Despite comeback win, White Sox fans still seeking a reason to believe in this team — and its manager – The Mercury News

When Tony La Russa was hired as Chicago White Sox manager after the 2020 season and his second DUI arrest was reported, free-agent pitcher Marcus Stroman chimed in on Twitter.

“Baffling on all measures,” Stroman replied to a tweet by The Athletic’s Keith Law calling it a “bad hire.”

A troll followed up by asking Stroman how much money it would take for him to play for La Russa, using a disparging description of the Sox manager.

“No amount of money honestly,” Stroman replied. “Peace of mind is always priority.”

Stroman wound up playing for the New York Mets last season before signing a three-year, $71 million deal with the Chicago Cubs on Dec. 1 — the day the lockout began. And on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon on the South Side, he found himself facing La Russa’s White Sox in the final game of Round 2 of the City Series.

In spite of Stroman’s seven shutout innings, the Cubs lost 5-4 in 12 innings after the bullpen blew leads in the ninth, 10th and 11th before 38,080 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“Too many twists and turns in that game,” La Russa said. “We had some (hard) contact that we thought we deserved more production. But there were other times we missed a couple of opportunities.”

The Cubs wound up with a split in the two-game series, and manager David Ross said fans got their money’s worth.

“It was a great game, a real good game,” Ross said. “Well-played, a lot of action, a lot of back and forth. Crowd was in it. Both starting pitchers threw extremely well. Neither team could really close it out there. Back and forth and guys from two teams really fighting it out trying to make something happen.”

Stroman is smart enough to know anything he writes on Twitter can be used against him in the future but confident enough in his abilities not to care. He had his best outing his as a Cub after Keegan Thompson threw five strong innings to win Saturday ‘s game.

So what did we learn in the final two games of the City Series?

That the White Sox still aren’t ready to prove they’re more than a .500 team — and losing Tim Anderson to a groin injury for any length of time would be a significant obstacle to overcome.

“We’ll play with what we’ve got,” La Russa said, adding: “We’ll be all right.”

The Cubs, meanwhile, are showing they can compete and that as bad as things look, they’re unlikely to go in the tank. Cubs fans are coming to grips with the fact this rebuild is not much different than the last one and only the names have changed. But it could be a completely different team by the trade deadline with veterans on one-year contracts and youngsters at Triple-A Iowa waiting for call-ups.

Many Sox fans are losing patience with this team in spite of Sunday’s comeback win. Every time they get a big win, they expect a long run. But so far it has been hit and miss with an offense that hasn’t been anything close to advertised.

If La Russa were anyone but La Russa, he would be on the hot seat for the lackluster first two months. He was booed when he came out to the mound Saturday after leaving Johnny Cueto in too longthe first time he has heard it from Sox fans this season.

He has been booed before, as anyone old enough to remember his first term with the Sox can attest, and isn’t bothered by it. La Russa appears oblivious to criticism, perhaps because he gets so much of it when his team loses.

When the Sox hired him at age 76, some questioned whether he could relate to this generation of players. But most of the young Sox players sing his praises his. He said before Sunday’s game that dealing with today’s players is the same as when he was a 34-year-old manager in 1979.

“You forget, man, when I started, free agency had already been in since ’75,” he said. “And the media (attention) was already started, ESPN in ’79, so fame and fortune were already distractions. The only place I thought anybody couldn’t question me (upon returning) was that I had been away from the game. Everything else people doubted — and probably still doubt — I felt were all legitimate.

“But I wasn’t away from the game. I was with MLB and I was with teams. So I was down on the field observing and it’s the same. The relationships are exactly what they were before. You have to build that, you have to have respect and trust and you better understand how hard this game is to play, mentally and physically tough. It’s a prerequisite.”

General manager Rick Hahn, who doesn’t get any blame from the anti-La Russa crowd because Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf hired La Russa in the first place, can’t do anything but tinker with the roster. He took a big step Saturday by designating Dallas Keuchel for assignmentwhich some interpreted as a sign his patience with the team is running thin.

“I try to be patient,” Hahn said Saturday. “We all try to be patient. I don’t think that anything should be read on the decision on Dallas Keuchel beyond that it was time to move on from Dallas Keuchel. No one in there needs a message sent via a roster move to one of their teammates. Everyone knows where they stand.”

That’s too bad. Yasmani Grandal, Josh Harrison and Yoán Moncada could all use a message these days.

So the Cubs and Sox are done playing each other, and it’s not even June.

That means the Sox will have to sell out their ballpark the rest of the way without the help of Cubs fans. Sox fans seemingly need a reason to believe in this team — and in the manager brought in to take them to the promised land.

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