Hall of Fame manager, Tony La Russa, who began his major league managing career with the Chicago White Sox, is back where it all started after he was named the team’s new manager this week. And that means an extra level of competition for the Twins in the AL Central. The White Sox have a good young team, one that just missed out on taking the top spot away from the Twins. Avoid the end-of-the season losing spell, including six straight games in September, and the Sox likely would have won the division in 2020.
La Russa’s hire, though, and the decision to pull Tampa Bay Rays starter, Blake Snell, from Game 6 of the World Series (Yes, they are related) has once again touched off a generational argument about whether both moves made sense.
I say this after watching the young talking heads of ESPN question whether La Russa can relate to young players, will embrace analytics or has changed his tune on athletes taking demonstrative political positions (re: taking a knee during the National Anthem).
I think whether he has changed politically is a valid concern, but the other concerns are pure hokum. His record speaks for itself: He is the third-winningest manager of all time. He also has won three World Series, six pennants and 12 division titles and was manager of the year four times. I don’t know how he would have accomplished any of that if he couldn’t relate to young players. As for analytics, whatever he has adhered to seems to have worked fine. And I think this is worth noting: La Russa, like former NBA head coach, Phil Jackson, doesn’t exactly take on reclamation projects, like managing the Seattle Mariners, or some similar continually out-of-the running team. The White Sox had plenty of talent in the early 1980s (pitcher LaMarr Hoyt was 24-10 in 1983), as did the Oakland A’s later in the decade and the St. Louis Cardinals have always been a well-run franchise. As for today’s Pale Hose, they, too, have some exciting talent in pitcher, Lucas Giolito, slugger Jose Abreu and potential slugger, Eloy Jimenez.
Young and old, as they always will, have also recently argued about whether it made sense to lift Snell from Game 6 of the World Series. All of this has to do with baseball analytics and whether it’s the best guiding force for baseball. To me, analytics make a whole lot of sense when evaluating ballplayers or to help strategize a season over 60 games or 162. But in the postseason, I am convinced that all bets are off, and that in-game management must take over where numbers might fall short. Snell was clearly in a groove, despite that sixth inning single, and the decision to remove him resulted in a loss. Twins manager, Rocco Baldelli, made the same mistake. Instead of sticking with starters Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios, both were pulled after five-plus innings in favor of relievers, and the Twins bullpen, so good to start the season, wasn’t as good down the stretch. A case in point: the Twins have already parted ways with Sergio Romo.
-AJ Hinch also has a new job after serving his suspension for the role he played in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal. Hinch was named manager of the Detroit Tigers. Although he had good players and an unfair advantage in Houston, he doesn’t have any of that in Motown.