LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Interrupting the Chris Sale trade rumors to bring you the boldest statement regarding the White Sox in quite a long time.
“The White Sox are going to be back on top.”
Inside this vast Walt Disney World hotel, it’s tough to find anyone who would make that sort of prediction about a team that lost 99 games last season.
But on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, just moments after it was announced that he was being inducted into the Hall of Fame, there was Tony La Russa making that fearless forecast when I asked him about the White Sox.
“I look for them to be resurgent,” added La Russa, who because of his three-decade long friendship with Jerry Reinsdorf has access to go deep inside the White Sox organization. He has spent time this winter speaking with Reinsdorf, Kenny Williams, Rick Hahn, Jim Thome, even Bo Jackson.
“That’s some powerful support,” said La Russa about the White Sox front office team. He wouldn’t go into specifics about what the White Sox have planned but pointed to the $68 million signing of Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu. “If they get production from him, they’ll be better right away.”
La Russa’s managing career began with the White Sox in 1979. He went on to win six pennants and three World Series. Unfortunately, none with the White Sox. Then-general manager Hawk Harrelson famously fired him in 1986. Allowing it to happen is the biggest regret in Reinsdorf’s storied career.
“I met (La Russa) for the first time when I bought the ballclub, and I was really impressed with him as a person and a manager,” Reinsdorf said. “I stupidly allowed him to be fired, but I can still sort of justify it because when you run an organization you can’t tell the head of a department who is going to work for him. You let him have his own people. The general manager wanted to let him go and I couldn’t talk him out of it, so I had to let it happen.”
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At the ceremony on Monday announcing the Hall of Fame inductions of La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, Reinsdorf, who’s a member of the voting committee, was sitting in the front row.
“I don’t think I’d ever be more thankful to Jerry,” La Russa said. “I kid him all the time that he fired me, but he stood behind me and my wife and kids year after year after year. Then we finally celebrated (winning the division) in 1983. The White Sox are very close to my heart.”
How close are they to the top?
Miles ... yards ... feet?
La Russa believes it's closer than most people think.