Tony Larussa Was Much Happier When He Left Chicago For Oakland
Aunt Betty and Uncle Louis were married for fifty years, a span during which they were also divorced for about eighteen months. As a child I could barely remember that brief span when they were not together, but now what surprises me is how rare that marriage, or should I say marriages, was.
Most people who go through a long and often very expensive divorce have no desire to get back together with their exes, choosing instead to either go it alone or try a union with someone new. They realize that whatever problems led them to break up on the first go round would likely resurface at some point, so it would be idiotic to waste time and money on an attempt at an encore.
Probably the second break up would be even more bitter than the first, for it would come with feelings of having acted stupidly in addition to all of the same problems that had doomed the debut. Both parties will regret the second marriage, even though somehow my aunt and uncle had managed to make a success of their reunion.
Since rarely does a second turn with the same partner lead to a happy ending, baseball fans have to be watching with much interest a second marriage between a club and its manager. Armed with a brace of young talented players, as well as a Most Valuable Player and a stellar starting staff, this particular club started 2022 as unanimous favorites to run away with their division.
Owner Jerry Reinsdorf regrettably fired manager Tony Larussa after a slow start in 1986, even though he had just several seasons before been awarded as the American League Manager of the Year. Larussa would of course go on to win the award with several other clubs, as well as capturing a half dozen pennants and three World Series Championships.
As he watched Larussa's teams advance to the postseason year after year after year while his own White Sox were too often left out, Reinsdorf began to express his regret his role in allowing the Hall of Fame manager to be fired.
“Tony La Russa is one of the most brilliant managers that I ever encountered in my baseball career,” Reinsdorf said decades later. “He saw things other people didn’t see. There were some managers who thought he was out of line with what he was trying to do, but later on they had to respect him because it was working. There’s no question he changed the way the game is played.”
A few years ago, long after Larussa had retired, Reinsdorf decided to finally rectify that mistake from over thirty years ago. Like my Uncle Louis had done to Aunt Betty when I was a child, Reinsdorf once more proposed to Larussa.
His answer to Reinsdorf was the same one Aunt Betty had given Louis, a big happy yes. The honeymoon went well, as Larussa took Reinsdorf's young and talented team to the postseason.
That accomplishment was not really satisfying, however, since prior manager Richie Renteria had taken the White Sox to the playoffs the year before. His replacement, being a Hall of Fame manager with numerous championships during his managerial career, was expected to advance beyond the first round.
In order to increase the chances of a championship, a sort of engagement ring if you will, Reinsdorf added some All-Star veterans to the roster. Catcher Yasmani Grandal received a lucrative free agent contract, and the White Sox also solidified its rotation by signing Cy Young winning left hander Dallas Koechel.
Yet, even with these improvements and the Hall of Fame manager, the White Sox again failed to advance in the playoffs. The honeymoon was over, but the marriage still held a lot of promise heading in to this season.
Chicago was predicted by everyone to run away with the A. L. Central, just as they had done last year. Larussa and his talented group of players had now an entire season to get used to one another, so there was bound to be more success this year.
The union, now one month into the season, appears to be in trouble. The White Sox just suffered a seven game losing streak, and they are an embarrassing 1-9 against their A. L. Central opponents.
Under ordinary circumstances the front office would at this point have fired the manager, hoping to turn the talented club in a new direction. Because this is their second marriage, however, the White Sox cannot dismiss Larussa quite so easily.
Even though it is still early, several indications have arisen that reveal Larussa may have lost the managerial magic he conjured so often when he was one of the best skippers in the game. A costly substitution decision not only cost him a victory last season, but it also led to his having to admit he did not understand baseball's new rule about extra innings.
Not long after that mistake, Larussa criticized his star shortstop for an on-field celebration. When batting champ Tim Anderson flipped his bat after a walk off hit, Larussa publicly condemned his player.
This year has brought more questionable moves, especially regarding Larussa's use of a very talented bullpen. Blown leads contributed to Chicago suffering a three game sweep by the Minnesota Twins, and most recently an extra inning 5-2 loss to Kansas City that allowed the Royals to move ahead of the White Sox in the standings.
As painful as it might be, Reisndorf may have to repeat the so-called mistake his club made back in 1986. He will have to begin divorce proceedings against Larussa, ending a marriage that had very little chance of a happy ending.