Tony La Russa's White Sox clubhouse dubbed 'outstanding' by GM

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Vinnie Duber
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La Russa in headlines, Hahn dubs Sox clubhouse 'outstanding' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

While the White Sox deal with the potentially season-altering loss of Luis Robert, they've found their manager at the heart of a couple national reports.

Both ESPN's Jeff Passan and The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal wrote in recent days of Tony La Russa's first month back on the job as the South Side skipper, reporting that some in the White Sox clubhouse are becoming impatient with the in-game decisions that have had a similarly perplexing, and even enraging, effect on much of the fan base.

Highlighted were a pair of La Russa choices to leave pitchers in games long enough to get roughed up, as well as his much discussed usage of a variety of players in the outfield rather than dedicate regular playing time to top prospect Andrew Vaughn, which goes hand in hand with questioned decisions to bat certain players over others in late-game situations.

RELATED: La Russa vows 'hellacious effort' from Sox without Robert

Monday, Passan wrote that "patience in some parts of the White Sox clubhouse is growing thin." Tuesday, Rosenthal wrote that "while some players already are frustrated with him, many others offer little complaint."

Monday night, while discussing the Robert injury, general manager Rick Hahn pointed to recent comments by players praising the work La Russa has done as he raved about the general status of the clubhouse early in a season with championship expectations.

"The clubhouse has been outstanding," Hahn said. "They’ve been cohesive, they’ve been focused, the energy has been good. You’ve heard from several of them when you asked, whether it’s been Tim (Anderson) or (José Abreu) or Andrew Vaughn talking about Tony’s leadership and how excited they’ve been for what has transpired already, excited for what lay ahead."

For all the Twitter-based consternation over those aforementioned La Russa decisions, the White Sox have had plenty of success so far in 2021. As of this writing, they still ranked among the American League leaders in a number of hitting and pitching categories. They're north of .500, which might not strike as the highest bar to clear, but a 15-12 record after 27 games was good enough to put them just a game out of first place in the AL Central standings.

But while that's all fine and good, certainly the expectations for this team were set much, much higher than "fine and good," with Hahn among the chorus of White Sox employees voicing the opinion in spring training that anything short of a World Series championship would be a disappointment.

And surely La Russa's hiring was among the biggest pieces of evidence of those championship-level intentions on the South Side. With three World Series rings on his fingers and more major league victories than anyone alive, he was brought in to win, to lead these White Sox to the promised land.

That, of course, is still possible, given that the regular season is just one-sixth of the way complete — though the road to a championship obviously got much more difficult with Robert joining Eloy Jiménez on the sidelines for the next several months. But when the expectations are set so high, there's reason for fans to expect championship-caliber baseball on a nightly basis, making any frustration over not seeing it understandable.

It's a results-based business, of course, and whatever happens on the field will continue to be of the utmost importance. When it comes to what's happening in other facets, the reports from players have indeed been positive, as Hahn mentioned.

The biggest concern about La Russa's hiring was whether he could mesh his supposedly old-school nature with the new-school personalities of today's players, Anderson chief among them. That hasn't been a problem at all, though, with Anderson saying just last weekend: "Tony allows us to do us."

Abreu, the reigning AL MVP, veteran of the last seven White Sox seasons and the unquestioned leader in the clubhouse, rushed to his manager's defense Tuesday.

"I think we are blessed to be managed by a guy like him, a Hall of Famer," Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "I think sometimes people are unfair with him, people like to criticize. It's not an easy job. If being a manager of a major league team would be an easy job, everybody could do it. But it's not. And I think he deserves a little more credit and respect.

"We support him. Sometimes you make decisions that probably don't go your way, but that is how it is. I support him, and I think we have to be glad to be on a team managed by him."

As for La Russa himself, the Hall of Famer had this to say over the criticism of his in-game choices:

"If the decision works, they're good. If they don't work, they're bad," he said Tuesday. "I'm not going to change. There's enough to concentrate on just watching the game. ... Just be accountable to yourself, take your best shot. You can’t live and die with whether the decision worked or not. It's the quality of the decision.

"I like this club a lot. I love this club, the way they inspire me. I don’t have any excuses if somebody thinks there are issues."

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