La Russa, front office in lockstep about '22

White Sox manager weighs in on organization's approach to offseason

November 22nd, 2021

LAS VEGAS -- White Sox manager Tony La Russa is working with his coaching staff during the offseason to make the 2021 American League Central champions even better in 2022.

This change involves a focus on what went right while examining areas of struggle for this talented crew, such as defending the running game, which La Russa referred to as “a real problem” in his Sunday conversation with But La Russa also knows the White Sox front office is following a similar philosophy geared toward team improvement, albeit traveling down a different roster-based path, leaving the 77-year-old leader with a very good feeling about the upcoming season.

“Absolutely. They are going to do the best they can,” said La Russa in a phone conversation following his three-day Leaders and Legends charity event in Las Vegas supporting his Animal Rescue Foundation. “There are 29 other teams trying to get better.

“We are not the only one after this or after that, but I know how much they want to win, and they proved it last year. They traded for [starting pitcher] Lance [Lynn] and they signed Liam [Hendriks]. Those guys are huge contributors. It’s the same thing now. We’ll see what they can pull off.”

Right field, second base and pitching would be areas where the organization might seek outside assistance. Pitching resides on the list for every team with a legitimate goal of a World Series championship such as the South Siders, even though La Russa’s crew has a solid rotation in place with closer Hendriks and Aaron Bummer leading the back end of the bullpen.

Free agents such as Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto and Joc Pederson make sense in right field, with Conforto and Pederson providing the bonus of their left-handed bat to balance the lineup. The White Sox also have in-house possibilities in Gavin Sheets, a left-handed power bat, and Andrew Vaughn, who both had solid rookie seasons and who both could work in at designated hitter. It’s the job of general manager Rick Hahn and executive vice president Ken Williams to figure out the puzzle involving what addition enhances the chances for success.

“I know for sure that as much as the players want to win, and the coaching staff wants to win, people in our organization starting with the owner and our front office, administration, they want to win,” La Russa said. “That’s a real positive point for us and for the players to know. They have a budget, and they know the opportunity they are working on.

“We’ve learned that we have guys like Sheets and Andrew that came along and [Jake] Burger came up, he handled himself well. You know you have that, and you factor that into everything that what our needs are. We do have internal help, but you need depth.”

La Russa analyzed his work as manager daily within the 93-victory 2021 effort, learning as well about his players' strengths and weaknesses. He also quickly understood the special family feeling he heard about among this group was quite real, which contributes to a great championship base in his opinion.

“They like to be around each other. They like to practice, and they like to compete,” La Russa said. “That’s the essence of whether you have a chance. Whatever your talent level is, if you have those three things, then you are going to be competitive and with the talent that’s on the team, then you find a way to win the championship.

“One of the things that we are doing as a staff is recognizing what we did well so we want to make sure we do it well again, but to get better, we are really recognizing the areas we can improve because once you recognize them, how do you improve it? Figure out the drills that will be better next spring. It’s really reflecting on what we did good, and what we needed to do better, and then figure out how to keep the one and fix the other.”