On the same day that Tony La Russa might have left baseball for good, the greatest player he ever managed hit his 703rd home run. If Albert Pujols had retired when the Angels released him early in the 2021 season, his decade-long fade in Anaheim would've clouded the greatness of his Cardinals legacy. Improbably, Pujols constructed an ending to his career that is much more appropriate for an inner-circle Hall of Famer, with his Dodgers success in 2021 and this year's home run binge back in St. Louis.
The opposite trajectory has occurred for his former manager. Some White Sox fans might be too young to know -- or too frustrated to care -- that La Russa, who announced Monday that he will not return as Chicago's manager because of health concerns, was long viewed as one of the sport's most progressive managers, arguably its most intense, and even its most successful. La Russa, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, will finish his career second all-time among managers in wins, with 2,900; the only manager with more wins was a team owner, Connie Mack -- a fact that means that La Russa has the most wins of anyone who could be fired from the job. He has 14 postseason appearances, three World Series championships and four Manager of the Year awards.