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White Sox’s Tony La Russa understands skepticism surrounding return to dugout

Tony La Russa has made an unexpected return to the dugout following a lengthy absence after the Chicago White Sox stunningly zeroed in on the Hall of Famer as the replacement for Rick Renteria this past offseason.

There is certainly potential for a clash of styles between a fiery, emotional White Sox squad led by Tim Anderson and the 76-year-old La Russa, who represents a more traditional, low-key and old-school approach to the game. Skeptics quickly questioned the wisdom of the White Sox bringing in La Russa, who last ran a dugout in 2011 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

La Russa admits to understanding why his hiring was so heavily scrutinized.

“When I was hired, there were questions and criticisms, and I thought they were all legitimate,” La Russa, who will be the third-oldest manager in history, recently told Tyler Kepner of The New York Times. “The one that I thought was not was that I had been away from the game — and the opposite was true. I was actually in a better position doing what I did than if I had been managing.”

While Anderson was initially wary of potential impact of the La Russa hire, the player and the manager had a meeting of the minds at the opening of spring training that left player and manager on the same page.

Nevertheless, further complicating matters even before La Russa had the opportunity to put his stamp on the ChiSox was how it was revealed the day before the team officially announced his hiring that he was charged with DUI in February, 2020. It was La Russa’s  second run-in with the law over an alleged act of drunken driving. The White Sox quickly confronted the firestorm by acknowledging the seriousness of the charge.

After pleading guilty in December to a lesser charge of reckless driving, La Russa publicly apologized for the incident, and the White Sox indicated in a statement “there cannot be a third strike.”

“I spoke generally about the challenges that I had faced coming into the club,” La Russa told The Times. “It wasn’t necessarily specific. Nobody asked me, but they knew. I made a mistake.”

The White Sox, already considered a team on the rise, further established the team’s bona fides with an offseason during which the roster was infused with substantial upgrades via proven talent.

The question is will all the moves, not to mention the continued development of players that were already with the team, pay off.

“They’ve got a lot to prove, and I have a lot to prove, the coaching staff has a lot to prove,” La Russa said. “Let’s see if we can prove it.”