Following up: Tony La Russa still in limbo, with Tim Anderson’s status update coming

Nearly two weeks after the White Sox announced that Tony La Russa had to step aside for medical reasons, La Russa was back in the White Sox dugout. He wasn’t managing, but he did offer a general sense of what sidelined him.

This situation being what it is, again, only one reporter was given specifics, and it wasn’t a member of the White Sox’s beat. This time, it was Bay Area AP reporter Janie McCauley.

That general sense also applied to any timetable for a return:

“They fixed it; now it’s a question of regaining strength. So don’t mess with health. I’m mending.”

If and when La Russa returns to managing “will depend on the experts,” he said.

“Reading the situation, they ask me how I feel because I do a little more, and how you respond to a little more affects it, so I think it’s uncertain,” he said.

The caginess of it all still strikes me as unnecessary, especially when considering the stakes of the season. La Russa said he didn’t want to be a distraction, but leaving his status open-ended with 21 games to play and the Sox 2½ back of Cleveland means we have to judge him by actions, and those consume a lot of attention.

Maybe it’d be different if the White Sox had led the division before La Russa’s absence, and visions of October were on the verge of slipping away, but even then, it’d probably be more useful to have the organization’s full faith and credit behind the guy who is actually handing matters in the dugout, even if everybody has doubts about the replacement. That remains the strangest part to me — the unwillingness to back Cairo as a novice who might be asked to finish the job.


Shortstop has dangled as a similarly open question for the season’s final fortnight, although Elvis Andrus’ immediate comfort handling shortstop on the South Side generated a second key distinction to make everything easier to navigate.

  1. Everybody was made aware of Tim Anderson’s condition and timetable from the start.
  2. The replacement has nearly 2,000 games under his belt, and he’s never played better.

Andrus is hitting .293/.337/.511 in 20 games since joining the White Sox, with five homers and 20 RBIs. That nearly matches Anderson’s power output (six homers, 25 RBIs) in a quarter of the playing time.

Anderson is entering the fifth week of his six-week timetable for returning from hand surgery, and Miguel Cairo said Anderson will see a specialist on Tuesday to understand when a next step is possible. All of that is how it should be.

The situations with La Russa and Anderson overlap in the sense that when we last saw both of them, their productions hadn’t been matching their reputations. Nothing La Russa is doing will compel the Hall of Fame to revise his plaque, and Anderson posted an Alcides Escobar-like .249/.287/.290 line since coming back from his groin injury. All the while, La Russa never budged him from the leadoff spot, so while Anderson represented an improvement over Leury García while playable, the extra exposure of a replacement-level player negated the effects of the upgrade.

Perhaps Anderson’s hand injury gave his legs the rest they needed, but between his lower body, his hand and any rust-related issues, he could face a multi-front war upon his return. And that could create a multi-front battle with distractions if the Sox court pressure to restore Anderson’s status without proof of production.

I don’t want to get too deep into that situation because it doesn’t seem wise to project playing time, positions and batting order. Too much can change between today and next Monday. Maybe Anderson has a setback. Maybe Andrus gets hurt and/or plunges into a slump. Maybe they’re five games back. Maybe they’re one game up. Maybe La Russa returns and consumes all the oxygen the Sox needed for fire. These aren’t rote, CYA assessments of everything that could happen — they’re well within the precedents set by the 2022 White Sox and the 2022 AL Central.

What we know is that Anderson won’t be a factor in MLB plans this week, and every game matters too much to look past them. The White Sox are at a disadvantage, trailing the Guardians by 2½ games. Add a game to that deficit if the Sox don’t sweep the remaining four head-to-head games, because Cleveland would own the tiebreaker otherwise.

What the Sox have in their favor is a schedule that allows carefully considered decisions. They have off days today and the next two Mondays, the only contender on the calendar the next two weeks is their direct competition, and they’re home for three of those four games against the Guardians. Cleveland, meanwhile, is three games into a stretch of 18 games over 17 days, so Terry Francona might have to weigh overusage concerns and leverage concerns night after night.

Given the standings, the Sox could play like a first-place team the rest of the way and still miss the postseason. Such is life when you treat the first five months like extended spring training. What the Sox can’t afford to do is hamstring this last burst because they felt obligated to the statuses of La Russa and Anderson held at the start of the season. The White Sox looked like a different team from the one everyone expected. They should get comfortable being managed like a different team, by a different manager, the rest of the way.

