Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker Have a History. Now They Meet Again.
La Russa managed for 33 seasons without a break, from 1979 through 2011, with the White Sox, the A’s and the Cardinals. He won six pennants, three championships and a spot in the Hall of Fame, then returned to Chicago this season after a 10-year hiatus from the dugout, eager to fit in with a team on the rise.
“The first conversation I had with him in the off-season, right when he was hired, I was expecting Tony La Russa, Hall of Fame manager, to be very strict, to be very like: ‘I’m in charge. This is what we’re going to do,’” said Lucas Giolito, who will start Game 2 on Friday. “And I was very surprised when, in our first conversation, he told me that: ‘I’m coming over. This is your guys’ team, and I’m going to work every day to earn your respect starting in Day 1 of spring training.’ And he’s done that.”
Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of the White Sox, had always regretted La Russa’s departure in 1986, when General Manager Ken Harrelson fired him. The White Sox are the only team La Russa has managed that has not won the World Series with him.
“This club has inspired me,” La Russa said on the field during batting practice before Thursday’s Game 1 in Houston, after praising the team’s attitude in the interview room. “It’s a very spirited bunch. In years past, we’ve had some clubs that had something like this — a vocal spirit — but this is a real spirited bunch all the time, from the minute you walk in the clubhouse to their pregame, during the game, after the game.”
Like La Russa, who inherited a playoff team from the previous manager, Rick Renteria, Baker took over a strong Astros team before last season. The Astros were coming off an A.L. pennant, but they fired Manager A.J. Hinch after revelations of illegal sign stealing during their 2017 title run.
With no connection to the scandal and a knack for bonding with players, Baker fit well for a team in crisis that would also be missing two elite starters: Gerrit Cole, who had signed with the Yankees, and Justin Verlander, who had just one start before sustaining an elbow injury that also cost him the 2021 season. Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia, among others, have capably taken their place.