These baseball fanatics have met more than 200 times. But hardly so.

“The first conversation I had with him in the off-season, right when he was hired, I was expecting Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa to be very strict: ‘I’m in charge. This is what we going to do it,'” said Lucas Giolito, who starts Game 2 on Friday. “And I was very surprised when, in our first conversation, he told me that: ‘I’m coming. This is your team of friends, and I’m going to work every day to earn your respect from day one of spring training.’ And he has done that.”

White Sox boss Jerry Reinsdorff had always regretted leaving La Russa in 1986, when he was fired by general manager Ken Harrelson. The White Sox are the only team managed by La Russa that has not won a World Series with them.

“This club inspires me,” said La Russa on the field during batting practice ahead of Thursday’s Game 1 in Houston, after praising the team’s attitude in the interview room. “It’s a very enthusiastic bunch. Over the years, we’ve had a few clubs that had something like that — a vocal spirit — but it’s a real enthusiastic group all the time, when you walk into the clubhouse in their pregame, during games. , after game .”

Like La Russa, which had inherited the playoff team from previous manager Rick Renteria, Baker handled a strong Astros team prior to the previous season. The Astros were coming off an AL pennant, but they fired manager AJ Hinch following revelations of illegal sign theft during their 2017 title run.

With no connection to the scandal and ties to the players, Baker is a good fit for a team in crisis that wouldn’t even have two elite starts: Gerrit Cole, who signed with the Yankees, and Justin Verlander. , who made just one start before sustaining an elbow injury that cost him the 2021 season as well. Framber Valdez and Luis García, among others, have replaced him in capacity.

“He instills confidence in you and the understanding of your players – even as a Latino himself – he helps you understand that sometimes you are going to get things done in the game, sometimes you are going to fail,” Valdez, who is from the Dominican Republic, said of Baker through a translator. “But he doesn’t let you go too high or too low, and he radiates that positive energy all the time.”

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