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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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mikeyb

After last season’s ability to pick up a random dude, shove them into a key role, and watch them perform like an all-star for a month, Andrus has picked up that mantle. And really Cueto too. Next year the Sox shouldn’t even call up a single prospect. Just find a random person to fill in every time somebody gets hurt. Eloy is hurt? Grab Josh Reddick off the Savannah Bananas. Bummer is hurt? Dan Straily is pitching well in the KBO. Jose and Leury run into each other fielding a grounder? Grab Frank and Gordon out of the booth and have Chuck do the postgame show by himself.

Augusto Barojas

Finding a random dude to plug a hole, that’s the Sox motif every offseason. Andrus and Cueto have worked out due to injuries. Their offseason pick ups, not so much.

dwjm3

I was somewhat encouraged that LaRussa didn’t show up to Oakland chomping at the bit

I sort of was expecting him to show up Oakland acting like he was fit and ready with not much regard for what any doctor thinks.

He would never admit it, but I bet the way the team performed in his absence gave him a bit of pause.

Augusto Barojas

Egomaniacs will never admit to anything.

As Cirensica

This is very true. Also, egomaniacs always fail to see how others can do something better than them. Cairo can win a WS, 5 Nobel Prizes, 10 Oscars, and in the eyes of an egomaniac, Cairo is still inferior than him. The USA lived that for 4 years. They should be well versed on this topic.

Last edited 2 months ago by As Cirensica
chipporter

The word I like to apply, is, narcissist.

chipporter

That was great, thanks. I’m not trying to open political debate here, but one of the things everyone, supporters and detractors both, of Trump have to say, is that he believes whatever he says after it comes out of his mouth. I see that in Tony also. I’m sure that’s a step beyond either egocentrism or narcissism.

roke1960

I agree. Trump is an egomaniac. But every politician is to some extent. At least the ones that can speak for themselves.

calcetinesblancos

It’s honestly pathetic that the team suddenly has a real chance to win the division thanks to their recent great play, and this TLR crap is the main story and a huge distraction.

Augusto Barojas

I had started to envision the Sox taking over 1st place, with Tony returning just in time to ruin things. Or them actually winning the division, and Tony making it back in time to be the albatross he’s been all season in the playoffs. Now it seems more likely the Sox will not take over 1st at all. Or lose the lead at the very end of the season with Cleveland ending with 6 at home vs KC.

I’m still hopeful he will manage zero games next year, and that a failure to make the playoffs will make positive changes more likely in the offseason for once. If they won a first round playoff series, you could see them using that to justify doing nothing in the offseason for a third straight year.

As Cirensica

Cleveland can lose the Division before the final Royals series. Keep in mind the Guardians are a very flawed team. They are leading the division because the other Division teams allowed it. The Guardians didn’t crush us or the Twins. They aren’t actually crushing anybody.

roke1960

Agreed. The Guardians are sending Connor Pilkington, some guy named Morris and TBD against the Angels with a healthy Mike Trout. There’s a reason why the Guardians are only 7 games over .500. They are not very good. If the Sox keep Tony away from the team and can get 3 out of 4 from the Guardians in the games they play, they should be in good shape heading into the last 2 weeks.

Dennis

being down 4 games in the loss column, the goal should be to sweep all 4 vs Cleve. 3 out of 4 only gains them 2 games.

Augusto Barojas

I know the Guardian’s are not great. But all else equal, I think they are a good bet to win more of their final 6 games at home vs KC than the Sox are vs the Padres (in SD) and Twins. Esp if the Padres have not clinched a playoff spot.

So the Sox had better be in first with a lead before then. Their chances of gaining ground at the very end would appear to be pretty slim. How did Cleveland end up with 6 straight at home vs KC to end the season?

metasox

6 games is a fluke of the rescheduled lockout games.
Cleveland would be favored in that series. But it is weird enough that I could see KC showing up more than expected. I figure no team wants to be embarassed in a 6 game series.

Augusto Barojas

KC may not roll over, but would you rather play a team at home that has a .400 winning percentage, or a team on the road (SD) that has a .550 wp (and the Twins, a .500 team the other 3). The last 6 are still a clear and significant advantage for the Guardians, no question.

Well after tonight the Sox are 3 out. Going to make the head to head games vs Cleveland pretty much do or die for the Sox. Even a sweep only puts the Sox ahead by one game. A split or worse and they’re pretty much done. Guardians win tiebreaker if they end with same record, also.

Last edited 2 months ago by Augusto Barojas
asinwreck

Andrus is hitting .293/.337/.511 in 20 games since joining the White Sox, with five homers and 20 RBIs.

Elvis is the antonym of César.

