him out,” Ross added. “I wasn’t happy about the game, but I think that was great TV. So maybe you’ll miss moments like that.”
The 2001 Mariners blew a 14-2 lead in the seventh inning in Cleveland that May to lose in extra innings; and the 1925 Indians blew a 15-3 lead in the seventh that June to lose to the Athletics 17-15.
So a 13-run margin might be required under the Ross suggestion.
That wouldn’t have solved the Mercedes-La Russa issue. The score was 15-4 when Mercedes homered with two out in the ninth against catcher-infielder Willians Astudillo on that 3-0 pitch — leading to La Russa’s talk of punishment, of Mercedes missing a sign, of Mercedes being “clueless” and then of widespread blowback against La Russa’s comments from players, including some of his own.
On Thursday, MLB suspended Twins pitcher Tyler Duffey (and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli) for retaliating by throwing behind Mercedes the following night.
Ross reiterated his respect for La Russa and said there’s a balance a manager seeks between respecting the game and opponents while allowing players to express themselves and celebrate.
That line has become increasingly blurred even in the last 10 years.
“This isn’t a South Side-North-Side thing to me,” Ross said. “It’s just that that’s my opinion that when the game is over and conceded, we have to play until the end. A position player’s out there, I’m ready to go home; everybody swing. I’d rather my position player throw strikes; it shouldn’t be 3-0. There’s a lot within that to me that I don’t have a problem with, personally.”