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Tony LaRussa turns 78 years old tomorrow, which will also mark the start of his 2nd retirement. Whether or not his due to health reasons or "health" reasons doesn't matter. Contrive all of the conspiracy theories you'd like. That shit doesn't interest me. What interests me is he will no longer be managing the White Sox.
When he was hired this time about 2 years ago, I thought to myself, "hmmm... okay. Well he's been out of the game for a decade but he is a Hall of Famer and this roster should be so loaded a monkey could manage them to the playoffs" but I was wrong. Way wrong. Ya know who was right though? Eddie. Eddie looked at me and said, "you're gonna have constant shit to talk about, both good and bad, for as long as TLR is managing the White Sox."
I don't think anyone has ever nailed a prediction better than that. Though it was mostly bad anytime he was in the news, the storylines kept coming and coming and coming and coming. For a journalist like me, it was a gold mine. So now that he's out of the White Sox dugout for good, let's reminisce on his tenure. I have officially reached the part of the season where I can laugh at them instead of wanting to spike my phone every time I think about them.
Before we get there, let's not forget - the entire organization was positive the White Sox were hiring AJ Hinch as manager, and so much so that the graphics/social team tweeted out a picture of Tony and forgot to change the signature from Hinch's to Tony's:
As soon as that happened, I knew Ed's prediction would be correct. We'd be getting wild story after wild story out of TLR.
This is a trip down memory lane. I'm gonna try to keep this in chronological order as best as I can:
1. Tony LaRussa got charged with his 2nd DUI a few months before being named White Sox manager:
This came to light literally the day after the team announced his hire. It's not funny, not at all. Drinking and driving is one of the most selfish things you can do. And to not learn your lesson after one DUI? You're a massive asshole. But it wasn't just that he got caught driving under the influence (again) it was that he tried to get out of it by name dropping himself:
"Ya see that ring? I'm a hall of famer, brother!"
And so would start what would be the most frustrating 2 year stint of managing in baseball history. It is the most White Sox thing EVER to announce a new manager then have to explain legal problems from said manager the VERY next day. It should be shocking, but it isn't. This is the White Sox we're talking about here.
2. Tony LaRussa vs. Yermin Mercedes:
Here's the TL/DR:
1. White Sox are beating the shit out of the Twins in early May
2. Twins bring in position player Willians Astudillo to pitch
3. Yermin Mercedes hits a ball to the moon off said position player on 3-0 count
4. Twins take exception to swinging 3-0 like pussies
5. Tony LaRussa defends Twins for being pussies instead of backing up his own rookie
Like I said, the Twins were acting like massive pussies here. You don't want players hitting nukes off you? Don't let them do it and do NOT cry when they do, especially if it's a 47mph batting practice pitch. That's a rational take, right?
Not to Tony LaRussa. He had this quote:
Even if he does believe this, which is possible considering the era he played and managed in, he is an INSANE person for saying this to the media. Keep it behind closed doors, Tony. You're just throwing chum blocks to the sharks with something like this. Always always always have your players' backs in situations like this, even if you don't believe it yourself. Loyalty goes a long way. That's how you got hired by Jerry for the 2nd time in 40 years.
A lot of people actually think this was the beginning of the end, too. From that point forward through the end of the 2022 season, the White Sox played about .500 baseball. They really weren't the same after this.
3. Jose Abreu gets plunked in head, Tony LaRussa breaks sound barrier in his defense:
I was actually in NYC for this one watching the game at some bar I found with the MLB package. It was laugh out loud funny. In a normal world, this would be an endearing meme that lives on the internet forever. Not in the White Sox or Tony LaRussa's world though. This one was overshadowed by like 3 other GIFs and meme's.
Love that he has his players' backs though. It completely made up for him not defending Mercedes like 2 months earlier lmfao
4. Batting Nick Williams cleanup (who?)
This one is especially hilarious to me because we as White Sox fans love bitching about lineup construction more than we love our own mother. Sure, Leury Garcia hit 1st, 2nd and 3rd plenty amount of times throughout the last two years, which is disgusting in and of itself considering he completely sucks at hitting baseballs, but Nick Williams? Cleanup on a team that says they're trying to win World Series titles? THIS GUY?
That's how you strike FEAR into opposition. Great call by Adam Hess on this one. The lineup constructions were hilariously bad. Here's another example:
Yeah let's hit our 2nd best hitter 9th. That's great strategy - put one of your best hitter in the spot in the lineup that comes up least. Got it.