As Cirensica

And he didn’t cost the White Sox Pilkington. I don’t want to “Godify” Andrus, but without him, I don’t think the White Sox would near close to 1st place as they are now.

Joliet Orange Sox

Since Elvis has solidified the de-fense, can we de-ify him?

Last edited 2 months ago by Joliet Orange Sox
To Err is Herrmann

Of the many nightmare scenarios that run through my head, one of my deepest fears is that Cleveland & The Sox will be tied for first going into the last game of the season, at which point TLR will announce he is now manager, bat Leury leadoff, put Grandal at DH, tell everyone to rest their legs, then bring in Joe Kelly and Jake Diekman with the game on the line. Graveman & Hendricks will be rested because they pitched earlier in the series, and Elvis Andrus will be on the bench because Leury hits righties better. As the season comes to a close, Tony once again asks Joe McEwing for a pair of his cletes. Five minutes after the game, Jerry announces a 5-year contract extension for both Tony and Rick Hahn, who states that the offseason goal is to fill the roster holes at both RF and 2B, then extends Diekman’s contract by three years.

Augusto Barojas

That scenario is less likely after tonight’s Guardian’s win. Their magic number is now 19, if I heard correctly that Cleveland wins the tie breaker if they finish with the same records.

Sox have 21 games, Cleveland 23. If that’s right, the Sox could go 14-7, and the Guardians would just need to go 12-11 to still win the division. Sox pretty much need to absolutely kill the last 3 weeks. Esp Thursday, when they are lucky enough to have Giolito pitching.

HallofFrank

It’s not as big a hill to climb as it seems because the Sox have four more games against the Guardians. If they go 3-1, they only need to make up 2 games elsewhere to be in sole possession of first. Sweep, and they’re in the lead with the tiebreaker. If they split or lose, the mountain is steep. But if they win three, I’d say the division is roughly a coin flip.

Augusto Barojas

Not over yet, but the Sox have to play great for the rest of the season without exception, basically. Other than the 4 with the Sox, 16 of Cleveland’s 19 remaining games are 2 vs Angels, 6 with KC, 3 with Texas, and 5 with the Twins. Not exactly a juggernaut schedule. And 17 of their last 23 are at home (11 of 21 for Sox are at home). Unless the Sox sweep, I think coin-flip is pure fantasy. If they lose Thursday (with Giolito pitching as it stands now) it would be very close to over.

HallofFrank

The Sox don’t exactly have a juggernaut schedule, either. Neither team has a notable difference in schedule difficulty. Both play lots of games vs the Central, other bad teams, plus one good team. So, the schedule difference is moot.

I don’t think a coin flip is “pure fantasy” if the Sox win 3 of 4 vs. Cleveland. The Sox are the more talented team, I think, and I’d also give them the edge in “momentum,” if we care to assign value to that. For what it’s worth, Fangraphs gives the Sox a 23% to win now—and that’s not including the 2 games they could pick up from CLE.

It’s obviously still advantage Guardians at this point. And winning 3 of 4 vs. the Guardians is far from a sure thing. But my point is just that the gap isn’t as big as it seems because of those games. Take care of business there and this is a really close race.

ChiSoxND12

CLE has won 4 in a row and simply gets the better of the Sox more often than not when they meet up. Add to that what is in effect a 4 game lead and I think Augusto is correct in claiming a coin-flip is pure fantasy.

It’s literally fantasy when you’re already presupposing that the Sox take 3 of 4 vs CLE. I think that’s sort of in line with the definition of fantasy

HallofFrank

The “coin flip” comment was a conditional statement. I said: If the Sox take 3 of 4, then it’ll be a coin clip. So what I’m not saying is: “the division is coin flip right now.”

In fact, I said above: if the Sox split or lose the CLE series, the mountain is steep—and it’s very unlikely the Sox can climb it. I assume we all agree with that?

But my point was a pretty simple one: the gap isn’t as wide as it seems, because a good series vs. CLE makes the race very close. That’s the point. If that’s “pure fantasy,” I think we’ve lost all grasp on the definition of fantasy.

roke1960

Yes, IF the Sox don’t take at least 3 out of 4 from Cle, then it’s pretty much over. But they have the Twins for 5 and the Sox have them for 6. The Sox play 3 against SD, but Cleveland has 3 with Tampa. So their schedules are pretty similar. And the 4 with the Sox are in the middle of 14 games in the next 13 days for Cleveland. And two of Cleveland’s starters are hurt. So it’s not fantasy to think the Sox can catch Cleveland. But they can’t afford any more hiccups along the way. And if Tony is back in the dugout, expect a lot of hiccups.

