Why Tony La Russa is a sincerely curious choice for Chicago White Sox manager

12:25 PM ET


Jeff Passanpen

Shut up.

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In November 2014, six months after Arizona Diamonds appointed Tony La Russa as its chief baseball director, the organization announced that it had hired Dr. Ed Lewis as its first director of baseball analysis and research. He had no experience in this area. He has a doctorate in veterinary medicine. Lewis came to Diamond Returns because he had a quality that was much more important than developing algorithms or building models: He’s been friends with Tony La Russ for 35 years.

Lewis’ rent brought the chickpeas into play. By the time La Russa was out of power for three years, the diamond towers had disappeared between 212 and 274. The managing director he chose, his old friend Dave Stewart, was fired. Lewis has been replaced.

Nepotism in the game is as old as spit, and the inner circle of the powerful – they are all men – has been feeding it for decades. When they want something, they usually get it.

Jerry Rainsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox for nearly 40 years, said he regretted the deal with Harold Baines because otherwise Baines would have won 3,000 votes. He ended his career at 2,866 and the rest of his rooms were very shy by Hall of Fame standards. So Rainsdorf found a seat in the Hall committee, which voted in a special ballot with players from Baines’ time, furiously campaigned for Baines and pushed him to Cooperstown. Tony La Russa got one of 11 votes.

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That’s how it works. And that’s how the most inexplicable news of the off-season came in on Thursday: La Russa, now 76 years old and after spending nine years in the shelter, has been appointed director of the White Sox. He has inherited a team full of dynamic young talent – a team that in many ways embodies the new era of baseball, whose principles and priorities contrast with La Russa.

In this off-season, no job is wanted more than that of the White Sox – even the Boston Red Sox, the big market, with a lot of money. The White Sox are a willing opponent, the play-off team that fired their manager Rick Renteria and publicly announced their intention to take a step forward with their recent championship experience. The opportunity was unmistakable. The last time a play-off team fired a manager just after the end of the season – 2017, when Boston fired John Farrell and Washington fired Dusty Baker. The following year the Red Sox won the World Series led by Alex Cora. A year later Davy Martinez returned to the national championships.

Tony La Russa got the job at the White Sox this week for another friendly job. In 1986, Rainsdorf transferred former player Ken Hawk Harrelson from the transfer stand to the front office. Executive Director Roland Hemond was demoted and left the office. Harrelson fired a 29-year-old CEO, Dave Dombrowski. And he also acquitted the director.

Getting Harrelson La Russa fired, Rainsdorf said, was his greatest regret, which was even greater than what had happened to Harold Baines. And at 84 years old, Rainsdorf wasted no time correcting that mistake.

The White Sox recently contacted A.J. Hinch, a former director of Houston Astros, to determine his interest in their open management work, told League sources to ESPN. Hinch said he liked the work, according to some sources. Only one hook has become visible within the organisation over the past few days: After La Russa had expressed his wish to reign, no one was lucky anymore.

The White Sox announcement finally came on Thursday – at the same time that Hinch held an interview with the Detroit Tigers, a rival of the Central League in the American league of Chicago. According to some sources, Hinch is about to agree on the management of the Tigers, a promising team that will challenge the White Sox as soon as possible.

Fault! The file name is not specified. – set


Sarah Spain is concerned that the White Sox have brought in Tony La Russa, and refers to his traditional vision of the younger team.

Hinch, 46 years old, was associated with his work in Chicago immediately after the dismissal of Renteria. He won the World Series on Astros in 2017 and moved on to another one in 2019, after which he was fired due to a scandal involving the theft of team boards. Hinch’s reputation was intact in most ways, and his experience in forming a young core in the championship group was almost perfect for the White Sox, who cut off the 2020 season and lost the first round of the playoffs. In fact, it was so good that the email that the White Sox sent to fans to celebrate the rental of La Russa included a picture of Hinch’s signature.

