Oct 4, 2021

Where are we at with Tony La Russa now?

Where are we at with Tony La Russa now?
(USA Today Sports)

Midway Minute is a daily Chicago sports newsletter. To receive it in your inbox each weekeday morning, sign up for free here.

Good morning, frents!

So quick question before we begin: Are any readers planning on running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday? 🏃 🏃‍♀️

If so, I'd love to run your result in the newsletter next week. Hit me up with your name and bib number via email and I'll make it happen.

Might send you a koozie for your post-race beer, too. 🍺

Monday's results
Hawks 6, Wings 4

Today's schedule
Cavs at Bulls (7, NBSCH)

*Both games preseason

Tony's team

Tony La Russa
(USA Today Sports)

Winning was always going to be the only thing that mattered.

We said that from the start.

No matter how much the Sox fanbase howled after Tony La Russa's hiring, a big win total in 2021 would smooth over everything.

And, well, here we are. The Sox won 93 games during the regular season and an attempt at a World Series crown begins on Thursday.

La Russa, who turned 77 on Monday, will be in the middle of it all.

And not just in the awkward party guest role that I predicted last fall, but as an interesting character who's been embraced by a team of interesting characters a half-century younger. La Russa might have been the elderly outsider on a young team ready to blossom but it doesn't look like that divide exists any longer.

If it ever did.

Did you see this coming?

I don't think I did. I was among the loud base that felt like Sox fans had been the victim of an elaborate bait and switch. Just as it seemed like the franchise was finally arriving in the 21st century, the progressive push was upended by Jerry Reinsdorf's never-ending desire to hire old friends.

The more things were changing, the more they were staying the same.

The subsequent revelation that  La Russa was facing another pending DUI charge in Arizona (since resolved after he pled to a lesser charge) didn't help the homecoming any. The feel-good story of the 2020 Sox was threatening to be upended by a move that didn't feel right.

The public's suspicion didn't stop at Opening Day and was even reinforced by a few incidents in the season's early days. There was the Yermin Mercedes storyline and a couple of noticeable gaffes that led to losses. Remember the time he didn't know the rules for extra innings?

Baseball seasons are long, though, and the water around La Russa eventually grew still. A rash of injuries piled up, but so did the team's victories. The team lost Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Adam Engel and Yasmani Grandal for extended periods and TLR's next men up from Brian Goodwin to Billy Hamilton to Gavin Sheets produced anyway.

The second half brought rest requirements for the team's tired starting rotation and La Russa was able to grant them without any other AL Central team threatening to creep closer in the standings.

It's hard to measure the exact impact of a manager, but who knows how the Sox might've fared under someone who hasn't seen it all?

As the Sun-Times' Steve Greenberg wrote over the weekend, La Russa's clubhouse cred has steadily grown throughout the season. It was seeded among the older players by an endorsement from Albert Pujols and blossomed during the year with La Russa's eagerness to collaborate and a well-memed incident in which he ran to Jose Abreu's defense after the reigning AL MVP was hit.

If it was once impossible to imagine the La Russa experiment lasting more than one year, it's now difficult to believe he doesn't continue.

So is Tony La Russa now likable?

That was the thesis pushed forward by Greenberg in last weekend's cover story.

I don't think I can get fully on board with that, not as long "Hall of Famer baseball person" traffic stop video lives in my head. I don't think I'm alone in that.

But it has become a likable situation.

And here's why.

All throughout my criticism of La Russa's hiring — which I'll now accept the 'L' for —  I made it a point to stay away from any ageist thoughts or viewpoints.

For one, La Russa has forgotten more about baseball than any of us will ever know.

For another, I certainly don't want anyone writing me off once I reach my mid-70s.

It's been an interesting experience to watch La Russa embrace the challenges that came with returning to a game that had changed in his decade away from the dugout. It's maybe even been a little inspiring to see him prove people wrong.

And no matter how these next few weeks shake out, the entire episode has been a reminder that our first read of the situation isn't always right.

News and results

Bears: Matt Nagy holds another fun press conference

Sun rises in the east, Andy is the 1, news at 10. I don't have the energy today, folks and I doubt you do, either.

Sox: ALDS times and TV announced

Major League Baseball gave us the lowdown on when and where we can watch the Sox-Astros series. The first three games, anyway.

  • Thursday: Gm 1 at HOU, 3:07, FS1
  • Friday: Gm 2 at HOU, 1:07, MLB Network
  • Sunday: Gm 3 at CHI, 7:07, FS1

Not great, not terrible and overall, pretty fair. Each of the three series not featuring a West Coast team gets a prime time slot out of the chute. The Sox got off pretty good, too, with their night game coming at home for the first playoff game on the South Side since 2008. There's no conflict with the Bears-Raiders game in Las Vegas that day, either.

  • Sox GM Rick Hahn said don't expect to see the ALDS roster before Thursday's 10 a.m. deadline. Carlos Rodon remains a question mark (Hahn is optimistic) as does the identity of the Game 1 starter.

Cubs: Frank Schwindel wins NL rookie of the month

One more award for the road. Schwindel repeated the honor by hitting .357./.405./.625 with seven homers, nine doubles and 21 RBI.

Didn't get the chance to do this yesterday, but here's how Bryzzo's numbers with their new teams compared to their replacements at Wrigley.

  • Schwindel: 56 games,  .342/..389/.613, 13 HR, 19 2B, 40 RBI
  • Rizzo: 49 games, .249/.340/.428, 8 HR, 7 2B, 21 RBI
  • Wisdom: 49 games, .197/.274/.444, 12 HR, 8 2B, 32 RBI
  • Bryant: 51 games, .262/.344/.444, 7 HR, 13 2B, 22 RBI

Brendan Sugrue's Week 4 report is out

1. Sam Fels goes in on the madness of Matt Nagy. Deadspin

2. Bubba Wallace and Michael Jordan won their first NASCAR race, a triumph at Talladega. Yahoo Sports

3. The time that Jordan won gold and then showed up at a barbecue in Roseland a few weeks later. A Shot on Ehlo

4. You can no longer bet the WNBA at the casino where the Connecticut Sun play their games.  Associated Press

5. 11 buildings that survived the Chicago Fire. WTTW

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

Join the conversation

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Midway Minute.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.