Tony La Russa agrees with Ken Williams’ talk to White Sox: ‘The talent is here’

“It’s like you’re always grinding, always swimming against the tide,” La Russa said before the Sox’ 4-1 loss to the Guardians on Tuesday.

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Yoan Moncada can’t glove a base hit by Austin Hedges Tuesday.

The White Sox’ Yoan Moncada can’t glove a base hit by the Guardians’ Austin Hedges in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader.

Ron Schwane/Getty Images

CLEVELAND — White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams spoke to the team last weekend.

Manager Tony La Russa agreed with what he had to say.

How could he not? The Sox are the most disappointing team in baseball.

The stumbling Sox fell for the second time in as many games on an important road trip and looked flat doing it Tuesday, losing 4-1 to the Guardians and Shane Bieber in the first game of a split doubleheader. They did bounce back to win the second game 7-0.

But the afternoon loss ramped up disappointed fans’ ire against La Russa and the team. NBC Sports Chicago postgame show commentators Ozzie Guillen and Scott Podsednik called out the players and La Russa for “unacceptable” performances and looking flat after a three-hit effort in a game that lasted 2 hours, 10 minutes.

“How about the second baseman [Josh Harrison], making those plays, was he flat?” La Russa said. “How about the first baseman [Jose Abreu] making the play in the eighth inning, was he flat? When you don’t hit, get on base . . . we also had a rally late in the game.

“However the fans saw it, they’re welcome to their opinion, but if you look at the whole, their guy pitched very well. You don’t make some of the plays unless you’re competing.”

Harrison made two excellent plays behind second base, but in Cleveland’s three-run third inning, third baseman Yoan Moncada — whose defense has been very good — played a ground ball off his left side that skipped past for a single, and Amed Rosario dropped a liner in front of left fielder Eloy Jimenez that probably would have been caught by a better, more aggressive defender. Jimenez grabbed it on a bounce, but it was curiously scored a double and drove in a run. Sox killer Jose Ramirez then singled home two runs with first base open.

La Russa said pitcher Davis Martin, called up from Triple-A Charlotte to start the game as the 27th player, was supposed to pitch around Ramirez, who was later intentionally walked on an 0-1 count with first base open.

“Can’t let him beat you, and I pitched too into the zone against him,” Martin said.

Since Williams spoke to the team at a clubhouse gathering to acknowledge shortstop Tim Anderson being named an All-Star starter, the Sox (42-45) are 3-3.

“He spoke up about his observations of the first half,” La Russa said. “And there wasn’t anything he said I disagreed with.”

The gist of Williams’ message?

“We have had our ups and downs, and the talent is here to make it more ups than downs in the second half of the season,” La Russa said.

Perhaps. Those watching the Sox’ first 87 games wonder how leading the majors in errors and ranking last in most defensive metrics, being 26th in homers and 25th in slugging and OPS — while running into too many outs on the bases — equates to talent.

Teams play good baseball or they don’t. The Sox have not, so games strung together with good pitching, hitting and defense have been few and far between.

“Win a couple, lose a couple, here we are again,” La Russa said. “We haven’t had that sustained hot streak. So it seems like you’re always grinding, always swimming against the tide. At some point, your skin has to get tough. You have to have scabs. It’s been rough enough. You don’t walk through the season, show up in October and not have any scars. We keep our toughness going; this is putting stuff in the bank that will pay off later.”

To think playing in a third straight October was thought to be a given. Not anymore.

It’s to the point where things like “team chemistry” are talking points in mid-July.

“I don’t think anything’s missing,” said Harrison, who homered in Game 2. “We’ve got the right pieces, just haven’t put it together completely.”

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