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A Deep Dive: Who Will Be The Next White Sox Manager?

Evaluating 10 candidates who could potentially fill the vacant manager position on the South Side.

Rick Hahn Trony La Rusa Chicago White Sox
Photo: Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune

With every end comes a new beginning. On Monday, the Chicago White Sox fired manager Rick Renteria after four seasons. Renteria finished with a 236-309 record, leaving many feeling underwhelmed. In a press conference announcing the move, White Sox GM Rick Hahn laid out his criteria for the next manager on the South Side.

While popular names are already being tossed around social media by analysts and fans alike, it’s important that the White Sox do their due diligence. There is no shortage of quality candidates, so expect Rick Hahn to take his time finding the perfect fit. What names can we expect? Let’s dive in.

Tony La Russa

Photo: Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Career Highlights

  • 2728-2365 record
  • Pro Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Six Pennants and Three-Time World Series Champion
  • Four-Time Manager of the Year

You would be forgiven if this is the first time you’ve seen Tony La Russa in a White Sox uniform. His first career managerial job in the majors was with Chicago from 1979-86. After that stint, he went on to become one of the longest-tenured managers in baseball. There also seems to be mutual interest between the club and La Russa, according to reports. So what’s the catch?

Well, La Russa is 76 years old and hasn’t managed a game since 2011. He’s stayed in baseball with front office roles, but this move would be seen as an incredibly aggressive and short-term hire. While it’s certainly not impossible that Jerry Reinsdorf looks to a friend from the past, it’s hard to imagine that this would be who he had in mind.

AJ Hinch

Photo: Brett Coomer/ San Antonio Express News

Career Highlights

  • 570-452 record
  • Two Pennants and 2017 World Series Champion*
  • Played seven seasons in the Majors (Catcher)

This seems to be the most popular candidate available according to White Sox Twitter. AJ Hinch is a World Series Champion, a four-time finalist for the AL Manager of the Year, and has played a role in developing star players such as Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve. No brainer for the White Sox, right?

Well… that’s where it gets complicated.

Hinch was the man in charge when the Houston Astros orchestrated one of the largest cheating operations in MLB history featuring the use of electronic sign-stealing. While Hinch is now free to be signed by any team, many believe he’s been blacklisted in a sense. In a sport that holds on to the past like baseball, it’s near impossible to just forget about Hinch’s involvement in the scandal. However, it’s hard to argue with results and Hinch has the resume any team looking to compete should aim for.

Alex Cora

Photo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox – Getty Images

Career Highlights

  • 192–132 record
  • 2017 World Series Champion* as bench coach of Houston Astros
  • 2018 World Series Champion* as a manager of Boston Red Sox

Similar to Hinch, Alex Cora is an incredibly qualified candidate and is no stranger to winning teams. After capturing the World Series with Hinch in 2017, Cora shipped up to Boston and immediately turned around an underwhelming ball club. With the help of Mookie Betts and Chris Sale, Cora pulled off the impossible and won a title in his first season as a manager. The future looked bright for Puerto Rican skipper.

Then, well…

The 2017 Astros cheating scandal reared its ugly head once again. Cora was fired in January due to his involvement in the sign-stealing operation. Since then, he has received a similar treatment around the league as Hinch. Cora is another example of an incredibly successful coach who will need a team to look past potential character flaws. The White Sox very well could be that team.

Sandy Alomar Jr.

Photo: A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Career Highlights

  • Bullpen Catcher/Bench Coach with New York Mets and Cleveland Indians (2008-Present)
  • 28–18 record filling in for Terry Francona in 2020
  • Played 20 seasons in the majors (Catcher)

While his playing days are usually remembered for the time he spent donning a Cleveland Indians uniform, Sandy Alomar Jr. has experience dealing with the White Sox front office. After all, he had three separate tenures on the South Side throughout his playing career. He was also once considered as a bench coach under former White Sox manager Robin Ventura, but he ultimately declined.

“I thought about it, but I didn’t want to cause a problem. Didn’t want it to seem like I was coming in to replace Robin in case they stumbled out of the gate. I like and respect Robin too much for that, I want no hidden agendas. I’m also very happy with Cleveland. I didn’t want anything to be unfair to Robin.”

