Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is back in the dugout
By Matt Graves
After nine years away from managing, former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will make his return to the dugout in 2021 with the White Sox.
As I’m sure you all remember, the last time the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series, Tony La Russa was managing and Albert Pujols manned first base. Matt Holliday was roaming left field and Matt Carpenter was just a rookie.
Somehow, that was nine years ago, but that is the last time that Tony La Russa led a team from the dugout. After the magical 2011 run, La Russa stepped away from baseball. Since then, the Cardinals have retired his number and given him a red jacket.
That isn’t all La Russa has done though. After taking a few years off, he accepted a position as Chief Baseball Officer for the Diamondbacks to oversee their entire baseball operations department. There, La Russa added on former pitching coach Dave Duncan and former 1st base coach Dave McKay. After 2016, La Russa was demoted and resigned after the 2017 season.
He then jumped to the Red Sox as the team vice president and special assistant to Dave Dombrowski. After working with the Red Sox for two seasons, La Russa was hired by the Angels as a senior advisor in 2019. These other advisory roles were relatively out of the public eye and honestly, I had no idea La Russa worked with the Red Sox or Angels, but now, he is making the return to the dugout.
Following a season in which they made the playoffs, the White Sox fired their manager Rick Renteria and, as of Thursday, have hired Tony La Russa to come back to the dugout and manage their young team.
Tony La Russa was always known as a no-nonsense manager who pressured the Cardinals’ upper brass at times to make moves. He was a great manager here and did a great job of getting the most out of his players, demanding excellence.
The White sox have one of the most exciting young cores in baseball, lead by Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and more. That doesn’t mean that everyone was a fan of the hiring.
From the beginning of when the rumors that La Russa might get hired to the Sox started coming out, there were whispers of bad things coming from this if it did happen, and now we will see if any concerns are real.
The Chicago Sun-Times themselves published an article titled, “Tony La Russa hire would not be popular among White Sox fans,” again citing La Russa’s potential challenge to connect with the younger players.
It doesn’t seem like a managerial hire often stirs up this much controversy, but as Jeff Passan noted, it came down to White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf alone to make the call.
The Chicago Tribune wrote that this hiring was just Reinsdorf “asserting his authority,” which is an admittedly awful reason to hire a coach. Author Paul Sullivan also mentions that this hiring may be to make up for Reinsdorf allowing the firing La Russa as the White Sox manager way back in 1986. Again, not a good reason to hire a coach.
Either way, it will be odd to see the 76-year-old La Russa back in another dugout. As someone born in 1999, I’ve never seen him in any other jersey than the Birds on the Bat. The White Sox are a very exciting team and I hope La Russa’s time there cultivates that rather than him becoming some sort of a distraction. We shall see.