OPINION: Tony La Russa’s Cherry On Top
The mess surrounding the White Sox hiring Tony La Russa grows even sloppier.
Yesterday, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that recently re-hired White Sox manager Tony La Russa was arrested in Arizona in February and charged with his second DUI on October 28th, 2020, a day before the White Sox shockingly hired him.
Most people had an adverse reaction to this hire, and there were a number of reasons behind it.
It could have been his rejection of modern-day baseball big data (I won’t say “analytics” because people just use that as a buzz word for “information”).
It could have been his comments on players’ peaceful protest of racial violence.
It could have been his first DUI.
It could have been that Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf called La Russa out of the blue because they are buddies and Reinsdorf wanted to rectify La Russa’s firing from the White Sox in 1985.
It could have been the fact that reports surfaced indicating the White Sox did not interview any other candidates seriously and Reinsdorf got his guy.
It could have been that Jack McDowell claimed La Russa and the White Sox stole signs during his tenure, while many ostracized A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora for doing the same in 2017.
It could have been his embrace of the unwritten rules of baseball when he criticized players like Fernando Tatis Jr. for hitting a grand slam on a 3-0 count.
Either way, no one should cast judgment on a person who possibly has an addiction. That would be wrong. We do not know what this man has going on in his life.
It is more than fair to criticize the decision to hire La Russa even more after hearing this serious news, however. The White Sox knew about La Russa’s charge, and it sure seems like it did not matter, at least to Jerry Reinsdorf, that La Russa’s unchanged, reckless behavior could have killed someone.
Note this excerpt from the end of Passan’s article:
“On the day of his guilty plea to the 2007 DUI, La Russa said in a statement: ‘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.'”
People are allowed to slip up occasionally; we are all human beings. We make mistakes. But rewarding a person for seemingly unchanged behavior because you want to bring back the glory days of baseball seems wrong. Yes, anyone can understand La Russa has the ability to change. In fact, during his press conference, he seems to have shifted course on peaceful protest and even reached out in support of former Oakland Athletics’ catcher, Bruce Maxwell, when he took a knee before a baseball game.
The fact that the White Sox remain a laughing stock because their owner wanted to get his way, no matter the optics, is the recurring issue here. Tony La Russa benefitted from the privilege of being buddies with one of the most powerful people in sports.
The White Sox ignored that La Russa had not changed his behavior. Who knows, La Russa could have gone cold turkey after February and actually changed. Does that grant him automatic access to the clubhouse of one of the most exciting, young teams in baseball? I guess it does in Jerry Reinsdorf’s eyes. While Tony is at it, he should probably reach out to the players he will start coaching in three months if the White Sox do not fire him soon.