Tony La Russa’s second first impression garners better reviews

If the White Sox could have hired a manager all over again, they still probably would have done most things the same, because Jerry Reinsdorf’s peculiar brand of loyalty often makes life harder for people to whom he should be equally or more loyal (e.g. active employees and fans).

Assume that Tony La Russa is still managing the team no matter what, and that the news of his DUI unfolds the same way. The White Sox still left room for revision.

Take La Russa’s introductory Zoom conference, where you wouldn’t have known that he was assuming the leadership of one of baseball’s young, exciting rosters, because he failed to mention a single young, exciting player. The only White Sox he mentioned from this century was Harold Baines, although La Russa probably pictured the version with hair from the early 1980s.

That he wasn’t conversant about the current roster paired poorly with his lack of conversations with current players, because most of his other musings about today’s game all seemed out of sociopolitical step. Include the attempts by Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams to avoid personal ownership of the decision, and the Sox provided plenty of fault lines for those wondering how it might all fall apart.

But if you gave his Hall of Fame track record even a little credit, then La Russa wasn’t going to blow up a tight-knit and productive clubhouse immediately upon entering it, even if some players might not fit the La Russa mold based on previous words and actions.

Sure enough, La Russa admitted nerves about addressing the team on the first full day of spring training, which indicates a respect for what he’s inheriting.

To prove his point that he’s always on edge, La Russa pulled a note card for his first speech as Sox manager from his pocket while doing a news conference after the workout. It was a work that had been in the works for some time.

“It may sound a little theatrical, but a couple of days after I was named manager [in November], my head and my heart were full of thoughts, and I made notes and notes,” La Russa said.

And sure enough, whatever reservations Tim Anderson harbored upon the hiring of La Russa seem to have dissipated after the first couple days of personal interactions.

“I got to know him more as a person and more so even than the manager part,” Anderson said. “But yeah, just to see what page he’s on is definitely awesome. Just have conversations with him, very motivating. The drive to want to win, he has that. I’m behind him 110 percent. That’s the ultimate goal is to win and to win a World Series here. I’m behind him.” […]

Anderson claims to feel no hesitation about bringing any issues to La Russa. Part of that may have been developed in their conversation. Part of that might just be Anderson.

“I can talk to him,” Anderson said. “I can tell him anything I want to. I ain’t afraid of him. Tell him that (laughs).

The Sox may have committed one unforced error after another in the rolling out of their new manager, including but not limited to leaving A.J. Hinch’s signature on the social media graphic introducing La Russa. Yet now that baseball season is actually here, La Russa has provided the sense that he knows enough about his job — including knowing what he doesn’t know about his job — to make it relatively smooth sailing, at least through the remainder of spring training.

The regular season will pose its own complications, but while Anderson and Lucas Giolito have been easy points of reference for potential conflicts, I suspect that any tensions will manifest themselves in less likely or less outward-facing places. That presupposes that any unusual conflicts will arise at all, which also might be faulty, but when La Russa runs Adam Engel out of town on a rail in June for saying “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome,” I want you to say you heard it here first.

(Photo via @whitesox on Twitter)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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There are reasons the guy is in the Hall of Fame, and none of them are named Reinsdorf.

Last edited 2 years ago by David

So LaRussa went with uniform number 22. I’m guessing the first 2 is for his second stint with the White Sox and the second 2 represents his drunk driving incidents.


Nope- the first 2 represents the number of World Series the Cardinals won under his leadership, and the 2nd 2 is the number of World Series he expects to win with the White Sox.

Trooper Galactus

Either that or the two World Series he lost with the Cardinals.


So you’re finding a negative in the fact that he took the Cardinals to 4 World Series??

Trooper Galactus

I was trying to suggest that as further evidence of his existing bona fides.

Last edited 2 years ago by Trooper Galactus
Trooper Galactus

It’s not like they’re gonna un-retire Luke Appling’s #4 for him, right?


I was against the sham process of the TLR hire from the beginning, and it only got worse with the embarrassing DUI news and handling. However, now in 2021, I look at it this way: If the Sox underperform this season, there was going to be reckoning no matter what. The expectations are set super high, and the accountability and ramifications should be (theoretically) as well, whoever the manager was.

If RR were still here and the team struggled, fans would be out for blood with pitchforks (2003 Jerry Manuel style), regardless of how well-liked and “normal” he is. It’ll be easier to hate TLR if things go wrong, but the resulting second guessing and havoc would’ve happened either way. The moral of the story is: If the team wins, all is good. If the team loses, it will get ugly anyway.


Isn’t it fun hoping that your team fails and succeeds at the same time?


