Shock. Confusion. Disappointment. Anger. These seem to be the most common sentiments shared by White Sox fans after the team announced the hiring of Tony La Russa as the next manager. These feelings are certainly understandable for many reasons that I have previously documented, especially surrounding the culture fit and impact on potential free agents. But maybe the most damning piece of this story is just how we got here.
In what we all assumed to be a smokescreen, La Russa was rumored to be the White Sox top candidate with immediacy upon the job becoming available. But to the dismay of most fans, this was the true story all along. For proof, Bob Nightengale reported that the White Sox never even went as far as to interview AJ Hinch.
This is clearly a decision that came from ownership, as Jerry Reinsdorf believes he is righting the wrong of firing La Russa more than 34 years ago.
We know this because La Russa represents the antithesis of everything Rick Hahn described when asked about what he would be looking for in a potential manager. He first mentioned “recent championship experience.” In professional sports, ‘what have you done for me lately’ is the name of the game, and a championship run nine seasons ago certainly is not recent.
Hahn also mentioned looking outside the organization. This hire does not meet that standard for all practical purposes given the White Sox history with La Russa. And now the White Sox have not completed a legitimate managerial search since 2003 before they hired Ozzie Guillen. Such a process, or lack thereof, is completely inexcusable in an offseason with proven, recent winners available.
Furthermore, Hahn seemed to distance himself from the decision in the introductory press conference, when we saw his law degree hard at work. “In the end, Tony was the choice because it is believed that Tony is the best man to help us win championships,” Hahn said in the opening remarks. The phrase “it is believed” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there.
He also referenced the fact that Reinsdorf reached out and made the initial contact with La Russa, that it was a collaborative decision, and that the process did not play out as he had expected when he previously spoke to the media.
All of these quotes add up to Hahn trying to relinquish ownership of the decision. And given that he had his legs completely taken out from underneath him in arguably the most important complementary decision to the roster he built, who could blame him? His authority within the organization has undoubtedly taken a hit, and even GMs from other organizations need to wonder who they are really dealing with when they talk to the White Sox.
This decision reeks of tone-deaf arrogance in an “I am smarter than everybody else” attitude. Decisions of this nature rarely work out.
The calls of fans boycotting games are over the top, as most fans including myself will still watch and root for the team on a daily basis because that is simply all we know. But what this decision humbly reminds us is that the White Sox are still an old-school, mom-and-pop organization.
Just when they had tricked us into believing that they had turned a corner into respectability, and were building things the right way, we got a crash course in the worst side of Reinsdorfian ownership. I sincerely hope that I am dead wrong and that this move propels the White Sox forward, but until proven otherwise I am a heavy skeptic.