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What’s missing from the White Sox manager search

The South Siders aren’t scanning wide enough for their next skipper

Oakland Athletics v Chicago White Sox
Former White Sox manager Tony La Russa speaks with former player Carlton Fisk during a ceremony honoring Harold Baines prior to a game between the Chicago and the Oakland Athletics at Guaranteed Rate Field on Aug. 11, 2019 in Chicago.
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

[Longtime baseball writer and White Sox fan Kevin Kaufmann joins us this offseason, with his first piece today!]

From almost the minute Ricky Renteria met his just fate, speculation started as to who will be the next White Sox manager.

The clues dropped from Rick Hahn immediately brought the names A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora to the forefront. Even Tony La Russa has been mentioned, though a 10-year gap in managing doesn’t fit the bill of “recent October experience.”

All three of these candidates come with distinct pros and cons, and there are a lot of opinions out there regarding them all. In light of recent events — recent years, really — what is troubling is that the White Sox are admitting to a limited, fairly homogeneous candidate pool. If things are going to change in baseball, and to a limited extent all of society, the limited search needs to be abandoned for a more inclusive process.

If Tony La Russa’s win in 2011 counts as recent, then let’s look at who managed World Series winners since then teams. Six of the eight winning managers from 2011-19 (Bochy won twice) are white, the other two, David Martinez and Cora, are Latino. Take Martinez out of the running because he has a job, and that leaves one person of color among the group. Expanding to the losing World Series managers, the picture gets no better. Six of the eight losers (Ron Washington got beat twice) are white, two are African-American. Like the winners list, Dave Roberts currently has a job, so the list of October experienced managers is 12 white guys out of 14 candidates. Removing the three white guys who have a job as well, and it’s a little better, at nine of 12. Still, that isn’t just unrepresentative of the players they would potentially manage — it’s not representative of the demographics of the country.

Taking age into consideration, it doesn’t become a better picture. La Russa is the oldest candidate, along with his pal Jim Leyland, both 76. The youngster of the bunch is Cora, at a spry 45. Hinch is close, at 46. Everyone else, along with La Russa and Leyland, qualify for AARP membership. (Full confession: I’m a member too. Great organization!) The picture of the likely next White Sox manager is pretty clear, and very familiar.

And that’s the problem. With such a narrow definition of what they are looking for, the White Sox and many other organizations that go through this every year search in a pool of potential candidates that is stagnant. Even with a cursory look at bench and pitching coaches from those same teams the demographics don’t shift much, though the age does go down a bit.

For all we know, the White Sox have already made up their minds. They are just waiting for the proper time to announce the new hire. If it is Hinch or Cora or any other retreads (dear God, not La Russa), great. Let’s hope it works out.

However, if that happens, when the White Sox repeat that they did an extensive search, take it with a grain of salt. If teams continue to only look at a narrow pool of candidates, then the same or very similar people are going to continue to be in management positions.

To affect real change, things need to change. Sadly, the White Sox have all but said they won’t be changing this time around.