Dallas Keuchel calls out Phillies’ front office

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Braves starter Dallas Keuchel turned in another gem on Wednesday night against the Phillies, allowing a lone run on three hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over six innings. The Braves went on to win 3-1, taking their second of three possible victories in the four-game set. Keuchel now has a 0.97 ERA across 37 innings spanning his last six starts. Overall, he’s sporting a 3.35 ERA since joining the Braves.

The Braves, you may recall, signed Keuchel to a one-year, $21.21 million deal on June 7. Because of the general stagnation of the free agent market plus the draft pick compensation that was attached to him, Keuchel remained unsigned through the offseason, through spring training, and through the first two months of the season before ultimately signing with the Braves.

The Phillies were among the 29 other teams that passed on Keuchel. After Zach Eflin‘s abbreviated start on Wednesday, the club has an aggregate rotation ERA of 4.56. One wonders if the Phillies might be leading the NL Wild Card or perhaps even the NL East if they had forked over the cash to bring in Keuchel ahead of the start of the regular season. 25 starts and roughly 175 innings of 3.35 ERA ball — or even 3.50-3.75 — sure would have been nice.

Keuchel was asked after the game if he had any extra motivation because he was spurned by the Phillies as a free agent. He responded, via Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, “I mean, if you don’t come calling, what is there for me to be mad about? I think a lot of those guys over there in the front office are second-guessing themselves, and, I mean, I would too.”

When told of Keuchel’s comment, Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper — who signed a then-record 13-year, $330 million contract in February — was in agreement with the lefty. Harper said, “He’s a Cy Young winner for a reason. If you have an opportunity to go out and get a guy like that, I think all 29 teams should have that. But that’s how the game is right now and that’s how it goes.”

While both players have a point that teams aren’t spending on free agents the way they used to, pointing a finger at the Phillies isn’t exactly the best way to make that point. Not only did the Phillies pledge nearly one-third of a billion dollars to Harper, they also signed Andrew McCutchen (three years, $50 million) and David Robertson (two years, $23 million) while trading for J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura. After a plethora of injuries and Odúbel Herrera’s suspension left the team short-handed, the Phillies brought in Jay Bruce (who also got hurt) and Corey Dickerson, as well as Jason Vargas and Drew Smyly. Could the Phillies have afforded $20-25 million more per year for Keuchel on a multi-year deal? Certainly. But it’s more productive to point fingers at teams that truly aren’t spending money rather than the teams like the Phillies that have been relatively liberal with opening up the checkbook.

La Russa steps down as White Sox manager over heart issue

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CHICAGO — Tony La Russa stepped down as manager of the Chicago White Sox on Monday because of a heart issue, ending a disappointing two-year run in the same spot where the Hall of Famer got his first job as a big league skipper.

La Russa, a three-time World Series champion who turns 78 on Tuesday, missed the final 34 games with the underachieving White Sox. He left the team on Aug. 30 and doctors ultimately told him to stay out of the dugout.

La Russa has a pacemaker implanted in February and doctors later found another heart problem that he has not detailed.

“It has become obvious that the length of the treatment and recovery process for this second health issue makes it impossible for me to be the White Sox manager in 2023,” he said in a statement. “The timing of this announcement now enables the front office to include filling the manager position with their other offseason priorities.”

Chicago began the season with World Series aspirations but was plagued by injuries and inconsistent play. It was 79-80 heading into Monday night’s game against Minnesota.

“Our team’s record this season is the final reality. It is an unacceptable disappointment. There were some pluses, but too many minuses,” La Russa said. “I was hired to provide positive, difference-making leadership and support. Our record is proof. I did not do my job.”

Bench coach Miguel Cairo took over after La Russa stepped away. The White Sox showed a spark right after the change, winning 10 of 14. But they dropped eight straight in late September, dashing their playoff hopes.

La Russa, who is close friends with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, was a surprise hire in October 2020, and he directed the team to the AL Central title last year.

But the White Sox sputtered throughout much of 2022, and there were chants of “Fire Tony! Fire Tony!” at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“At no time have I been disappointed or upset with White Sox fans, including those who at times chanted `Fire Tony,”‘ La Russa said. “They come to games with passion for our team and a strong desire to win. Loud and excited when we win, they rightly are upset when we play poorly.”

All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson and sluggers Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert missed significant time because of injuries. Catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Yoan Moncada also had health issues, and they underperformed when they were on the field.

There were embarrassing breakdowns, too, like when the White Sox ran themselves into the first 8-5 triple play in major league history during a loss to Minnesota on July 4.

La Russa continued to be a lightning rod for fans who weren’t thrilled with his hiring in the first place. His lineups came under question as did his decisions in games.

Some fans chanted for La Russa’s dismissal following a strange call for an intentional walk to to the Dodgers’ Trea Turner despite a 1-2 count on June 9. Bennett Sousa had just bounced an 0-2 slider, allowing the runner to advance from first to second.

With the base open, La Russa chose to walk Turner even though there were two strikes. It backfired when Max Muncy smacked a three-run homer, propelling Los Angeles to an 11-9 victory.

Another moment that raised eyebrows happened early in the 2021 season.

During a 1-0 loss to Cincinnati, La Russa was unaware of a rule that would have allowed him to use Jose Abreu as the automatic runner at second base rather than closer Liam Hendriks in the 10th inning.

With a 2,900-2,514 record over 35 years with Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis, La Russa trails only Connie Mack on baseball’s career wins list. He moved past John McGraw last season.

But there were big questions about whether La Russa was the right person for the job when the White Sox hired him to replace Rick Renteria. He hadn’t filled out a lineup card since 2011, when St. Louis beat Texas in the World Series. There were doubts about how someone known more for his scowl than smile would mesh with a fun-loving team that had just delivered the White Sox’s first playoff appearance since 2008.

Then, shortly after his hiring, news surfaced of an arrest on misdemeanor DUI charges.

La Russa blew out a tire on the Lexus he was driving in a collision with a curb that February in Arizona, after going to dinner with friends. The case was filed on Oct. 28, one day before the White Sox announced La Russa’s hiring.

He ended up pleading guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving and was sentenced to one day of home detention, a fine of nearly $1,400 and 20 hours of community service.

La Russa also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Florida in 2007 after police found him asleep and smelling of alcohol inside his running sport-utility vehicle at a stoplight.

La Russa captured championships with Oakland in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. The former big league infielder and Sparky Anderson are the only managers to win the World Series in the American and National leagues.

He got his first major league managing job at age 34 when the White Sox promoted him from Triple-A to replace the fired Don Kessinger during the 1979 season. He took over that August and led them to a 522-510 record over parts of eight seasons.

The 1983 team won 99 games on the way to the AL West championship – Chicago’s first playoff appearance since the 1959 Go-Go White Sox won the pennant. But La Russa was fired in 1986 by then-general manager Ken Harrelson after the White Sox got off to a 26-38 start, a move Reinsdorf long regretted.