The last time he worked in a major-league dugout, Tony La Russa won a World Series.
Should he repeat the feat next season, maybe that would soothe angry White Sox fans.
To say Sox Nation is upset about Thursday’s announcement that La Russa is coming back to manage would be selling it way short.
Those not lashing out on social media about the move were probably on their phones canceling their season tickets or shopping for Cubs gear.
La Russa, who won the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 before retiring after a 33-year Hall of Fame run, is a curious choice as Rick Renteria’s replacement for myriad reasons:
• He hasn’t managed in nine seasons.
• He’s 76 years old.
• He’s close friends with Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who always regretted letting then general manager Ken “Hawk” Harrelson fire La Russa 64 games into the 1986 season.
• He seems way out of touch with major-league baseball’s push to “Change the Game,” with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson at the forefront of the movement to make the sport less boring.
Let’s start with that last point.
After firing Renteria on Oct. 12, general manager Rick Hahn said he was targeting a new manager that preferably had “experience with a championship organization in recent years.”
That sounds like AJ Hinch or Alex Cora. Maybe Bruce Bochy or Sandy Alomar Jr.
It’s been almost a decade since La Russa fit that description. Hahn explained the reasoning.
“When we discovered Tony was receptive to Jerry’s original overtures about potentially coming back and taking this position, that changed the focus,” the GM said. “Once it became clear that Tony was very much open to this possibility, the process did change, the focus became making sure we could figure out a way to make it work with Tony.
“As for the ultimate decision about how this takes place, or I should say the ultimate decision about going with Tony, you’ve heard me say over the last several years on major decisions, that it’s about consensus. It’s a conversation between the chairman, (vice president) Kenny (Williams) and myself, and ultimately we come to a conclusion together.”
Reinsdorf hasn’t talked with the local media in years, but he did speak about La Russa in 2014 when the manager was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“It was the biggest regret,” Reinsdorf said of firing La Russa four years after assuming control of the White Sox. “Well, it was the combination, naming a general manager (Harrelson) that shouldn’t have been a general manager and then letting him fire Tony.
“Over the years, we’ve really become like brothers. Just a very, very special friendship. As great a manager as he is, he’s a better human being. Just a great person.”
La Russa said his bond with Reinsdorf was not a factor in the decision.
“I don’t know how many of you have been fired, and if you’ve gotten fired, how close you could ever be to the person that decimated my family, my wife and little girls,” La Russa said. “I wouldn’t talk to him for years. That’s a little bit tongue in cheek, but not totally. If there was any truth to that, it would be really not reading Jerry Reinsdorf at all correctly.
“His major interest on the baseball side is what’s best for the Chicago White Sox and the fans that we’re hoping to drive into our ballpark in droves. Any past relationship or current relationship he’s had with me over the years, I mean, there were other opportunities to hire me and I wasn’t hired, by the way.”
If winning solves everything, there is a chance for La Russa to make his mark with an up-and-coming Sox team that made its first playoff appearance since 2008 this season.
Not only did he win two World Series rings with St. Louis, La Russa won another title with Oakland and made 11 other trips to the postseason.
“I can tell you this was made with the intent solely on putting us in the best position to win championships,” Hahn said. “It’s obvious, or easy, to fall back on narratives, that this was about friendship or potentially righting old wrongs or something like that.
“In the end, Tony was the choice because it’s believed that Tony is the best man to take us, to help us win championships over the next several years and usher us into what we expect to be a very exciting phase for White Sox baseball.”