The Tony LaRussa Guide to Ruining a Legacy

After winning the World Series in 2011, Tony LaRussa retired from baseball on a high note; it was his third championship as a manager (2 with the St. Louis Cardinals, 1 with the Oakland Athletics) and everyone knew he was headed for Cooperstown. He really didn’t have anything left to prove.

It was the right time to walk away. Not only was he getting up there in age (66 at the time), but the game was also changing; both analytically and culturally. Many of these changes were a struggle for LaRussa, who moved to the front office side of the game.

In 3 seasons as the Chief Baseball Officer for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team was sub-.500 (216-270) and made a series of disastrous moves: signed Zack Greinke to a 6 year, $206.5M contract, traded outfielder Ender Inciarte and prospects Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair to the Braves for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier, and spent $85M on international free agents Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Lopez. When the team went a different direction, LaRussa left the organization. He would then spend some time with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels, but he wasn’t a decision maker with those teams.

LaRussa also struggled to keep his mouth closed about issues within the game. The biggest time was when kneeling became a polarizing thing in sports back in 2016. LaRussa, in an interview with SI, said he wouldn’t support players that kneeled during the National Anthem in baseball and that players should essentially believe the same things as the people that pay their salaries. He also ripped Colin Kaepernick as being insincere and seeking attention.

So when LaRussa’s name popped up this past winter as a managerial option for the young Chicago White Sox, everyone was surprised. Everyone was more surprised when he got the gig. The surprises would keep coming.

Just days after the hiring, news broke that LaRussa had been arrested for a DUI 8 months before he was hired; the team was aware of this when they hired him. This was the second time he’d been arrested for it; the first was in 2007 while with the Cardinals. What’s worse? Both came after losing Cardinal reliever Josh Hancock in a drinking and driving accident during the 2006 season.

Off to a rocky start as it was, LaRussa needed to do something to acclimate with the team. He went on record stating his kneeling/Kaepernick stance was wrong. I mean, it’s a franchise that had 8 players/coaches kneel on Opening Day of 2020. It’s a franchise that employs Tim Anderson, one of the “new aged”. By new aged players, I mean guys that like to talk, flip their bats, and have fun playing the game. Guys like Bryce Harper, Trevor Bauer, and Fernando Tatis Jr. Anderson has flipped his bat and mouthed off to other teams; he’s also a player that has been on the forefront of talking about social issues.

Would the new manager be able to relate to these young players on his team and playing against him and the old school style?

Apparently not.

Monday, up 15-4 against the last place Minnesota Twins, the White Sox DH Yermin Mercedes launched a 3-0 pitch from utility man Willians Astudillo over the outfield wall. The Twins and their broadcast team didn’t appreciate Mercedes (who is a rookie) swinging at 3-0 with an 11 run lead.

LaRussa didn’t appreciate it either.

“He made a mistake,” La Russa said. “There will be a consequence that he has to endure here within our family. But it won’t happen again because (third base coach) Joe (McEwing) will be on the lookout and I will be too, and we’ll go running in front of the pitcher if we have to.”

The Athletic

A manager shouldn’t throw a player under the bus like this; your job, especially with young players, is to protect them and help them learn. Publicly stating what he did was wrong is a good way to lose a clubhouse.

LaRussa then doubled down after Twins reliever Tyler Duffey threw behind Mercedes the next day. LaRussa didn’t think it was intentional, which is obviously was.

“That’s the umpire’s opinion,” La Russa said of the ejections. “It wasn’t obvious to me. The guy threw a sinker. It didn’t look good. So, I wasn’t that suspicious. I’m suspicious if somebody throws at somebody’s head. I don’t have a problem with how the Twins handled that.”

The Athletic

The clubhouse doesn’t agree with their manager. Mercedes after the homer said he wasn’t changing anything about his game; as he shouldn’t. If the Twins were offended he swung there, play better. If he were to take the pitch and ground out on the next one, then the Twins mount a miraculous comeback, he’d be kicking himself for following this “unwritten” rule.

His teammates are agreeing with him. Lance Lynn, who played under LaRussa in St. Louis was critical of him:

“The more I play this game, the more those rules have gone away and I understand it. The way I see it is for position players on the mound, there are no rules. Let’s get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there. That’s the way I see it. Can’t get mad when there’s a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing.”

Lance Lynn

As was Anderson, who took to Instagram and Twitter:

Even players outside of Chicago are chiming in. Trevor Bauer has been very outspoken about the unwritten rules:

And the inevitable…LaRussa fired back at Lynn via the media:

“Lance has a locker. I have an office. … I don’t agree.”

Tony LaRussa

Cardinal fans are starting to have flashbacks. LaRussa was know for his clashes with players, specifically shortstop Ozzie Smith and third baseman Scott Rolen. Smith cited race as part of the reason for the rift and wouldn’t associate with the organization after his playing days until LaRussa left. Rolen had to be traded because the 2 could not co-exist in the clubhouse. There were also reportedly conflicts with Brendan Ryan, Ryan Ludwick, and Colby Rasmus, who were all ran out of town. What’s going to happen to Lynn and his 1.55 ERA for disagreeing? How about Anderson and his .302 batting average? Both players are critical to the success of the White Sox and I’m pretty sure the organization doesn’t want to lose either one.

The White Sox are currently in first place, but I expect that to change as the season goes on. He’s losing his team and I expect more players to speak out against him, which will carry onto the field. Which is unfortunate for a few reasons. This is a good team, and under a different manager, they could have gone on a nice run. It’s also a shame for LaRussa, as this will tarnish a pretty good legacy.

One thought on “The Tony LaRussa Guide to Ruining a Legacy

  • Thomas Hall

    After seeing the way the Sox tanked, who cares about La Russa’s legacy? He was Jerry Reinsdorf’s accomplice in destroying the team! Reinsdorf went around the front office to hire a personal favorite, which shows that he didn’t give two damns about what was best for the team! La Russa clearly was not doing his job as manager, and felt that he was with the team just to collect a paycheck. This was evident in the fact that he never confronted the team over nonstop, amateurish baserunning and fielding mistakes! The team’s lackadaisical play showed that he was doing nothing to light a fire under the team. After a loss to Kansas City in which the Sox had ten hits but scored only one run, La Russa credited the Kansas City pitcher, rather than addressing his own team’s failure to drive runners home. The Sox were one of the worst, if not the worst, hitting team with runners in scoring position! One run on ten hits? Really! There was another game in which they scored only three runs on fourteen hits! Performance issues were never dealt with!!

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