The White Sox have hired Hall of Famer Tony La Russa as their new manager, bringing the 76-year-old back after eight seasons out of the dugout. The team announced the move on Thursday afternoon:
Tony La Russa, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, the third-winningest manager in baseball history, a three-time World Series champion and a four-time winner of the Manager of the Year Award, has been named the new manager of the Chicago White Sox. pic.twitter.com/RKP24rleHP— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) October 29, 2020
La Russa, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, is a three-time World Series champion, having led the Athletics to a championship in 1989 and the Cardinals to Fall Classic victories in 2006 and 2011. The four-time Manager of the Year retired after winning his third championship and has not managed since.
The move is rather astonishing for a multitude of reasons. First of all, it’s a move that significantly bucks the trend with regards to managerial hires in recent years. While there have been a few exceptions — the Angels’ hire of Joe Madden last winter comes to mind — the vast majority of MLB teams have sought to hire younger, analytically-inclined managers who are willing to lay out the front office’s vision on the field when presented the opportunity in recent years.
Additionally, La Russa’s age is notable, as he’ll be emerging from an eight-season semi-retirement — the duration of which has been spent working in baseball, whether it’s been working in the commissioner’s office, heading the Diamondbacks’ baseball operations department, or serving as an advisor for the Red Sox and Angels — as a 76-year-old manager, the third-oldest in major-league history, as MLB.com’s Sarah Langs pointed out Thursday:
Tony La Russa is 76 years old.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 29, 2020
He will be the 3rd-oldest individual to manage a game.
Only Connie Mack (87 y, 283 d on day of final game managed) and Jack McKeon (80 y, 309 d) have managed a game at an older age.
It’ll be interesting to see how La Russa adjusts to the modern game. As a manager who always emphasized defensive versatility and was a pioneer of creative pitching staff usage, he may be more suited to the data-intensive element of the sport than many skeptics give him credit for. But as a skipper who is very “old school,” so to speak, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles managing a team that features one of the most flamboyant, fun-loving, new-school groups of players in the sport.
La Russa is also returning to the place where it all started, rejoining the White Sox and owner Jerry Reinsdorf for a second stint 34 years after his first one ended. La Russa, who managed in Chicago from 1979-86, shatters the record for the longest gap between managing the same team, as Langs tweeted Thursday:
Tony La Russa's gap between managing the White Sox: 34 years, the longest gap between stints managing the same team— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 29, 2020
The next 4 largest gaps on the list:
Paul Richards, White Sox: 22 years
Bucky Harris, Tigers: 22
Joe Maddon, Angels: 20
Yogi Berra, Yankees: 20