Good morning, Athletics Nation!
Major League Baseball has two managers returning to the active ranks, and both of them are former Oakland A’s.
The Chicago White Sox hired Tony La Russa as their new skipper on Thursday, bringing the Hall of Famer out of retirement a decade after his last turn in an MLB dugout. The Sox let go of previous manager Rick Renteria despite reaching the playoffs in 2020, the team’s first postseason trip in a dozen years.
La Russa began his playing career with the Kansas City A’s, debuting in the majors as an infielder in 1963. He spent most of his six-year career with the club, and made the move to Oakland with them. In 1979 he got his first manager gig, with none other than the White Sox, but in 1986 they fired him and he returned to Oakland to lead the A’s. The rest is history — three World Series trips and one championship with Oakland, then another three NL pennants and two championships at the helm of the St. Louis Cardinals.
In terms of all-time records, La Russa’s 2,728 wins as a manager rank third behind Connie Mack and John McGraw, and he’ll surely pass McGraw now as he trails by just 35. Those victories came at a strong .536 rate over 33 seasons, and he’s one of only 10 skippers ever to nab three World Series titles. His four Manager of the Year awards are the most ever, tied with Bobby Cox, and he won them with three different clubs spanning both leagues.
La Russa is already one of the most accomplished managers in the history of the sport, before even getting to the strategic legacy he left, especially in terms of bullpen usage and his innovation of the modern 9th-inning closer role. Now he’s back for a second run with the White Sox at age 76, guiding a dynamic young roster that just announced its presence with a breakout season.
It’s certainly an unusual move — literally, it’s unprecedented to bring a HOF manager out of retirement, and he’s now the oldest active boss by half a decade (over Dusty Baker). There’s also criticism about the personal connections involved, and whether the close friendship between La Russa and team owner Jerry Reinsdorf is superseding the best competitive interests of the club. South Side Sox had some different targets on their wish list.
But from an A’s fan perspective, this is a no-lose. If La Russa does well, then it’s fun to see one of our old legends back in action. If he doesn’t, then a rising AL contender who projects as a notable upcoming league rival may have just set themselves back.
Elsewhere in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers settled on A.J. Hinch as their new manager. They had also interviewed current A’s coach Mark Kotsay, so from an Oakland perspective it’s good news that the Tigers went in a different direction instead poaching one of our own.
Hinch managed the Arizona D’Backs from 2009-10, and was last seen leading the Houston Astros from 2015-19 and winning a title in ‘17. However, when the Astros’ cheating scandal came to light, he was suspended for the entire 2020 season and released.
Now the 46-year-old is eligible to return, and it only took until Friday for a new team to bite at the opportunity. Hinch inherits a rebuilding Tigers club that lost 114 games in 2019 and inched their win percentage up to around .400 this summer (23-35). He has experience in such a setting, though — he took over a Houston team that had lost 92 games the previous season and 324 combined the three years before that, and immediately oversaw their rapid improvement.
Like La Russa, Hinch began his MLB playing career with the A’s, as a catcher in 1998 two years after they drafted him out of Stanford. He was later dealt to the Royals in the Johnny Damon trade, and a couple seasons later he played 27 games for the Tigers (and then four for the Phillies before retiring).
La Russa reactions
One thing I’ll say, having interviewed Tony in 2019: There’s no lack of fire still in that man. He’s 76-going-on-60.
Fired up to join @whitesox, a contending team in a tough division. Add my best efforts to theirs. Lots of comments. Some supportive and some not. Get to work and see the results.— Tony La Russa (@TonyLaRussa) October 30, 2020
... But will that fire spark the White Sox to victory, or threaten to burn it all down?
The hiring of Tony La Russa has ruffled feathers in the White Sox organization. A number of employees have concerns about his ability to connect with younger players and how he will adapt to the field after being away 9 years.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 29, 2020
This was a Jerry Reinsdorf decision. Simple as that.
A first in MLB history
According to Hall of Fame, Tony La Russa becomes the first active HoF manager (not HoF player who became a manager) in baseball history.— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) October 29, 2020
Another A’s connection!
Managing in at least six different decades in MLB:— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) October 29, 2020
--Connie Mack (1890s, 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s)
--Tony LaRussa (1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s)
Except for the 1960s, one of these two men has managed in every decade between the 1890s and 2020s.
He still hasn’t quite caught Connie yet, though
However he’s still got 11 years to go to catch Connie Mack for oldest manager ever!— Ben Ross (@BenRossTweets) October 29, 2020
This is a mind-blowing stat
#WhiteSox Tony La Russa has managed in 2.3 percent of all games in MLB History.— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) October 30, 2020
Boros? Boros? Boros? Boros?
Wonder what Jackie Moore's up to?— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) October 29, 2020
Weird that this neglects to mention his single biggest accomplishment........ filing the lawsuit that led to blue checks on Twitter. https://t.co/OLiHq1zroj— Emma Baccelleerie (@emmabaccellieri) October 29, 2020
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- Today in Baseball History
Best of Twitter
Right back at ya, Ken!
From the @Athletics and our broadcast team, thanks for the support this year. Despite some challenges, I’m so pleased we did the games. Your messages and comments were heartening and often emotional and inspiring. Suffice to say-we heard you even though you weren’t there. Be well— Ken Korach (@KenKorachRadio) October 29, 2020
Looks like Steve Cohen is buying the Mets
Again: Cohen will be approved by MLB owners tomorrow, but can't close until the mayor signs off. Inside speculation -- this is from people involved in the sale - ranges from next few days to Thanksgiving week. Bet on sooner than late Nov. tho.— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) October 29, 2020
If you weren’t convinced that Bauer is the most unique star free agent in recent memory, he is apparently also open to playing in Japan
The #WorldSeries is over. Free Agency has begun. A couple points:— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) October 28, 2020
1) I’ll consider offers from any MLB or NPB team
2) Follow @AgentRachelLuba for accurate information about my free agency. Anything else is speculation.
3) I’m vlogging the off season. It lives on @Watch_Momentum
A peek into the last year of Korean baseball
Yesterday in A’s history
This Lefty was so right.— Oakland A's (@Athletics) October 29, 2020
On this day, Lefty Grove became the first player to be named American League Most Valuable Player. He led the American League in wins (31), ERA (2.06), complete games (27) and strikeouts (175). #CheersToHistory | @coppolawine pic.twitter.com/8sKq92uwt8
This isn’t baseball, but it’s a notable story that could serve as an example across the sports world (in that the Coyotes shouldn’t have even drafted him in the first place) (more from SB Nation’s Coyotes site here and here)