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Friday, October 30, 2020

Why Tony La Russa is a sincerely curious choice for Chicago White Sox manager

Cronyism in the game is as old as the spitball, and an inner circle of powerful men—they’re all men—has spent decades in the game fomenting it. When they want something, they tend to get it.

Jerry Reinsdorf, the Chicago White Sox’s owner for nearly 40 years, said he regretted trading Harold Baines because had he not, Baines would have reached 3,000 hits. He finished his career with 2,866, and his other numbers were well shy of Hall of Fame standards. So Reinsdorf found himself a place on a Hall committee voting on a special ballot with Baines-era players, argued vehemently on Baines’ behalf and rammed him through to Cooperstown. One of the other 11 votes came from Tony La Russa.

This is how it works. And this is how perhaps the most inexplicable news of the offseason unfolded at its outset Thursday: La Russa, now 76 years old, out of the dugout for the last nine, was named manager of the White Sox. He inherits a team brimming with young, dynamic talent—a team that, in many ways, represents a new epoch of baseball whose principles and priorities run antithetical to La Russa’s.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 30, 2020 at 01:08 PM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tony larussa, white sox

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   1. asinwreck Posted: October 30, 2020 at 01:34 PM (#5986678)
Tony La Russa is to Jerry Reinsdorf what Bob Pulford was to Bill Wirtz.

Blackhawks fans celebrated when Bill Wirtz died. I suspect Sox fans will do the same when it's Reinsdorf's time.
   2. The Duke Posted: October 30, 2020 at 03:37 PM (#5986712)
Almost 100% of the criticism has been focused on his age and his supposed inability to get along with today’s prima donnas. He’s been dealing with prima Donnas like Molina, Pujols, canseco, Scott rolen, Rickey Henderson etc his whole career - they all flourished under him. It’s incredibly bad journalism to not review his history in this regard. What Larussa couldn’t tolerate were players who couldn’t perform.

The age thing. I don’t know, maybe it’s an issue. All you have to do is make out a lineup card, sit on the bench cross-legged for 3.5 hours, answer reporter questions after the game, have a late dinner and every few days hop a charter flight to another city. Wouldn’t seem to be that hard but what do I know. Maybe doing it for eight months is a grind.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: October 30, 2020 at 03:45 PM (#5986714)
The age thing. I don’t know, maybe it’s an issue.


Historically speaking, it is. Managers tend to lose effectiveness with age.

I agree about the other part, though. I'm not sure that today's donnas are more prima than they were in the past.
   4. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: October 30, 2020 at 03:48 PM (#5986715)
I suspect Sox fans will do the same when it's Reinsdorf's time.

Bulls fans too.
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: October 30, 2020 at 03:55 PM (#5986718)
I'm sure the fans of both clubs will be happy when Jerry's gone, but I don't see him having, or deserving, anywhere near the enmity that Dollar Bill engendered.
   6. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: October 30, 2020 at 04:01 PM (#5986719)
Oh, no, of course not. Still time for him to go.

---

I don't think it's a prima donna thing as much as just an generational thing; it's one to when you're in the same general age group and quite another when there's half a century age difference. TLR is basically the antithesis of "fun" and this Sox team is really young, really fun, and really outspoken (and in ways that'll ruffle TLR if any of his public comments the last few years would imply). Seems like there is bound to be a lot of clashes.

It's also terrible for the entire org when the owner steps in and hires a friend, without interviewing anyone else. That's bound to cause resentment - and reportedly already has. This could also hurt them in FA (or help, TBD).
   7. Ben V-L Posted: October 31, 2020 at 11:37 PM (#5986919)
What Larussa couldn’t tolerate were players who couldn’t perform.

I don't know about that. At least during his time with the Cardinals he was very happy with some players who couldn't perform, giving innings and PA's to the likes of Danny Sheaffer, John Mabry, Craig Paquette, Thomas Howard, and Shawon Dunston (while too often benching, e.g., Ray Lankford and J.D. Drew). He's responsible for putting Willie McGee out there for 290 PA in 1999 while he racked up a -2.8 WAR.
   8. Ron J Posted: November 01, 2020 at 12:41 AM (#5986922)
#7 My impression is LaRussa decided early who could and could not play and didn't let little things like results change his opinion.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. If you're a good judge of talent ( to be clear, I think LaRussa was -- I think he demonstrated generally very good judgement about who could play. Yes he got it wrong sometimes.), confidence in that judgement prevents you from over-reacting to a slump.
   9. McCoy Posted: November 01, 2020 at 08:35 AM (#5986931)
I seem to recall MGL being frustrated with Tony. He and the team he was working with would come up with data and suggestions based on that data and Tony would just shrug it off.
   10. salvomania Posted: November 01, 2020 at 02:16 PM (#5986944)
TLR is basically the antithesis of "fun" and this Sox team is really young, really fun, and really outspoken

That was one of my biggest issues with LaRussa: he squeezed a lot of the joy out of following the team as a fan, what with all his imbroglios with other teams/players (his endless thin skin and finger-pointing over HBPs and anything else he could use as a wedge). He was always complaining about something, taking the focus away from the game.
   11. Howie Menckel Posted: November 01, 2020 at 02:59 PM (#5986945)
but bringing in 5 relievers in the same inning is now de rigeur, so Tony should have a blast!

he did detract from the games - and now distractions are the coin of the realm.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 01, 2020 at 03:14 PM (#5986947)
Historically speaking, it is. Managers tend to lose effectiveness with age.