I don’t buy it. The Sox were good last year with a less talented team—and probably a Lance Lynn away from making a deep playoff run. If RR stayed and things went poorly, I suspect there would be clamoring for replacement but not “blood with pitchforks”—unless it was somehow clearly his fault.

However, if things go poorly now, especially in a way that confirm fan’s fears about TLR, fans will be especially ticked. Because it’ll at least look like the Sox were good…until the White Sox FO stepped in.


They finished third in their division, and only made the playoffs because it was the most expanded playoffs in mlb history….. not saying they werent “good” but they weren’t some juggernaut team. And probably 5 or 6 teams you could reasonably say would hypothetically make a deeper run had they obtained a top tier starting pitcher.

Its not that the 2021 sox roster isnt a bit better then 2020, its that they easily could have made it significantly better and didnt due to self imposed financial restraints.


Saying they “only made the playoffs because it was…expanded” is a counterfactual. In fact, they were the first AL team to clinch a playoff spot. Then, of course… 2-8. That’s not to excuse the 2-8, but I also don’t think it was a coincidence. We don’t know what that finish looks like in a world in which only 4 AL teams make the playoffs. Maybe they go 2-8 regardless? I’m guessing things are different, though, and they would have still been the first AL team to clinch (or close to it).

As for the rest of your comment – sure. My point is that this ’21 team is better on paper than the ’20 team and the ’20 team was pretty good. So, if the ’21 team is bad, then fans are going to ask: “what changed?” And assuming they don’t point the finger at roster improvements, the obvious answer is “the coaching staff.”

Now, to be crystal clear: I’m not saying that’s correct. I just responded to Buehrlesque’s original comment.


They … only made the playoffs because it was the most expanded playoffs in mlb history.



HallofFrank and Oddvark are correct. To add one specific point: even though the Sox were the 7 seed, they still would have made the playoffs under the normal rules, even with the bad finish. Cleveland and the Sox would have been the wild card teams under the traditional format. The Sox were 35-25. The three teams that only made the playoffs due to the expanded format: Yankees (33-27), Blue Jays (32-28), and Astros (29-31).

As Cirensica

I still have this theory that La Russa was hired thinking on the playoffs. Reinsdorf wants to have a manager with post season experience that knows how to get it done the “old way”. I don’t know if it is gonna work, but I can tell you this, if the White Sox go to the playoff, I am happier we have La Russa instead of Renteria.


During Spring Training, I’m assuming La Russa is going to stay somewhat away from the pitchers, at least in terms of managing their mechanics or approach to the game. The top 3 guys in the rotation are all veterans, the bullpen should be strong, and I’m guessing Katz will be spending plenty of time digging in with the back end of the rotation.

On the position player side, he probably won’t need to do much in terms of getting the most out of C, 1B, and RF, and really if he just keeps SS and 3B happy, things should be good there.

So if he can get Robert to play with consistency, help Madrigal get up to MLB speed, and keep Eloy from breaking himself, I would say that’s a win for the offseason. I’m guessing those 3 guys will be his main focus during the Spring, and if he can make any breakthroughs there, I would consider that a very successful offseason from a managerial standpoint.


LaRussa is smart enough to know that he just needs to stay out of the players’ way and let them be themselves. His job is to get the team prepared to be successful, and to be as well-prepared as possible for managing game-to-game. I think we’ll find out very early in the season just what a difference he will make in making effective in-game decisions versus what Ricky did. That is why he is here. And the fact that TA and Giolito and Eaton and Abreu and Lance Lynn all seem to be 100% behind him, I think, shows that they think the same thing. Everyone has the same goal on this team- to win the World Series. There aren’t too many managers out there who know how to do that better than Tony.


Within the clubhouse/dugout, I’m most interested to see how La Russa and Katz handle the pitching staff. La Russa needed to sign off on hiring Katz, so they surely have discussed what appropriate workloads for starters and relievers are.

I expect we won’t hear a whole lot about friction with players, even if it exists. Hoping that his desire to unite the players against the common enemy of The Rest of the World prevents conflicts like the ones he had with Ozzie Smith and Ron Gant.

It will also be interesting to see how La Russa handles the media. St. Louis is not exactly known for its hard-hitting sports media, and the last time La Russa put on a Sox uniform was six years before WSCR went on the air as a daytime-only station. He has never enjoyed being scrutinized by the media, and I wonder if he’s prepared for Chicago’s media over the course of a long season.


“But if you gave his Hall of FameR BASEBALL PERSON track record even a little credit …” 

Sorry, I couldn’t resist 😛