Tony La Russa’s team is leading the AL Central with a 26-19 record. And we can make the case that it should be better; based on runs scored and runs allowed, the Chicago White Sox should be 29-16.
So … Fire Tony?
Heck, no. The CWS are 20-11 in their last 31 games. They will get better, even with key lineup pieces Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez out with serious injuries.
I keep reading and hearing how La Russa is too old and grumpy, he’s hopelessly set in his ways, and he doesn’t accept the way baseball is played today. I keep reading and hearing that the game has passed him by, and that he can’t relate to young players, and that he’s absolutely the wrong guy for the job.
That’s all very interesting because I see that the White Sox are No. 8 in MLB in winning percentage, rank 5th in runs scored per game (5.04), and are 4th in run prevention at 3.62 per contest.
I see where they’re above league average at stealing bases (77% success), are 5th in the percentage of extra bases taken on batted balls (44%) and are above average defensively with eight defensive runs saved.
I also see that Tony La Russa has won five of six replay challenges this season for a 83.3% overturned rate that ranks No. 1 in MLB.
OK, so TLR was annoyed when rookie Yermin Mercedes missed (or ignored) a “take sign” on a 3-0 pitch with his team up by a gazillion runs. He homered. La Russa objected. It turned into a thing that lasted for days. La Russa could have been more diplomatic, but diplomacy has never been a particular strength of Don Tony’s. But he said his piece, a few of his players dissented, and the controversy sharpened the White Sox a little.
La Russa doesn’t mind if players get mad at him; he just wants them fired up. He wants brashness and toughness and a team that isn’t afraid to take on anyone … including the manager. It’s from the La Russa playbook. And it still works, as long as the manager doesn’t go too far. And despite the incessant caterwauling from media, TLR hasn’t done that.
But I am reading and hearing that Tony La Russa is a terrible manager, outdated and out of touch. And of course these narratives must be correct — because look at how poorly the White Sox are faring with the haggard Don Tony in charge, nodding off in the dugout at age 76.
La Russa isn’t nodding off. He’s as feisty as ever.
Feisty to the point that he’s been criticized for that too.
(This is known as having it both ways.)
And the White Sox are doing well in just about every area. A few blown saves have cost them victories.
But the White Sox are doing a helluva lot better than lazy media narratives. The premature narratives. La Russa is an easy target; always has been. Especially now, in the hot-take era of sportscasting and sportswriting. La Russa is an avatar for those who need a convenient example of intolerance, ancient thinking, and the “The Game Was Better In My Day” nonsense. La Russa has never felt that way; he’s as innovative a manager as baseball has ever seen.
Yeah, it’s a long season and all of that. And I’ve said all along that TLR’s biggest test is having maximum stamina and intensity over the entire season. That’s my No. 1 concern about this situation.
The White Sox are a fun team to watch. They’re very talented. They have an attitude. They are capable of irritating and distracting other teams, their critics and those who dislike him.
In other words, this is starting to look like a Tony La Russa team.
Thanks for reading …
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For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.