Here’s why the White Sox made the perfect hire with Tony La Russa

Chicago White Sox (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Chicago White Sox (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Tony La Russa getting hired as the Chicago White Sox manager happened quick, came out of nowhere, and has many White Sox fans upset, but could have the ultimate inspirational ending.

I get it. The complaints are loud and coming from all over. Tony La Russa was not the managerial hire the overwhelming amount of Chicago White Sox fans wanted. Many fans who were clamoring for Rick Renteria to be fired now want Renteria back over old-man, doesn’t-know-baseball-anymore-76-year-old La Russa.

The game has passed him by they say. He hasn’t managed since 2011. Baseball has changed. He won’t understand fWAR, xFIP, ISO and so on. Those concepts can only be comprehended by @seamheadsforlife and managers of today like… Dusty Baker, Joe Maddon, and by the book Kevin Cash.

And what about La Russa’s ability to get along with the players of today?! Did you see what he said about Colin Kaepernick’s protest in 2016 or the wrong way to protest in 2020?

Let’s tackle the baseball issue first. Does it make any logical sense one of the most astute baseball minds in the history of the game, the manager who won World Series championships with 99, 90, and 83 win teams, is all of a sudden dumbfounded by the game of today? That he simply can’t catch up to the lightning level speed baseball has changed?

Reminder-La Russa hasn’t been living his life on the golf course. He won a World Series ring in Boston in 2018 working as a an advisor, hired by his good friend Dave Dombrowski away from Arizona. Part of his responsibilities was working with rookie manager Alex Cora, an interesting connection to the managerial cheats of today many White Sox fans wanted to manage their team. A.J. Hinch will get his chance in Detroit after a too slim one-year suspension.

La Russa observed the game last season from the front office of the Los Angeles Angels as a senior advisor. I’m guessing the Angels didn’t hire support staff to frequent La Russa’s suite to explain him the importance of spin rate. Hey Tony, pitchers are getting guys out up in the zone today, do you understand? They also throw exploding sliders down and away sometimes. Crazy. Walks are good, so are home runs. Stealing bases when it doesn’t make sense, bad. Sometimes we shift when there is a pull hitter. I have no idea why players don’t bunt to get on, but they don’t.

I’ll bet on La Russa getting up to speed quickly from his familiar dugout seat where he has been a game changer his entire career accumulating the third most wins in the history of the game. La Russa has been an intimidator, an edge giver to his side. Chances are strong that will continue.

Now for the slightly trickier getting-along-with-his-players, becoming-a-more-progressive Tony part, which won’t happen overnight, but does have the highest upside.

First, lets be clear, La Russa has no choice. He is now part of the Chicago White Sox change the game” movement. Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito are not going to change, nor should they. Celebrating big moments will continue, as will progressive freedom of speech. La Russa needs to follow them.

He also needs his players to play for him. He must prove to them he can get along, relate, not be the old man in the room who still drinks whole milk and wants players to only play for the front of the jersey. In La Russa’s at times cringe worthy interview with Graham Bensinger this past February, he ended it with a bang on how to be an effective leader today.

"“If you want to lead today you have to lead from a basis of personalizing relationships.,” La Russa said. “First thing you do is you create a relationship of respect and trust and caring between you, your staff and the players among each other. It’s like family brotherhood. You have to be real about earning respect. You have to start at zero every year. You gotta be very real about trust. If they don’t trust you they won’t follow you and you gotta show them you care.”"

Does that sound like someone who is putting his thoughts and himself above his players, its my way or the highway? Or, someone who knows he need to be right there in the bunker with his guys?

I’d bet on La Russa understanding what needs to happen. Spending some important time in the front of the mirror asking himself how do I earn the respect of Anderson, Giolito, Abreu and company will be crucial. Where have I been off in some of my past thinking or just dead wrong? Why is it that none of my new players are celebrating my hire on social media or calling me? I must have some work to do.

La Russa is going to have to do some serious self reflection to have serious winning success. The old man’s view are going to have to evolve, change, expand with the times. He will have to realize, if he hasn’t already, that embracing we play louder, faster, bolder is the road to his White Sox reaching their 2021 lofty goal. Reminder- La Russa likes winning. A lot.

Winning a lot of games on the way to hopefully the World Series, while becoming a vocal champion for social injustice alongside his players, would be the ultimate trust and respect leadership move. Inspirational. Perhaps some of Tony’s friends who have shared his views might come along with their good pal Tony and see the crazy world we all live in a slightly different, more empathetic way.

The opportunity is sitting right there for La Russa and the White Sox, a true win-win if there ever was one. The ultimate Change The Game.