Skip to contents
MLB

Tony La Russa’s Bold Idea Rudely Ignored

Tony La Russa describes his plan for a runner on second: "THE RUNNER ON SECOND BASE SHOULD HAVE TO FACE THE OUTFIELD BEFORE EVERY PITCH SO HE CAN’T STEAL SIGNS."
Image: Dan McQuade

The Chicago White Sox staved off elimination in the ALDS on Sunday night, coming back from a four-run deficit to romp past the Houston Astros, 12-6. Last night’s contest was played in Chicago instead of Houston, where the Astros had previously won the first two games of the series 6-1 and 9-4. As the Astros were recently embroiled in a notorious sign-stealing scandal, naturally the topic came up postgame. And White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera, who had three of the White Sox pitchers’ 16 strikeouts last night, was willing to talk about it.

“It is what it is,” Tepera said postgame. “They’ve obviously had a reputation of doing some sketchy stuff over there. We can say it is a little bit of a difference. You saw the swing and misses compared to the first two games at Minute Maid.” A shady quote about sketchy stuff! Excellent.

The Astros were quick to deny without even really answering. “We know that kind of stuff can never happen again,” GM James Click said. Dusty Baker called them “heavy accusations” and said his team was about the same at home or on the road, and maybe even hit a little better away from Houston. (He’s right!) “It’s all good,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said.

Today’s game was banged due to weather, so we all have to wait until tomorrow to see if this war of words escalates into throwing a baseball 99 mph at someone else, or some other goofy baseball remedy. But ESPN’s Jesse Rogers noted that La Russa actually had a plan of his own. It is one that would stop allegations of sign stealing by simply preventing sign stealing from ever taking place.

Early in the season, while attempting to get into the proper mindset for Tony La Russa’s return to baseball, I played his eponymous 1993 video game. Between innings, La Russa delivers bits of advice to the player. They are mostly about bunting, or using the hit and run, or faking the hit and run and sacrificing instead. This article was apparently representative of the Defector brand that it was recently the New York Times’ primary example of the kind of content readers actually pay for. That the Times article also noted in wonder that people were paying to get into a party at a bar does not diminish this accomplishment, to me: Even New York’s paper of record knows that when Tony La Russa offers baseball advice, you listen.

And yet baseball ignored his incredible, complicated idea. Imagine how fun it would be when a game is delayed because a runner facing center field was hit in the head by a batted ball. And think of the arguments! Say a “blindfolded runner”—this is my new term for the runner in La Russa’s scenario—gets picked off second base while facing the outfield. Isn’t that unfair? The player and his manager would be furious and would surely put on a little show for the fans. And what kind of system would be put in place to alert the runner to turn back? We’ll never know, because Major League Baseball simply wouldn’t listen.