5. Using Liam Hendricks as the runner on 2nd in extras:
This one was really bad. It was a full on admission that he didn't know current baseball rules.
6. Tony gets jiggy wit it in the dugout:
White Sox unveil City Connect uniforms. Tony gets jiggy wit it. Ya see guys! He isn't some old curmudgeon. He knows how to have fun. White Sox are back!!! Or something. I don't know. I do know this pic was only maybe topped by tonyscootingoutofdugout.GIF… so far.
7. Tony intentionally walks Trea Turner with 1-2 count:
This was the beginning of the end for Tony IMO. It left the ENTIRE stadium perplexed. Stone and Benetti were both speechless, as was I. Best part? The entire stadium also knew Max Muncy was going yard as soon as the 1-2 walk was issued. It was jaw dropping. I honestly couldn't believe what I saw.
After the game, Tony snapped on Scott Merkin of MLB.com for asking about it, too. Just doubled down on the 1-2 walk as if it was the best decision of all time. It wasn't. It was really fucking stupid. I could list all of the averages and stats that prove that, but it's not necessary. Anyone with even a novice grasp of how baseball is played knows how fucking dumb it was.
Just look at Freddie Freeman's face when he see's what happened!!!
He was as dumbfounded as anybody. Just incredibly dumb
8. Tony intentionally walks Oscar Gonzales with 1-2 count:
Just when I think Tony can't do anything dumber, he goes and does something like this… and totally digs himself into a deeper hole!!!! Like… what the FUCK man. Put your ego aside and do the right baseball move. The right baseball move is to never give a hitter a free base when they have a 1-2 count on them. This was 100% a way of Tony doubling down on the Trea Turner walk from earlier in the summer. Just a big middle finger to everyone in the dugout, in the stands, on the field, in the press box, watching on TV, and in the front office.
That's a HALL OF FAME making those decisions. Don't forget that, brother. He's right, the rest of the planet is wrong.
9. Tony falling dozing off in the dugout:
People reading this will think I'm gonna shit on Tony for this move, but I'm not. Everyone's been here. If you haven't fallen asleep in class or at work you're either a loser overachiever or don't drink alcohol. Either way, I want nothing to do with you. If people would have just let Tony get his R and Rs here, he wouldn't have been able to fuck anything up tactically in the game. They didn't, so he did. Probably. Not sure what happened after he came to from his slumber, but they were playing the Royals so they probably lost.
10. Tony LaRussa listens to fans on how to pinch run late in the game:
I'd say this is a brutal look for a manager and the most egregious of Tony's "offenses" over his 2 year stretch with the Sox, but you could argue anything listed in this blog leading up to this is also his #1 most embarrassing moment. Now I will say, I have no clue if Katz, Cairo, one of the 26 players, the bat boy, or whoever else may have gotten in his ear about pinch running Engel first. But the video makes it look an AWFUL LOT like Tony listened to some random asshole from Tinley Park or some shit on an in game, crunch time decision. Either way, the fact that he didn't make this move IMMEDIATELY was already a red flag. It was the easiest pinch run decision in the history of baseball.
If the fans can see something as blatant as pinch running one of the fastest players in baseball late in the game, but the manager can't… he probably shouldn't be managing anymore.
BONUS: Tony LaRussa retires:
When I told Twitter to drop me their favorite TLR moment with the white sox, the vast majority of the responses were simple. All they said was, "today" as in the day the TLR experiment ended.
Real talk - I'm honestly not trying to dance on Tony's grave with this blog. I'm literally just listing a bunch of idiotic plot lines over the last 2 seasons where he was the main character. It's truly not me shitting on him as much as just gathering a bunch of actual events that took place and putting them together in one blog so people on a national level can see the shit the white sox and white sox fans have dealt with the last 2 years. But today is definitely the best day of his 2nd tenure with the White Sox.
Jerry Reinsdorf putting his foot down and having his pal TLR manage the White Sox in the year 2022 was never going to work. It went against his front office and did everybody associated with the Sox, ESPECIALLY Tony, a huge disservice. Tony LaRussa is a Hall of Famer and for very good reason. Dude's 2nd all time in wins. But he never ever should have came back. It sucks that White Sox fans are going to remember him for what was a disaster of a 2 years to wrap up his career and not for the incredible career he had prior to it.
We'll talk about this a lot on RLR this week. Subscribe to us on YouTube: