After Monday’s game Tony LaRussa criticized Yermin Mercedes over hitting a home run on a 3-0 pitch with the White Sox winning 16-4. He called it “clueless” at the time, later clarified that as meaning he feels hitting the ball in that situation is poor sportsmanship.
There’s some additional points about that pitch—the pitcher was a position player and the pitch came in at 47 MPH. Mercedes wasn’t showing up anybody; the other team had put a non-pitcher on the mound who clearly didn’t have major league pitching chops. It should also be noted that multiple players around the league, including on the White Sox, disagreed with LaRussa.
Sportsmanship is important—don’t point or taunt, keep a civil tongue in your head. However, swinging at a 3-0 pitch isn’t poor sportsmanship in any situation, no matter how big the lead. It’s the pitcher’s job to try to get the batter out. It’s the hitter’s job to try to get a hit. Period. Baseball is already having enough problems keeping casual fans engaged with the record numbers of strikeouts. The last thing any of us need is hitters intentionally not hitting. If the other team doesn’t like a hitter swinging away on 3-0, maybe don’t throw a 47 mph meatball to him.
Further, Mercedes is a 28 year old rookie. He will be in his 30’s before becoming arbitration eligible and mid-30’s before free agency. Him maximizing his earning potential means he really needs to buff his stats wherever he can. Asking him to sacrifice any part of that by taking that 47 mph pitch is truly “clueless” of Tony LaRussa.