Whatever you want to say about the White Sox — that they’re mediocre, that they’re maddening, that they collect injuries like some people collect trading cards — the one thing you can’t say about them is that they’re quiet.
Now, that might not be what you’re looking for in a baseball team. You might prefer a team that lives up to its billing as a World Series contender and keeps to itself. You might prefer a team that enjoys victories and a glass of milk for a nightcap. You might prefer peace and quiet over toil and trouble.
And you’d be right to feel that way, as a consumer of all things ball. But you have to admit, as you stare at the specimen on the microscope slide, that there’s something about the Sox that’s fascinating. They seem to always be in the news, and controversy, though not something they seek, has its own locker at Guaranteed Rate Field. Again, you might not like it, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
The other day, a reporter asked Sox manager Tony La Russa for his opinion on Gabe Kapler’s decision to stay in the Giants’ clubhouse while the national anthem was playing. San Francisco’s manager wanted to protest lawmakers’ lack of action on gun control after the shootings in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 schoolchildren and two teachers dead.
A quieter manager than La Russa, one managing a quieter team than the Sox, would have said something like: “My heart aches for all the people who died. That’s what’s important right now. Not what I think.’’ But not our Tony.
He praised Kapler’s stance on gun violence but said his method showed a lack of respect for military members.
“Some of their courage comes from what the flag means to them and when they hear the anthem,” La Russa said. “You need to understand what the veterans think when they hear the anthem or see the flag, and the cost they paid and their families. And if you truly understand that, I think it’s impossible not to salute the flag and listen to the anthem.”
Basically what he said was, “Have your way with me, Twitter.’’
I’ve learned that it’s a waste of time trying to tell people that the national anthem and the American flag are not the property of military veterans or active-duty soldiers. One of the freedoms the flag represents is the right to speak freely, even when what is being spoken isn’t popular. Even when a person is sitting out the anthem in protest. Or kneeling during it. People don’t want to be told that, either.
The point here is that La Russa, never one to shy away from controversy, was consistent with the one thing that defines the 2022 White Sox to date: They sure know how to stay in the news. La Russa was predictably excoriated for his stance, just as Kapler was by the other side, and if everyone had stopped and thought about it for a second, they’d realize that the ability to have dueling opinions is what makes the ideal of this country great. Not a flag or an anthem.
Some of this is a product of La Russa himself. What did the Sox expect when they hired a 76-year-old for a manager in 2020, an already polarizing 76-year-old because of his political views and a couple of DUI arrests?
If they were smart, they expected all of this and more.
The only surprise about the La Russa flap was that Tim Anderson wasn’t somehow involved. He had a recent confrontation with the Yankees’ Josh Donaldson, who for some reason thought it was OK to call Anderson “Jackie’’ during a recent game. It was a reference to an Anderson quote in a 2019 Sports Illustrated story in which he said he wanted to change the game like Jackie Robinson did. He didn’t equate his on-field flair with Robinson’s civil-rights pioneering. He just said he wanted to be an agent for change. Donaldson, who is white, thought it funny to call Anderson, who is Black, “Jackie’’ during the game. He said Anderson had been in on the joke. Anderson didn’t see the humor and said there was no inside joke between them. Which eventually led to a benches-clearing encounter between the teams.
Which became a national story because things happen to Anderson and the Sox.
When Anderson injured his groin Sunday against the Cubs, it couldn’t be just a low-level, garden-variety strain. Oh, no. The man hitting .356 had to be helped off the field by two people, a sight that surely sent Sox fans into the fetal position. And they were right to order a side of gloom with their doom: Anderson is out at least three weeks. Given that these are the Sox, would anyone be surprised if it’s more than that?
The Sox can’t even lose a game quietly. With one out in the sixth inning Tuesday, the Sox’ Danny Mendick tagged up on a sacrifice fly and was tagged out at second before teammate Reese McGuire had crossed home plate. That meant no run and, eventually, a 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays.
If all that isn’t enough, the team’s former head trainer sued the Sox last month, claiming the team fired him because of his sexual orientation, age and disability. The Sox denied Brian Ball’s allegations.
All in a month’s work for these loud Sox.
Entertainment value is no substitute for winning, but if a team is going to be .500, it might as well give you something to help you stay awake. So, thanks? I think?