CHICAGO -- Tony La Russa’s return to the dugout after a 10-year absence resulted in 93 victories for the White Sox and the organization’s first American League Central title since 2008.
That success also produced a sixth-place finish for La Russa in the BBWAA’s AL Manager of the Year voting, as announced on MLB Network Tuesday night. La Russa finished with 15 points via four second-place votes and three third-place votes, as the writers are asked to list their Top 3 choices on each ballot.
Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash captured the AL honor for a second straight year, followed by Seattle’s Scott Servais and Houston’s Dusty Baker. Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo and Boston’s Alex Cora stood ahead of La Russa, with Cora getting one more point.
La Russa made clear late in the season how he didn’t really focus on the individual award or have any interest in talking about his consideration. He was far more focused on the team, and that team fought through extended injuries to left fielder Eloy Jiménez, center fielder Luis Robert and catcher Yasmani Grandal, and it responded to the man who turned 77 on Oct. 4, despite some initial questions when he was brought back for a second run in Chicago.
“Those questions I had were honestly answered with the phone calls I had with him before Spring Training, and even started when he got hired,” said White Sox Opening Day starter Lucas Giolito during a recent Zoom. “I had certain questions like about clubhouse culture, what he’s going to want out of us, and we went all over that from the get-go and during the course of Spring Training, kind of seeing how he likes to run the show, I was very comfortable with it.
“It was great. And as the season went on, we all got closer and really gelled. I don’t think I can find anything to complain about.”
Players and front office members spoke about La Russa coming in with an attitude that fit with the already established White Sox core, while trying to guide them to the next level. It wasn’t about La Russa imposing his will or wisdom accrued through an impressive resume featuring three World Series titles, six pennants and the second-most managerial victories all-time.
Baker and his Astros eliminated the White Sox in four games during the Division Series. But La Russa and his exceptional coaching staff will be back in ’22, working toward the team’s first World Series title since ’05.
“I felt from Day 1 that Tony was in my corner,” said rookie right fielder/designated hitter Gavin Sheets, who hit 11 home runs in his big league debut season. “I really enjoyed my relationship with him, and I really enjoyed playing for him. From Day 1, I enjoyed Tony’s presence.”
“I’m excited for Tony to be back,” Giolito said. “We had a very successful campaign during the regular season, and that was his first year of coming back to managing. He was wonderful in the clubhouse. So I’m excited to continue to build off of that, starting Day 1 of Spring Training.”