It was like the White Sox were walking around with their fans. The opening of this position was an excellent opportunity for the club to meet young, talented and diverse candidates in a team made up of stars from Cuba (Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, Ioan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal), Black (Tim Anderson) and the Dominican Republic (Eloy Jiménez). The other teams took advantage of this opportunity. Of the twelve people who would have been interviewed as Tiger, five are black, five are white and two are Spanish. Their age ranges from 38 to 61 years. Boston interviewed at least seven candidates: three white, two black and two Spanish.

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White Sox representatives said they didn’t interview La Russ, they interviewed USA Today: Willie Harris, long-time beneficiary of the White Sox, black man. Thanks to the club’s staff, the front office (Ken Williams, black, who serves as executive vice president) and Renteria’s pre-recruitment, the White Sox have been much more progressive in recruiting minorities than other teams. However, it is disappointing that Rainsdorf essentially disregarded the Selig rule, named after his old colleague and former commissioner Buda Selig, which required teams to interview minority candidates for leadership positions.

Nobody wanted to come and blow up Rainsdorf. His decision was made despite the fact that others were bald. Both the players and the regulars told ESPN that they were overwhelmed. Of course, they all respect La Russ’s insight as a manager. His achievements – 2728 victories, six World Series appearances, three titles – speak for themselves.

Those are his words, too. And the players and staff could hardly live without it.

Managing a team in 2020, despite the fact that the front offices write the line-up cards and serve as puppets, is perhaps the hardest daily job in baseball. The best managers are versatile: a strategist, a public relations specialist, a politician, a therapist, a mathematician, a motivational speaker, an innovator. A manager who has dealt with baseball, baseball and baseball without sacrificing a minute of his time for many other things is an anachronism. Or maybe it is.

Before spending a second hour as manager of the White Sox, La Russa turned his attention to the crossroads between his present and his past. Four years ago, when Colin Kepernick first got down on his knees to protest police violence against blacks, La Russa fired a jet at Sports Illustrated to show that his protest did not respect the constitution, the soldiers, the country and the American flag.

I really doubt the sincerity of someone like Kepernick, La Russa said.

Over the years, the protests, once limited to the NFL, have expanded to include baseball. On the opening day, Anderson, Abreu, Robert, Jiménez and star pitcher Lucas Diolito were among the eight uniformed White Sox collaborators who went down on their knees to sing the national anthem. An even more radical change from the last time La Russa took the lead – a sensational World Series 2011 victory with St. Louis – is the style of play on the field. The bat falls over… Anderson is one of the best… and an expression of emotion. Cuddles, especially, let the kids play this MLB. It’s the White Sox. It’s his personality. And given that in an interview with the Washington Post this summer, Fernando Tatis Jr., who was on the ground in a furious 3-0 game, was asked how exactly he was going to keep his team.

If that’s true, I don’t have a problem with that, La Russa said.

If it’s sincere.

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What I see now is that the players who are happier – I use Tim Anderson as an example – are now people who show that, hey, I pass, said La Russa, who ran Ricky Henderson’s pimp at home in Oakland, and Bash Brothers, who broke his forearms. In fact, Major League Baseball encourages them to do so. And when I see that it’s sincere and focused on the game, it reflects the emotions you want.

When I see it’s sincere.

If your team is partying and your team is partying, La Russa says, no team can get upset when you see a party, as long as everyone does it sincerely.

So far, everyone’s been sincere.

The Russa couldn’t resist. He continued to use that stool, the same one he had used four years ago when he attacked the Kepernicus patterns with fake vagrants.

Sincerely. Sincerely. Honesty. The same concept, the idea that everything under the microscope of La Russ – be it a protest or a Batflip – is perfect as long as it comes from a noble, honest and real place. Apart from the fact that it is nobility, honesty, this reality is not objective. No, you can’t. What is sincere for one can be misleading for the other, and when La Rousse was pointed out, he resorted to the same tired philosophy – when he sees it, he knows – a kind of incurable pride that would lead someone to hire a veterinarian to bend his mathematical muscles and gather supplies for a job in data science.