As Cirensica

Easy schedule or not, not long ago the Guardians went 4 games in a row without scoring a single run (I don’t remember if it was 4 game or almost 4 games). The Guardians can lose against lesser teams and nobody will be shocked.

Augusto Barojas

So can the Sox. Esp if the party pooper comes back. If he does, it will be hard for me to even root for them to be honest.

As Cirensica

The White Sox are hitting the ball very well lately, and it is not a fluke because this is what it is expected. We are getting Robert back to boot. The Guardians has 104 homers this whole year. They are very limited offensively. They do not strike out, sure, but a lot of weak contact there.

Esteban

I see various condensed games daily and the Guardians are fighting to win each game. That enthusiasm shouldn’ t be understimated. On Sunday WSox played as usual, Cairo holding Cueto for long, Lambert and Graveman with their homer balls, Abreu swinging a 3rd strike like a child. I still doubt this team can win the division. This week will say the last word. If they win nothing will change for next season. Hahn still have a Dream of winning world series like the last season the Braves did it.

soxfan1959

After all my years of watching the Sox, I’d be pleasantly surprised if they took the division this year. My favorite player, Moncada, has been a huge disappointment and needs a change of scenery imo. If the Sox truly want to behave like a club that puts winning first, then they’ll need to make plenty of changes to the front office and the roster this off-season. Anderson will not get the payday he wants from the Sox, so he’s a trade candidate as well. Abreu will want to be paid as well, let him walk. That opens up positions for Vaughn, Burger, and others. TLR should walk away. His life and family should be more important to him than this job. Cairo has done a nice job and deserves a chance. Lastly, and I know it’s a pipe dream, I would break the bank and sign Aaron Judge this winter.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I would be very much in favor of you taking over for Hahn, and Jerry.

gibby32

Before I would be in favor or you taking over, I would like you to have a better sense of the possible. Moncada needs a change in scenery? Over the next 2+ years, the White Sox owe him AT A MINIMUM 46.8M. Exactly how would you accomplish the change in scenery? No one takes on that contract right now even if they do not have to give anything back. It’s a better bet to keep him and hope that he rediscovers 2019 form. Next year’s option for Tim is 12.5M. My bet is that they pay him and they should. But he’s not much of a trade candidate since, if the option is exercised, he is under control only for one year. I don’t know what Abreu wants, but a strong player for 9 years who wants to be with the White Sox and who is a role model for other Latin players is worth a fair amount. And you want to open up positions for Vaughn and Burger? They are slow, defensively limited players. Actually, Vaughn is the one who should be on the market. They would not be selling low and might get something in return.

Aaron Judge? Sure.

upnorthsox

But what’s 2019 form? It’s become apparent for many players that their 2019 will not return unless they bring back the super ball. It’s one of my biggest hesitations for Conforto. 2019 is becoming an automatic discounting as is 2020 (for different reasons), it makes it hard to truly evaluate players right now.

gibby32

Sure. But my point stands, however you measure 2019 performance. That year, one could easily envision a Moncada well in excess of an average major league performer, which led to his lucrative contract extension. Thereafter, whether attributable to “long covid” or whatever, one can not see that and his contract, as it currently stands, is an albatross. Hence, a “change in scenery” is currently a pipedream. The smartest course is to see whether he can become more productive, irrespective of the 2019 standard.

roke1960

Even 2021 Moncada was still a very solid player. I firmly believe he can be at least that moving forward. They would basically have to give him away because with that contract, you’re not getting much in return. If Vaughn is a slow, defensively limited player, then so is Jose. I would let Jose walk. He has become a very good singles hitter. That’s not the kind of guy we need in the 3-hole. And make Eloy the full-time DH. The bat plays very well. He is a solid cleanup hitter that should not put a glove on moving forward. The top 5 next year of TA, Yoan, Robert, Eloy, Vaughn would be very good. The big question mark is health. They need to find some way to keep them healthy.

gibby32

The counter argument is that you could actually get something, perhaps a young starting pitcher, for Vaughn. I like him ok, but I think White Sox fans are anticipating greater future performance than is likely. I don’t think he ages well.

roke1960

I don’t know why he wouldn’t age well. He’s a very solid hitter and as long as a future manager doesn’t stick him in the outfield he’ll be fine. Any guy who’s still hitting well after being forced badly out of position for two years has got to be pretty special.

chipporter

Please explain why you don’t think he’ll age well.

charlie

Wish I could agree roke but I can’t.
Moncada is a head case and strikes out far too much.

upnorthsox

Did we hear anything about TA and when he’ll return? He was supposed to see the doctor yesterday.