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Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa to return as manager for 2022 season, source says

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Tony La Russa will return to manage the Chicago White Sox for the 2022 season, a source told ESPN on Thursday.

White Sox stars Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu had both publicly lobbied for the 77-year-old La Russa to return this week after Chicago was eliminated by the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the American League Division Series.

“I want him to be back,” Anderson said Thursday. “At the end of the day, my decision doesn’t really matter. I guess it all depends on what the front office thinks. … I definitely want him in. I think he did a great job with the way he managed and just being open.”

On Wednesday, Abreu had said he “was pretty sure” La Russa would return.

“He won’t leave us alone. He’s going to be with us,” Abreu said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Abreu also said he appreciated La Russa’s postgame comments in which he said Abreu was hit “intentionally” by Astros reliever Kendall Graveman in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 4.

“It was a natural reaction. That’s the kind of reaction that I would have if something happened to one of my children,” Abreu told reporters, according to MLB.com. “Tony was trying to protect me, and he’s always trying to protect us.”

La Russa’s future was a bit of a question after the White Sox’s season ended Tuesday. He said afterward it’s up to management first and then the players. If they want him back, then “you check and see whether you got the desire to continue to manage, so I do,” he said.

Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf lured La Russa to Chicago out of retirement for a second stint with the franchise that gave him his first major league managing job, hoping the three-time World Series winner could lead a team stacked with stars to a deep October run.

La Russa hadn’t filled out a lineup card since he led the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series championship in 2011, and there were questions about how his old-school ways would mesh with the team’s young and vibrant stars such as Anderson.

“Everybody thought we weren’t going to get along,” said Anderson, who made his first All-Star team this season. “But overall, we were talking behind the scenes the whole time. Just for him, the players come first and he makes that known. We’re one big family.”

La Russa had a public disagreement with a couple of his players after he scolded Yermin Mercedes for homering on a 3-0 pitch during the ninth inning of a 16-4 victory over Minnesota in May.

But with one of the top lineups and pitching staffs in baseball, the White Sox rolled to a 93-69 record and beat Cleveland by 13 games in the AL Central for their first division championship in 13 years. The win total was their highest since the 2005 World Series championship team went 99-63.

La Russa passed John McGraw for second place on baseball’s all-time victories list behind Connie Mack while guiding the White Sox to their second straight playoff appearance. They had never made the postseason in back-to-back years. But after getting knocked out by the Oakland Athletics in the wild-card round in 2020, they failed again to advance and were beaten by Houston in convincing fashion.

“I think he did a great job, coming in and being a part of what we’ve been trying to do,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t be more happy than what he did. The relationship was great overall. Everybody was just getting along with him. I think he came in and did what he was supposed to do.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MLB Players Association to make counteroffer to league in Monday meeting

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The Major League Baseball Players Association plans to make an in-person labor proposal to the league on Monday, sources told ESPN, countering MLB’s offer last week that did little to loosen the gridlock that has gripped the sport after the league locked out the players Dec. 2.

Should the players’ offer do little to advance the negotiations that thus far haven’t yielded any substantive progress, the scheduled start to spring training in mid-February will grow that much unlikelier. And the longer discussions on a new collective-bargaining agreement last, the more they jeopardize Opening Day on March 31.

The gap between the players and league remains significant, with the union seeking major financial gains in a number of areas and owners trying to hold firm with what they currently pay in salaries. Other issues players have said remain a priority include anti-tanking measures and fixing service-time manipulation.

Any concessions players make in their offer could provide a roadmap to the negotiations. Before implementing the lockout, the league asked the union to drop three areas of discussion: earlier free agency for players, salary arbitration after two years instead of three and changes to the revenue-sharing plan. The union did not agree to the condition when presented with it Dec. 1, and the league left the bargaining table, locking out the players hours later.

Forty-three days later, the league returned to the union with an offer that included paying players with two to three years of service based on a formula, slight modifications to the draft lottery it previously had proposed and a mechanism that would reward teams with draft picks when top prospects who started on opening day rosters win awards.

The proposal did little to entice players, who after losing financial ground during the previous labor agreement want to make gains this time around.

News of the MLBPA’s expected counterproposal was first reported by The Associated Press

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Robot umpires at home plate moving up to Triple-A for 2022, one step away from major league baseball

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NEW YORK — Robot umpires have been given a promotion and will be just one step from the major leagues this season. Major League Baseball is expanding its automated strike zone experiment to Triple-A, the highest level of the minor leagues.

MLB’s website posted a hiring notice seeking seasonal employees to operate the Automated Ball-Strike system. MLB said it is recruiting employees to operate the system for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters and Tacoma Rainiers.

The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game in July 2019 and experimented with ABS during the second half of that season. The system also was used in the Arizona Fall League for top prospects in 2019, drawing complaints of its calls on breaking balls.

There were no minor leagues in 2020 because of the pandemic, and robot umps were used last season in eight of nine ballparks at the Low-A Southeast League.

The Major League Baseball Umpires Association agreed in its labor contract that started in 2020 to cooperate and assist if commissioner Rob Manfred decides to use the system at the major league level.

“It’s hard to handicap if, when or how it might be employed at the major league level, because it is a pretty substantial difference from the way the game is called today,” Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer, said last March.

MLB said the robot umpires will be used at some spring training ballparks in Florida, will remain at Low A Southeast and could be used at non-MLB venues.

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Tampa Bay Rays say split-season plan with Montreal rejected by MLB

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays‘ proposed plan to split the season between Florida and Montreal has been rejected by Major League Baseball.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced the news on Thursday.

“Today’s news is flat-out deflating,” Sternberg said.

The idea of playing in both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal has been discussed over the past several years after attempts to build a new full-time ballpark locally failed.

Montreal had a big league team from 1969, when the expansion Expos began play, through 2004. The Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals for the 2005 season.

The Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the team has played since its inaugural season in 1998, expires after the 2027 season.

Since Sternberg took control in October 2005, the once-struggling franchise has been a success on the field but not at the box office.

Despite reaching the World Series in 2008 and 2020, the Rays have annually ranked near the bottom in attendance. The Rays averaged about 9,500 for home games last season, 28th in the majors and ahead of only Miami and Oakland.

St. Petersburg mayor Ken Welch feels a new stadium in his city remains a possibility. Governmental officials have been working on a redevelopment plan for the Tropicana Field site.

“We are working with our county partners and city council to put together the best plan possible, which will work in conjunction with my planned evolution of the Tropicana Field master development proposals,” Welch said in a statement. “With this collaborative approach, I am confident we can partner with the Tampa Bay Rays to create a new and iconic full-time home for Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg while also achieving historic equitable economic growth.”

Sternberg said the team will definitely explore options in the Tampa Bay area.

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