MLB

La Russa on 'Fantasy Island' after leading White Sox to AL Central title

Tony La Russa's decision to come out of retirement after a decade has been justified by the Chicago White Sox's first division title in 13 years.

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La Russa on 'Fantasy Island' after returning to lead White Sox to AL Central title

The Chicago White Sox clinched their sixth division title with victory over nearest American League Central challengers the Cleveland Indians on Thursday.

In the first game of a double-header at Progressive Field, the White Sox prevailed 7-2 to become the first team in MLB to clinch a division this season.

It is the fourth time they have won the AL Central – but first since 2008 – to go with two prior AL West triumphs.

In-form shortstop Tim Anderson was hugely influential in the decisive win, with three hits, two runs and four RBIs. It was his seventh straight game with a hit since returning from a hamstring injury.

But manager Tony La Russa was the centre of attention, having only returned to the major leagues with the White Sox this season after 10 years away.

Having served as White Sox manager between 1979 and 1986, earning their first division championship in 1983, La Russa went on to win the World Series with both the Oakland Athletics (in 1989) and the St Louis Cardinals (in 2006 and 2011).

The 76-year-old retired as a champion with the Cardinals but was brought back to Chicago to have an immediate impact, even if he credits the team.

La Russa hails White Sox as "team ready to win"

"The whole thing for me is Fantasy Island," he said. "Coming back like this.

"We all know the truth. The first three jobs, the clubs were struggling when I took over. Managers don't walk into a situation like this, with a team so ready to win. So, I'm very, very fortunate."

The White Sox had a .383 win percentage as recently as 2018 but had improved rapidly prior to La Russa's arrival. The .136 increase between 2019 and 2020 was the ninth-largest year-to-year improvement in team history.

But La Russa's players have certainly noted his impact, as Anderson said: "He came in and allowed us to be ourselves.

"He always says players first. He allowed us to play the game the way we would want to and allowed us to have some fun."