Thirty years ago, Tony LaRussa's White Sox were six games under .500, spinning their wheels while seven games out of first place. After that low-water mark, the team ripped off 74 wins against 32 losses to win the West Division by 20 games.
With that in mind, LaRussa -- who's in Chicago over the weekend for a "Winning Ugly" reunion -- thinks the Sox can still climb out of their current tailspin.
"One of the beauties is the season is it’s six months -- if you are good and they are good enough, they have plenty of time," LaRussa said. "You just can’t get discouraged, and you can’t try to fix it all in one day. Just do the thing right bit by bit and it gets better. But you could be on top of the league, 20 over -- check the book, and they don’t win a lot of times.
"It’s a test over six months. They have a great attitude here. Good coaching staff. Robin is solid. They will be fine."
LaRussa cautioned against getting too discouraged from a spate of bad play -- like the one that's seen the last-place White Sox lose 10 of their last 11 games heading into Saturday. And while the 1983 team didn't face quite the uphill climb the Sox are staring down in 2013, there's still a lesson that can be applied to the current group of players.
"Sometimes when you struggle, that’s when teams fall apart," LaRussa explained. "They start pointing fingers. We just stayed closed, stayed close and kept competing and pretty soon they got it straight. Then we started rolling. I think that was a nice test of our tightness. It can get away from you in a hurry if you aren’t careful. They refused to not come together."
The Sox clubhouse certainly doesn't appear fractured, and there's plenty of familiarity between the players, plenty of whom competed together in last year's pennant race. But as the Sox have shown this year, that's only part of the equation.
LaRussa, a three-time World Series champion, isn't in Chicago to give Ventura advice on how to spark his team. He knows Ventura a bit -- their most notable encounter came in 2000, when Ventura hit the walk-off-grand-slam-that-wasn't against LaRussa's Cardinals in the NLCS -- and isn't going to march into his office to mentor a guy who's only been doing this for one and a half seasons.
"The thing about that as kind of overrated as it is, when you have a quality coaching staff, those are the guys you talk to," LaRussa said. "I come in here and I saw the club on TV, I read about them. If there is a general question anybody wants to ask, you can give them a general answer. But the answers come from the guys who are watching every day, the guys who are working with the guys every day and they are plenty good that way."