Hendriks was named AL Reliever of the Month in May and named to the All-Star team. The fiery closer also leads the American League in saves. However, the man named ‘best reliever in baseball’ by MLB Network this offseason might not be in Chicago today without Tony La Russa.
Tony La Russa was a lightning rod for the White Sox from the moment they hired him. After a successful career as a manager that spanned over three decades and ended with his retirement following the 2011 season, the Chicago White Sox decided to bring him back into the dugout after a 10-year layoff. The overall reaction from fans was visceral, to say the least.
La Russa’s resume speaks for itself. Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, La Russa is second in the MLB in victories, a four-time manager of the year, and one of two managers to win 500 or more games with three different teams. However many questioned how the 76-year-old would relate to today’s players and if his old school approach to the game would fly in today’s MLB.
Liam Hendriks has been a very good player for the Chicago White Sox this season.
After a rocky start to the season, a 68-48 record and an 11.5 game division lead have silenced the critics. Tony La Russa has done a tremendous job helping this team navigate through numerous injuries to key players and maximizing the talent of everyone on the roster. His benefits to this season haven’t just come during games. Liam Hendriks revealed that La Russa was instrumental in reeling him into Chicago.
"“He was one of the main reasons the White Sox were a top priority for me this offseason,” Hendriks said in an interview with Joe Buck during Thursday night’s game."
He went onto explain the reason for this was La Russa’s ability to manage a bullpen. Tony La Russa revolutionized how bullpens are used with the help of Dave Duncan during his time with St. Louis. This is extremely important for a winning team, especially during October. His knowledge on how to handle a bullpen was attractive to a reliever of Hendriks’ caliber.
Another reason was Tony La Russa’s charitable work with animals. He co-founded the Animal Rescue foundation along with his wife Elaine. The foundation saves abandoned and injured animals as well as running programs to untie dogs and cats with abused children, hospital patients, seniors, and others in need of companionship.
During his time in Oakland, Hendriks heard about his foundation while he was in the Bay Area. La Russa had foundations set up in the Bay Area because of his time spent managing in Oakland. Animals are a passion of Hendriks. He makes regular visits to animal shelters.
During the All-Star game, he threw a knuckleball to raise money for animal-related charities. He and his wife Kristi have even adopted a couple of rescues. So, when you see Liam Hendriks coming out of the bullpen to close out a game later this year, you have Tony La Russa to thank for more than one reason.