– Sandy Alomar Jr., 2015

After serving as an interim manager for Cleveland in 2012, his knowledge of the game and versatility kept him with the organization. Terry Francona kept him on the staff after he was hired the following season, where Alomar Jr. has served the past eight seasons in various roles. After Francona underwent a health procedure in 2020, Alomar Jr. took over the team and proved that he can manage at the big league level by going 28-12 in that span. It would a lot of make sense for Rick Hahn to bring him in for an interview.

Bruce Bochy

Photo: NBC Sports Bay Area

Career Highlights

  • 2003-2029 record
  • Three-Time World Series Champion
  • Played nine seasons in the majors (Catcher)

In 25 seasons, Bruce Bochy only managed two teams: the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. While his overall record sits below .500, his long tenure with both teams shows that front offices trust his knowledge of the game. It worked out well for the Giants, as Bochy delivered three World Series titles over a five-year span to the Bay Area. While Bochy was at his best when it came to managing his rotation and getting the most out of his relievers, it’s especially impressive when you consider the revolving door of position players he accomplished those victories with.

While names like Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence were the mainstays in the lineup, Bochy depended on strong pitching performances and sound defensive play. Players such as Aaron Rowand, Angel Pagan, and Juan Uribe fulfilled vital roles in those postseason runs. All of those players were far from elite talent when compared to the rest of the league. Bochy is also only one season removed from his retirement, so he’s still very much knowledgeable of the modern game. He checks all the boxes for a team looking to compete.

Buck Showalter

Photo: Mike Stob/Getty Images

Career Highlights

  • 1551-1517 record
  • Three-time Manager of the Year
  • Five postseason appearances

The case for Buck Showalter is a curious one. He’s been acknowledged as the top manager in the game three times and has a winning record across a 20-year career. His teams are also notorious for either missing/choking in the playoffs. It can’t be understated that he’s overseen the development of players such as Mark Texiera, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones with great success, it just seems as though there is something missing once it hits October. Specifically when it comes to bullpen management.

Exhibit A: Sending in Ubaldo Jimenez in a crucial playoff situation instead of his closer Zack Britton, who finished the season with 47 saves.

Now to be fair, Showalter wasn’t always dealt the best rosters. Manny Machado wanted out of town for a reason and it had nothing to do with the manager. The Orioles sold off their farm trying to aggressively contend, only to realize their lack of depth by the time it was too late. Are the White Sox the team to give Showalter a chance with a finished roster? Probably not, but an interview with a longtime manager who has seen significant success certainly can’t hurt.

Joe Espada

Photo: Karen Warren/Houston Chronical

Career Highlights

  • Current Bench Coach with Houston Astros
  • Coached since 2010 with Marlins, Yankees, and Astros
  • Has worked as infield, third base, hitting, and bench coach

While he’s probably the least well-known name on this list, Joe Espada has come a long way in a short amount of time. After serving as a third base coach for the Marlins in the early 2010s, he was brought into the Yankees organization in 2014 as a special assistant. Working in the front office with a guy like Brian Cashman can certainly give you an entirely different perspective on how an MLB team operates. After spending a few seasons as the third base coach with the Yankees, Espada was hired in 2018 as Alex Cora’s replacement in Houston.

His role? Bench coach under AJ Hinch.

Following the aforementioned 2017 Astros cheating scandal, Espada was actually named interim manager once Hinch was fired by the club. The Astros would go on to hire Dusty Baker before the season began and Espada was once again relegated to bench coach. With Houston once again in the playoffs, Espada remains part of a winning coaching staff. If the White Sox were to search for a young coaching prospect who is no stranger to postseason baseball, Joe Espada might be worth a look.

