In their short time together, Tony La Russa already recognizes All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson as one of the best talents he has seen. Anderson, the 2019 MLB batting champ, has electricity, fearlessness, style, and charisma that compliments his abilities on the field; and that won’t be changing anytime soon.
Even a 76-year-old skipper who is the epitome of old school, has managed for 33 years and won more than 2700 games, knows to fallback and let a unique talent like Anderson just do his thing.
“Every day, I watch everybody, and there’s a lot of guys to watch. But Tim reminds me of Mookie (Betts),” La Russa, who has managed players such as Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Ricky Henderson, told White Sox reporters before a spring training game. “It’s just their grace, their athletic skills. They flow and move. They have an athleticism that’s very special.”
Anderson was pulling double duty last season. He took home the Silver Slugger award for American League Shortstops while serving as a board member for the MLB Players Alliance. The Players Alliance is a group of more than 100 active and former professional players united to use their voice and platform to create new opportunities for the Black community in all areas of baseball and society.
— Matt Zahn (@mattzahnsports) August 27, 2020
His dynamic repertoire does not end on the field. Anderson has immersed himself in the Chicago community.
He was the White Sox nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for his work with the League of Leaders Community Outreach which helps instill leadership in youth affected by violence. Anderson created the group after his best friend was tragically shot and killed trying to break up a fight in 2017.
This marriage between La Russa and these new-age White Sox seems odd from the outside, but with team leaders like Anderson buying into LaRussa’s game plan, the group hopes to reach the contender status they have been building towards and don’t see the age or culture gap as a deterrent to excitement or success.
It’s not like LaRussa never managed a dynamic player like Anderson. The swagmaster of them all, Rickey Henderson, had some great seasons, under LaRussa in Oakland, winning an MVP and a World Series.
Any initial skepticism on Anderson’s part has disappeared in Spring Training.
“I’m open. I get it. I understand it,” Anderson told the White Sox Talk Podcast. “Our ultimate goal is to win a championship, and I’m all aboard for that. We are trying to win a championship and he’s going to be a part of it.”
Anderson has made a name for himself with his creative bat flips. Some purists have accused him of violating baseball’s “UnWritten Rules.”
In reality, he’s helping the game evolve and connect with younger generations. Anderson’s growing popularity, which includes a special connection to Black baseball fans, has earned him the video game cover for RBI Baseball 2021.
“I like to go out and play with a lot of passion because that’s fun and I think that draws attention to the fans and kids,” Anderson told ESPN. “I don’t really know the rules. There’s not any for me. I can’t call them dumb because I don’t have any. Nobody really came to me and said “these are the rules, so I really don’t know what they are.”
La Russa’s Hall of Fame career began in 1979 with a stint with these same White Sox. He went on to win three World Series; one in 1989 with the Oakland A’s and two with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 and 2011, the final year La Russa managed. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2014 and after took front office roles with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox and LA Angels.
La Russa’s October 29th hiring made him the first Hall of Fame manager to return to baseball post-retirement. However, it did not come without a cloud of controversy.
In February of 2020, La Russa was arrested for Driving while Under the Influence. Charges were officially filed on October 28th, a day before his hiring as Sox manager.
“I brought this on myself. I know it. I feel deep remorse and regret over what I did… I’m grateful to the White Sox for standing by me” La Russa told reporters this past December.
With the drama behind them, the White Sox have one unified goal, to bring a World Series back to the South Side as well as an MVP to Anderson’s steadily growing trophy case. The two guys leading the charge couldn’t be more different.