KC Royals Series Preview: Big changes in Chicago

(Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals
(Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports) /

The KC Royals open a series with Chicago today. The White Sox have changed.

The KC Royals face a team with unfinished business on its mind when they help the Chicago White Sox open their home season this afternoon. Game time for the first of a three-tilt set is 3:10 p.m. CDT at Guaranteed Rate Field.

After some retooling, Chicago entered last season with what may have been the best team in the American League Central. The Sox spent much of the season in first place and became the first AL team to clinch a playoff spot. But they lost seven of their last eight games to blow the Division lead and took an early Wild Card round exit from the postseason.

Change began less than two weeks later. Popular manager Rick Renteria and veteran pitching coach Don Cooper were out and, before October ended, owner Jerry Reinsdorf brought back Tony La Russa, who managed the Sox from 1979-86 (Reinsdorf fired him) to lead his club again.

The move was unexpected yet understandable. Owner and manager are longtime friends and La Russa is a Hall of Fame manager who’s won three World Series titles and six league pennants. His 2,730 career wins rank third all-time.

Nevertheless, critics abound. The rap on La Russa, 76, is that he’s too old for the job, won’t be able to “relate” to and control young players, and has been away from the game too long (he retired after winning the 2011 World Series with St. Louis).

But don’t sell La Russa short. He held significant post-retirement executive positions with the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Angels, and Major League Baseball, so he hasn’t lost touch. And despite the age gap and their skipper’s no-nonsense baseball ways, his players will perform for him—these are professional athletes who’ll welcome La Russa’s advanced knowledge, experience and savvy. He knows how to win.

La Russa is too good not to make a difference. But will his new team be as good as the one that beat the Royals nine times out of 10 in 2020?