Mark Kotsay

Photo: Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Career Highlights

  • Played 17 seasons in the majors (First Base/Outfield)
  • Bench coach/Quality Control with A’s since 2015
  • Interviewed for multiple manager positions before last season

If you asked the common fan about Mark Kotsay, chances are you’ll hear about his playing career. His long tenure with the A’s, his memorable inside the park home run, or even his one season with the White Sox. Unless you are Mark Kotsay superfan NWI Steve, most people wouldn’t even realize that Kotsay is now coaching. He was never the flashiest player on a roster, but Kotsay was a strong clubhouse guy who showed up to work every day. That resonates in most clubhouses around the league, with many teammates across his career referring to Kotsay as a ‘seasoned veteran’.

Kotsay has served as bench coach/quality control with the Oakland A’s since 2015, which means he has quite a bit of control within the game. The A’s have reached the playoffs in three of his six seasons with the team. Oakland is notorious as a team ahead of the curve when it comes to sabermetrics, which means they’ve found ways to win with relative castoffs. This ability to make something out of nothing could make Kotsay an intriguing long-term answer for a young and talented White Sox roster.

John Farrell

Photo: Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Career Highlights

  • 586-548 record
  • Two-time World Series Champion with Red Sox (2007 as pitching coach, 2013 as manager)
  • Pitched eight seasons in the majors

If you were to Google ‘small margin for error’, there’s a good chance you’ll find a picture of John Farrell. Lost in the Bostonian idea that the Red Sox must win at all costs, Farrell was fired in 2017 after his second straight 93-69 season. Even after winning a World Series and making the postseason in three of his five seasons, the Red Sox have been historically demanding of their roster and coaching staff alike. There was also the issue of former Boston GM Dave Dombrowski, who inherited Farrell when he was hired.

“I do know Dave came in and he inherited me, so he felt like there was a change that was needed because we made quick exits the two years consecutive going into the postseason. So the expectation as it is every year, whether it’s New York or Boston, LA, Chicago, to go deep into the October run, we didn’t do it.”

– John Farrell after his firing, 2017

While Farrell was 1-6 in the postseason his last two years in Boston, it wasn’t at the fault of his pitching staff. The former pitcher and pitching coach sported a staff that included Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, David Price, Joe Kelly, and Chicago Cubs legend Craig Kimbrel. The bats fell silent, with David Ortiz retiring after the 2016 season and no starter batting above .293 in 2017. Farrell has since taken a commentary job with ESPN, but don’t be surprised if the White Sox kick the tires on him, whether it be as a manager or pitching coach.

AJ Pierzynski

Photo: Brian Kersey

Career Highlights

  • Spent 19 seasons in the majors (Catcher)
  • Won a World Series with the White Sox in 2005
  • Cool
  • Tough

Now, for the meatball candidate: former White Sox catcher, Anthony John Pierzynski. It’s always easy to toss out a fan favorite as a joke candidate or think that his accomplishments as a player qualify him, but it might not be nearly as crazy as you think. Major League Baseball has seen a change in approach when it comes to manager credentials and being a longtime catcher in the league seems to be an appealing one. Three of the hottest names currently on the market are AJ Hinch, Sandy Alomar Jr., and Bruce Bochy — all former catchers. Pierzynski would certainly demand accountability in a White Sox clubhouse that reportedly struggled with the issue this season, as the former Sox catcher is no stranger to confrontation.

Pierzynski has made it known that he would love the job. The only big hurdle his is lack of experience. However, teams have had success hiring managers with limited coaching experience. Names such as Rocco Baldelli and Craig Counsell are the first that come to mind. While it’s certainly not likely, it wouldn’t be surprising if the White Sox at least consider bringing AJ in as a coach in some capacity. Such a scenario could potentially be similar to how Cleveland has developed Sandy Alomar Jr.

Then again, this is Jerry Reinsdorf. Anything is possible.

In Closing

While all the names on this list may not be called in for an interview, it’s important to know your options. The biggest hope many in the fan base have is that Rick Hahn will not leave any stone unturned. It’s very possible there is already a plan in place, but don’t expect much of it to leak. The idea is that Hahn leaves a bit of uncertainty in the air so he gets the best out of these interviews. That way, the club can objectively evaluate each candidate and find the best man for the job.

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1 year ago

You are the first article to mention Showalter, whom I also like. But he would be second to Bochy, with Hinch rounding out my top 3. LaRussa intrigues me, but the extended lay off frightens me.

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