TA backs Mercedes on Instagram after La Russa's comments originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Tim Anderson showed Tuesday that Tony La Russa's opinion on Yermín Mercedes was not shared by the entire White Sox clubhouse.
La Russa called Mercedes' decision to swing away on a 3-0 pitch from Minnesota Twins position player Willians Astudillo in Monday's blowout win a "big mistake," describing it as a result of poor sportsmanship and deserving of punishment. He said that Mercedes missed a take sign from White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing, disrespecting the Twins given the situation.
The home run that came from the swing, however, was viewed as a source of great entertainment by many a fan, Mercedes winning the battle against another fan favorite in Astudillo and providing something to get excited about in the late innings of a blowout.
Well, Anderson, who's been front and center in the whole old-school vs. new-school debate over players being themselves and showing off their personalities, chimed in in his own way Tuesday, commenting on NBC Sports Chicago's Instagram post.
Anderson's comment read: "The game wasn't over! Keep doing you, big daddy."
Mercedes responded: "Yes sir, let's do it, baby."
There was ample emoji usage, as well.
Anderson has rushed to the defense of multiple players who have found their actions scrutinized, who have been told they shouldn't do something on a baseball field. He backed up Fernando Tatís Jr. last year when the San Diego Padres superstar was similarly decried by his manager for hitting a grand slam on a 3-0 pitch in a blowout.
Earlier this year, when Mercedes was off to a white-hot start that hasn't really slowed down that much, Anderson backed his teammate's displays of personality and willingness to have fun on the field.
"That's the thing, I want him to be himself," Anderson said a month ago. "I want each and every one of those guys to be themselves because that's how you're going to get them at their best.
"You see what he's doing now. He's authentic, he's being himself. You hit it a mile, it's OK to pimp it, it's OK to watch it. It's cool. Not everybody's doing that, not everybody's hitting a big league home run. For him to be able to do that, it's OK for him to enjoy it, man. And I'm going to back him up 1,000 percent.
"Hopefully he can keep it going and keep being that guy in the lineup and keep us going and keep coming up with huge hits. I'll definitely be cheering him on."
Even prior to his bat flip heard 'round the world in 2019, Anderson has been on a mission to bring more fun to the game. That home run, bat flip and ensuing plunking from the Kansas City Royals shone a spotlight on him that hasn't turned off as he's backed up his on-field personality with All-Star type results.
Some White Sox fans worried that La Russa and Anderson would not mesh, though that hasn't been the case. Anderson has had nothing good positive reviews for La Russa allowing White Sox players to be themselves. That's part of what made the manager's extensive comments on Mercedes so surprising Tuesday.
It's important to note that La Russa was not firing off some rant about the evolving nature of baseball, that he was upset about Mercedes' specific actions in a specific moment of a specific game. But that will be hard for some folks to notice as the noise grows over another perceived clash between old-school and new-school. That a Hall-of-Fame manager and a rookie are the featured players this time around doesn't help those optics.
Even on that front, though, Anderson has shared his opinions. Prior to the start of the season, he talked about the need for the White Sox to develop a killer instinct that he believes was missing last season.
“We need that dog in us. We need some, ‘Let’s go out here and whoop these m-----f-----s,'" he said on the White Sox Talk Podcast. "We need that type of attitude versus like, ‘Are we going to win today?’ No. ‘Let’s go out here and whoop ‘em.’ It might be 10-0 in the first, let’s keep going. That type of winning, not just feel around and see what happens. From the first inning, let’s go.”
So credit Anderson for staying his course, regardless of the situation, talking the talk and walking the walk as someone who wants to get the White Sox to the World Series and simultaneously up baseball's entertainment value, something he sees Mercedes doing, too.