OPINION: Time for the White Sox to Cut Bait and Fire Tony La Russa
It was never a great fit, but now it is obvious that the White Sox have to move on from La Russa.
My skepticism on the White Sox decision to hire Tony La Russa as their next manager has been well documented, both with the obvious flaws in the person himself and with the decision process (or lack thereof) that unfolded. Regardless, I tried to remain optimistic. ‘The White Sox are still a young, fun team oozing with talent and a Hall of Fame manager, let’s try to remain positive and root for the White Sox together’ was the adjusted mentality.
Now, almost two weeks into Tony La Russa’s official reign as manager, it is clear that a change has to be made. We learned just last week from Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez that La Russa had yet to even reach out to the core members of the team.
This is a sign of his true arrogance. He is joining a team with plenty of star players that already went to the playoffs, yet he apparently feels the onus falls on the players to reach out to him.
One item we haven’t learned two weeks into his tenure: who is on his coaching staff? It was reported that the White Sox third base coach, Nick Capra, would not be returning, but not a word on who would be replacing him. So it is fair to say that La Russa has already created more holes than he’s filled. And he has certainly created more questions than answers.
The White Sox were rumored to be interested in Michigan pitching coach Chris Fetter, an up-and-coming star among pitching coaches. Instead, Fetter took his talents to Detroit to pair up with AJ Hinch. This was likely Rick Hahn’s ideal pairing for the White Sox, only to be undermined by his owner.
And speaking of Hinch, let’s remember that he was officially hired two days after Tony La Russa. Since that time, not only has he taken arguably the best pitching coach on the market, but he has also amassed his entire coaching staff while collecting minds from the best organizations in baseball. His bench coach, George Lombard, spent the last five seasons as the Dodgers’ first base coach. His third base coach, Chip Hale, was the Nationals bench coach when they won the World Series in 2019, and the list goes on.
If the arrogance to not even reach out to his players and his lack of any coaching hires was not enough, we certainly got the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back on Monday night when Jeff Passan broke the news that La Russa had been charged with a DUI the day before the White Sox officially hired him. This stemmed from a February incident and while it is not clear why it took so long to charge him, it is clear that there is a serious problem here.
The details are still coming in, but things are getting uglier and uglier. The latest excerpt from Jeff Passan’s reporting once again displays La Russa’s pure arrogance:
White Sox fans on Twitter erupted on Monday night and rightfully so. Today a DUI is a significant criminal event. Now people see it for what it is: recklessly and selfishly endangering the lives of innocent people.
To make matters worse, this is not La Russa’s first DUI. He pleaded guilty to a DUI in 2007 while managing the Cardinals. At that time, he released a statement that included the following excerpt:
“I accept full responsibility for my conduct, and assure everyone that I have learned a very valuable lesson and that this will never occur again.”
How sincere was La Russa in that statement?
At best, La Russa made at least two bad decisions that we know about, and that alone would make it difficult for a young team to look up to him as a leader both on and off the field. At worst, La Russa has a drinking problem that he needs help with. Both outcomes make this a horrible situation that needs to be addressed ASAP.
Marcus Stroman, a likely free-agent target for the White Sox this offseason, has essentially ruled out signing with the team based on this latest news. He repeatedly liked and commented on tweets acknowledging the hypocrisy of the White Sox. When asked outright how much money it would take for him to sign with the White Sox (in a Twitter type of way), he responded with the following:
Stroman is a good player who tries to represent the right way to do things, so who could blame him for ruling out the White Sox? He deserves better and so do White Sox fans.
The great irony in all of this is, of course, that Rick Renteria is a finalist for the Manager of the Year award and has a good chance of taking home the hardware tonight. Renteria was obviously flawed as an in-game manager and virtually no one questioned the move to fire him. But building a cohesive, positive culture in the clubhouse was an undeniable strength for Renteria, and something La Russa appears incapable of doing. Only Jerry Reinsdorf could make the fan base long for Rick Renteria.
To be clear, I would much rather write about the next steps Luis Robert can take in his career or what a healthy Yoan Moncada could do in the White Sox lineup. But that is exactly the problem here: this has already become an enormous distraction and is guaranteed to only get worse the first time La Russa is questioned on an in-game decision or punishes a player for doing something he doesn’t find right.
And that is exactly why the time has come to cut bait and move on. There is precedent here, as the Mets fired Carlos Beltran last offseason before he ever managed a game for them due to news breaking about his role in the Astros cheating scandal. This is significant because Jerry Reinsdorf has proven that he cannot be a leader in times like these, so being able to follow in the footsteps of another organization is something White Sox fans can hold onto.
It was speculated that Reinsdorf was morally opposed to hiring AJ Hinch or anyone associated with the cheating scandal. The White Sox were also reportedly aware of La Russa’s DUI before they hired him. So either Reinsdorf’s moral code needs some serious adjustments, or the White Sox are not being completely forthcoming. I suppose both can be true.
These are the types of actions that alienate the fan base and make this team harder to root for so unnecessarily. Frankly, the White Sox are currently a train wreck across the world of sports, and being a White Sox fan is embarrassing. This all starts at the top with ownership, and while we as fans have no direct control, we can certainly keep up the public pressure for the team to do the right thing and fire Tony La Russa.