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Tony La Russa has desire to keep managing Sox in 2022

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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Tony La Russa was brought in to guide to the Chicago White Sox to a World Series championship.

That didn't happen in 2021.

The White Sox' season came to an end Tuesday on the South Side, the team winning the same number of playoff games and playing in just one more playoff game than it did last fall under Rick Renteria. Considering the "World Series or bust" expectations that were set during the spring, the White Sox failed their mission this season.

RELATED: Sox fail own World Series mission, end '21 in disappointment

So as eyes turn to 2022, will La Russa turn that way, too?

"We have more to do," he said.

Obviously, last offseason's managerial search turned out in surprising fashion, with the Hall of Famer coming out of retirement to work once more for team chairman and longtime friend Jerry Reinsdorf, with the intention of adding another championship to Reinsdorf's collection. General manager Rick Hahn, who promised a thorough search when Renteria's tenure came to an end, admitted that the process of finding a replacement went far differently than he'd expected.

But despite all the questions and fan consternation surrounding La Russa's return to the South Side — questions La Russa himself called mostly legitimate ones, by the way — he won over the fan base with a winning season, an admiration of the team's rebuilding project and an unwavering support of his players.

 

The same fans who lit La Russa up on social media for months were chanting "TO-NY! TO-NY!" as he passionately argued with umpires in the wake of José Abreu getting hit by a pitch Tuesday.

In the immediate aftermath of the 10-1 blowout loss that ended his team's season, La Russa was asked, point blank, whether he intends to be back in the White Sox dugout next season.

"The process I've used — well, once I had a little security, probably about the fifth or sixth year — is: Do they want you back?" he said. "You don't want to come back (just) because you got a contract. I would just leave if they don't want you back. (If) they say yes, then you ask the players. They should choose who they want to manage. If you get both of those, then you check yourself.

"You check and see whether you've got the desire to continue to manage. I do.

"A lot of people that know me know that that's what I go through. I think it's a fair thing. It's fair to the ownership, fair to the players. (That way) you don't get stuck with a guy that doesn't belong there."

Certainly, it should be expected La Russa has the backing of those two parties.

When it comes to the players, La Russa has been receiving rave reviews since the spring, even if some, including team leader Tim Anderson, weren't initially sold on the idea. Anderson spent the year describing how La Russa let the players be themselves. And Abreu took the vote of confidence in La Russa he got from friend Albert Pujols and ran with it. By season's end, Abreu was giving La Russa hugs and kisses.

And while having the support of the team's top two leaders is important, it was a feeling that seemed to filter through the entire team.

"I know for me just to come up as a rookie and have him in my corner since Day 1 means a lot," Gavin Sheets said Tuesday. "He has been in every one of our corners the whole time, and when you have a Hall-of-Fame manager in your corner and supporting you, you feel like you can do anything. He has been incredible to play for."

"Tony is a very special manager," Carlos Rodón said. "Very, very wise man."

As soon as he was introduced as the White Sox' new manager last year, La Russa repeatedly described his strong desire to be back in the dugout, his desire to win again, comparing that to what he called "torture" in working outside of a managerial role.

 

It's been obvious throughout the 2021 season how strong that desire is, and it makes sense it would remain, even after his team failed to meet its own lofty expectations.

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