Sure, but we don't know how much of this is ability vs. motivation. Lots of old managers probably just didn't give a damn anymore.

Mental ability doesn't really decline with age unless you have Alzheimers or dementia. How many old managers in the past had early stage cases? This is a binary, and it's something the White Sox presumably know about LaRussa.

If LaRussa is still mentally sharp and motivated, he can probably do the job.
   13. SoSH U at work Posted: November 01, 2020 at 03:48 PM (#5986952)

Mental ability doesn't really decline with age unless you have Alzheimers or dementia. How many old managers in the past had early stage cases? This is a binary, and it's something the White Sox presumably know about LaRussa.


When Dag was writing about old managers starting to lose it, he was talking about guys, as a group, much younger than TLR is now.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 01, 2020 at 04:44 PM (#5986959)
When Dag was writing about old managers starting to lose it, he was talking about guys, as a group, much younger than TLR is now.

Well, your typical 65 y.o. in 1950 was in worse shape than an average 75 y.o. today.

My Dad worked in finance at a major bank and worked until he was 71. He only quit because he physically couldn't handle the commute. Mentally he was as sharp as ever, and is still as sharp today, at 76.

I would hope the White Sox gave LaRussa a battery of cognitive tests. If he's fine, he's fine.

I would be more concerned about the physical toll of late nights and travel. That would wear me down at 49.
   15. I am Ted F'ing Williams Posted: November 02, 2020 at 08:08 AM (#5986991)
Meanwhile, after years of deliberation, we are choosing between two people roughly the same age as TLR to run the country.

I don't have a problem with LaRussa. I have a problem with the lack of "due diligence" (for want of a better term) by the front office for the third managerial hire in a row. But I have a suspicion LaRussa is going to hire his successor as part of his coaching staff and that might be better than Hahn/Williams doing it.
   16. SoSH U at work Posted: November 02, 2020 at 08:41 AM (#5986992)
Well, your typical 65 y.o. in 1950 was in worse shape than an average 75 y.o. today.

My Dad worked in finance at a major bank and worked until he was 71. He only quit because he physically couldn't handle the commute. Mentally he was as sharp as ever, and is still as sharp today, at 76.

I would hope the White Sox gave LaRussa a battery of cognitive tests. If he's fine, he's fine.



All wonderful. It doesn't change the fact that managers have lost effectiveness as they've aged, and there's not much evidence the declines were dementia related.

Of course, it's not universal. TLR was a really good manager, including at a point when he was fairly old for skippering, so he may still very be one.

But I doubt the White Sox ran a battery of cognitive tests on him beforehand.
   17. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: November 02, 2020 at 08:59 AM (#5986993)
Almost 100% of the criticism has been focused on his age and his supposed inability to get along with today’s prima donnas.

It says a lot about you that you consider young, good players to be "prima donnas". What behavior makes you say that about the current White Sox?

   18. Rally Posted: November 02, 2020 at 09:21 AM (#5986997)
Well, your typical 65 y.o. in 1950 was in worse shape than an average 75 y.o. today.


Is that true? The actuarial tables would probably be the best source for an objective answer.

Pros for today's 75 year old: Much less likely to be a current smoker. Though since he/she was born in 1945, probably smoked when younger.

Cons: Today's 75 year old is much more likely to be a 300 pound diabetic than the 65 year old in 1950.
   19. Rally Posted: November 02, 2020 at 09:30 AM (#5986998)
I remember when Earl Weaver came back from retirement in 1985. It was a disaster. He was only 54 years old at the time.

At the time, ancient Earl Weaver coming back for another run felt as weird as LaRussa's hiring does today. But part of that is my perspective, to a 14 year old 54 years old was ancient. Torey Lovullo, Dave Martinez, and Charlie Montoyo are near the start of their managing careers, and they are all older than Earl was when he returned to the dugout.
   20. JJ1986 Posted: November 02, 2020 at 09:37 AM (#5987002)
I would be more concerned about the physical toll of late nights and travel. That would wear me down at 49.
But the physical toll will wear one down mentally.
   21. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: November 02, 2020 at 09:44 AM (#5987003)
Pros for today's 75 year old: Much less likely to be a current smoker. Though since he/she was born in 1945, probably smoked when younger.

