Julian Guilarte, Reporter World Baseball Network
October 13, 2022
Tony La Russa is stepping down from the Chicago White Sox due to a health issue. It’s a very sad ending for La Russa. This of course wasn’t his first rodeo with the team and owner Jerry Reinsdorf wanted to nake amends for his mistake of firing him in the mid-’80s. La Russa was hired in 1979 and at the time was the youngest manager in the game at 34 years old. He now leaves as the oldest at age 78. It’s very ironic how things come full circle sometimes.
He managed the Sox for seven years and was fired in 1986. La Russa won manager of the year in 1983 but lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS. That was the only year they made the postseason under his first tenure. La Russa had a 522-510 record with the White Sox.
La Russa would go on to become one of the best managers in the history of MLB. He was hired by the Oakland Athletics around three weeks later. It was a slam dunk for La Russa since he once played for them. La Russa would win his World Series with the club in 1989. He also won manager of the year with them twice in 1988 and 1992. La Russa took the team to the World Series for three straight years from 1988-1990. His post-season record with the A’s was 19-13. After 1995 he moved on once the A’s owner sold the team. He left with a record of 798-673. He was now viewed as one of the game’s top managers and he quickly found work with the St. Louis Cardinals.
His legend grew even larger in St. Louis. This is the team that most people associate him with. He won his fourth manager of the year award with them in 2002 after finishing with a 97-65 record and winning the NL central. La Russa had his fourth playoff appearance with the Cardinals that season. It was the ninth of his career, but he came up short for the eighth time. La Russa finally won his second championship three appearances later in 2006. This was a historic championship because the Cards won just 83 games during the regular season. That is the fewest wins of a World Series team in the 162-game season era. La Russa worked magic that year and solidified himself as a Cardinals legend. La Russa would win it all again in 2011 which was his third championship. He made the postseason nine times in 15 years as the Cardinals manager. La Russa was third all-time in MLB managerial wins, then decided to walk away into the sunset.
La Russa was still involved in the game after his tenure with the Cardinals. Three months later, he accepted a role as an executive vice president of MLB operations helping Joe Torre. In 2014 he became the chief of baseball operations for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He did that for five years before joining the Los Angeles of Anaheim as a senior advisor of baseball operations in 2019.
He was out of the game for 10 years when the White Sox came calling again. This hire was completely unexpected and was highly questioned at the time. It didn’t help that he got charged with a DUI just before being rehired. The White Sox had so much young talent, but they needed someone to take it over the top. La Russa was debated because of the way the game had changed analytically. It was also a talking point if he could relate with the young players. He struggled to get on the same page with them, and that was apparent when Yermin Mercedes got benched for swinging at a 3-0 pitch in a blowout game. The team made the playoffs, but Mercedes was never the same. It seems like that was the moment he lost the locker room. They got swept in the playoffs by the Astros in the ALDS.
One of the few positives that came this season was on June 6th when he passed John McGraw for the second most managerial wins of all-time. La Russa now has 2,901 wins and he now trails Connie Mack who has 3,731. His teams made the postseason 15 seasons out of the 36 seasons he managed.
La Russa deserved a better send off than this. It almost feels wrong that Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright get to enjoy this glorious last ride without him. La Russa was the staple for those guys when they won both of their Championships. I know health was an issue, but it would’ve been great to see him get a more proper send-off. The White Sox were picked by many to win the AL Central but fell well short. La Russa’s ending was brutal, but his legacy is still secured. He was inducted into Cooperstown in 2014 with a unanimous vote.