(670 The Score) You might think that after being a big league manager for 33 years and with Hall of Fame honors already to his name, Tony La Russa would be a relaxed man as the White Sox’s position players reported to camp in Glendale, Arizona on Monday.
And if you thought that, you’d also be incorrect. La Russa, 76, had nerves as he addressed the full squad in person for the first time since being hired by the White Sox in late October.
"The meeting went 10 to 15 minutes, and I will have more to say to the group over the next few days,” La Russa said. “I think the first priority is dealing with the nerves. I am going to be nervous. I always am, and I was today. I have to deal with that and make some sense of the conversation.”
La Russa then expanded on his feelings.
"One of the players asked me about being nervous -- I said ‘yeah,’” La Russa said. “Going back to my first White Sox days, (coach) Jim Leyland and I would ask each other if we were nervous. Because we knew that it means two things. It means that you care. It also means you know the unknown is out there. That is the challenge of the competition. So, I have been nervous every day my entire career, whether it's a first-day speech or a regular or spring training game. That meant when I woke up today, it indicated I was excited about taking this shot. At the last minute, I decided to share that with the fellows. Because it was honest and that's what you want to be -- is honest.”
La Russa was happy to get the work started after the White Sox had a breakout 2020 campaign in going 35-25 before losing to the Athletics in the wild-card round.
“What I think is they just want straight talk,” La Russa said. "I think the players understand the opportunity we have to be competitive, and that is the support the coaches and I are going to provide.
"They have had a winning season and a playoff appearance. They need to understand that chemistry and relationships don’t happen unless you go about it the same way or even better. It has a chance to carry over because they know (what winning ) feels like. We all need to take care of that or it can all disappear.”
La Russa’s message for his White Sox was simple.
"The edge and advantages are built around knowing that these guys knew what it felt like (winning ) last year,” La Russa said. “They need to cross the T and dot the I as a reminder from myself it's not going to be automatic if you don't take care of it. We have a clubhouse full of guys who are co-signing that message. Then it can be real.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.