Cons: Today's 75 year old is much more likely to be a 300 pound diabetic than the 65 year old in 1950.

I guess the "pro" point is more applicable to someone in professional sports.
   22. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 02, 2020 at 10:09 AM (#5987005)

Cons: Today's 75 year old is much more likely to be a 300 pound diabetic than the 65 year old in 1950.


I don't think the 300 lb diabetics ever see 75.
   23. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 02, 2020 at 10:28 AM (#5987007)
At the time, ancient Earl Weaver coming back for another run felt as weird as LaRussa's hiring does today. But part of that is my perspective, to a 14 year old 54 years old was ancient.
Another part of it was that Weaver looked like he was at least 75.
   24. Rally Posted: November 02, 2020 at 10:47 AM (#5987011)
I looked the tables up. According to SSA, a 75 year old male today, on average, will live another 11.2 years.

I found an actuarial table from 1949-51 on the CDC website. A 65 year old male has an expected 13.3 years. So they are not quite as done as a 75 year old today. But the 75 year olds in 1950 only lived 8.3 years. Looking for the equivalent 11.2 years, closest would be the 68-69 year olds from 1950.

Another part of it was that Weaver looked like he was at least 75.


Weaver took over the Orioles at 37 but already looked like he was in his 50s. He managed more than a decade in the minors starting at age 25. I wonder what he looked like then. Sparky Anderson is the same story. 4 years younger than Earl, started with the Reds at age 36. He was only 50 when the Tigers won it all in 1984 but certainly looked a decade older.
   25. Greg Pope Posted: November 02, 2020 at 11:16 AM (#5987016)
I would hope the White Sox gave LaRussa a battery of cognitive tests.

There is no way that they did this. Can you see Jerry Reinsdorf meeting with LaRussa to gauge his interest in managing, and then following up with "And here's 12 mental acuity tests we want you to take"?
   26. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 02, 2020 at 11:17 AM (#5987017)
Weaver took over the Orioles at 37 but already looked like he was in his 50s. He managed more than a decade in the minors starting at age 25. I wonder what he looked like then. Sparky Anderson is the same story. 4 years younger than Earl, started with the Reds at age 36. He was only 50 when the Tigers won it all in 1984 but certainly looked a decade older.
Baseball evaluation being what it was then, it wouldn't surprise me if just looking prematurely grizzled helped people think of you as a future managerial candidate. Don Zimmer comes to mind as another one who looked 10-15 years older when he was in his 30s and 40s.
   27. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 02, 2020 at 11:18 AM (#5987018)
Can you see Jerry Reinsdorf meeting with LaRussa to gauge his interest in managing, and then following up with "And here's 12 mental acuity tests we want you to take"?
I would imagine the tests would meet the same fate as Roger Dorn's contract.
   28. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: November 02, 2020 at 11:23 AM (#5987020)
Baseball evaluation being what it was then, it wouldn't surprise me if just looking prematurely grizzled helped people think of you as a future managerial candidate. Don Zimmer comes to mind as another one who looked 10-15 years older when he was in his 30s and 40s.

Now I'm wondering if Sparky's hair was actually jet black.
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 02, 2020 at 11:34 AM (#5987022)
Now I'm wondering if Sparky's hair was actually jet black.
Heh. Zimmer in 1965: “Well, I’m 34 and I’m hitting under .200 for the Senators. Fortunately, I’m balding and gaining weight.”
   30. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: November 02, 2020 at 11:47 AM (#5987024)
Here's Sparky Anderson at 25 at spring training for his one major-league season, under the alias "George". He looks... 32?
   31. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 02, 2020 at 12:02 PM (#5987025)
I’d say 35 at least, maybe 37.
   32. weiss-man Posted: November 02, 2020 at 02:30 PM (#5987045)
I can already see some gray hair.
   33. BrianBrianson Posted: November 03, 2020 at 01:15 AM (#5987113)
It doesn't change the fact that managers have lost effectiveness as they've aged, and there's not much evidence the declines were dementia related.


Assuming this is true (and honestly, I'm highly skeptical), isn't it likely to just be some kind of survivor bias?
   34. SoSH U at work Posted: November 03, 2020 at 07:48 AM (#5987121)
Assuming this is true (and honestly, I'm highly skeptical), isn't it likely to just be some kind of survivor bias?


You're highly skeptical of what? That managers have enjoyed less success as they've aged. Primate Dag did a pretty nice job of covering the subject.

   35. Ron J Posted: November 03, 2020 at 08:26 AM (#5987124)
#34 I think Bill James summed up the issue pretty well. Successful managers by definition change the dynamic of the organization that they're with. This requires the manager to adapt to the new context and very few managers can do this kind of thing over and over again as required.

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