I appreciate the loyalty of the players to our team, La Russa said. And if you look closely at them, you can find sincerity when they say that I’m only helping the team, and then you look around and see that they’re not just helping. So I guess you’re watching the action.

Words are words. I’ve looked at the actions, and what I see is one of the reasons why I’m so excited about what I’ve seen in recent years, how the players support their words with action.

He’s right. He’s right. Words are words. And it was very interesting to hear how he remembered Kepernick four years ago.

I know that when the first song came out in 2016, I instinctively wanted to respect the flag and the national anthem and what America is, La Russa said Thursday.

Since 2016 a lot has been done in a very healthy way. I not only respect the awareness of what has happened in society but especially in sport, but I also applaud it. If you are talking specifically about baseball, I applaud it and support the fact that you are now working to expose injustices, especially from a racial perspective. And while he protests peacefully and sincerely… I’m in.

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Here we go again. Sincerity, as if sincerity is more important than injustice, as if it is necessary to confirm the other, as if his opinion counts more than that of Tim Anderson or Jose Abreu or Lucas Diolito or anyone else. It’s like he has a monopoly on honesty.

In fact, not four years, but nine months ago, when La Russa said in an interview with Graham Bensinger that I was so excited when I got down on my knees in the NFL. It’s not that you don’t have what you don’t like. There’s another way to protest. If you get down on your knees, you don’t respect the flag, the country and the national anthem. Men and women fight and die for it. This is not the right way to protest.

Maybe George Floyd changed things for La Russ. Maybe it was something else. Or perhaps the question should be asked whether the person who was just hired, when he or she was supposed to be a politician and a public relations specialist, said what he or she had to say and was not necessarily sincere. That’s too bad.

It is quite possible that Tony La Russa will be a great success as manager of the White Sox. Despite all the fears about hiring, which even La Russa confirmed on Twitter on Thursday night, the White Sox are an extremely talented team and La Russa is a historically competent manager. It doesn’t stop fate or fucking Chicago. What has disappointed White Sox fans so deeply is the logic, the process behind it and the unfortunate community that unites them.

No one can really say it better than La Russa: Is it rare to be able to lead such a talented team to victory?

Of course, the 2020 season has only just ended. No, we have no idea how it’s gonna go out of season. We always play against all 30 teams.
To an early performance appraisal

Extraordinary, especially the team that General Manager Rick Khan so skilfully put together – a team with Anderson, Robert, Moncada and Jimenez – has made long-term arrangements, with a core that should keep the White Sox competitive for at least the next half of the decade, and at best fighting for several championship titles. Logically, such a team must have a manager who grows with it, a manager who is not chosen by the owner, who tries to correct the mistakes made almost four decades ago, but by GM and the people who put the team together in the first place. This is how functional organisations work. Baseball players make baseball decisions. The owners let them do that.

It’s not a question of age. It’s more a matter of execution. Joe Maddon, 66, has been successful in 11 of them over the past 14 years, which is why he was hired by the Los Angeles Angels. Astros has had to rebuild his reputation and few people know how to charm the media and the public, just like 71-year-old Dusty Baker. What’s La Russa today? Another Jack McKeon or Bobby Valentine? Joe Gibbs or Dick Vermeil? Is he still a brilliant tactician – clearly better than anyone who hasn’t had any maintenance, because the nepotism that may now be in the fossils demands some compensation?

Either Rainsdorf didn’t know there would be widespread internal and external resistance to handing over the Corvette he had built to someone who hadn’t ridden it for ten years – or he didn’t care. The ex would be sad. The last one would have been furious.

Especially since Bensinger asked Rainsdorff in an interview nine months ago if La Russa would ever do it again, to which Rainsdorff replied: Management takes a lot of time. He’s got nothing else to do. He’s won three World Series. He’s in the Hall of Fame. There is no reason to go back to management and try to deal with people who are 22 when you are 75.

There was clearly a reason for this, because there was Tony La Russa, manager of the Chicago White Sox (1979-1986, 2021- ). He wanted something, and Jerry Rainsdorf gave it to him, like they always do. Now we’ll see how seriously he took it to make the best of it.

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