No managerial decisions are as important as picking a coaching staff, so it’s good that new White Sox manager Tony La Russa has already assembled a dream team:
This was a no-brainer, a chance to tick off two critical boxes in one shot. Of course, the choice had to be:
No, not the legendary Grambling football coach — the not-quite-as-legendary White Sox first baseman from 1950-52, the best years of his long career. Not only is Robinson a former member of the White Sox, but he was present for the most important turnaround ever, because 1951 began the famous 17-year streak of winning seasons on the South Side. Robinson hit .296 with 71 homers with the Sox, and was an All-Star in ’51 and ’52.
Plus, he has the requisite postseason experience, having played in the World Series with the Indians in ’48 and the Yankees in ’55, and sports a .348 postseason average.
Not enough? How about he was a coach for the Orioles and worked in the front office of numerous teams into the 1980s? And, to fit in with La Russa’s fondness for reading, he even wrote a book, “Lucky Me: My 65 Years in Baseball.”
Yep, 65 years. Which brings us to the most important point. Any comments about La Russa’s age will go by the wayside when he selects Robinson, who is the oldest living former major leaguer, at the tender age of 99. Of course, given Robinson’s age, a contract longer than five years might be ill-advised.
Once again, that rare find, someone who ticks off multiple boxes. Not only is he famous as a former member of the Sox (albeit the wrong ones), but he was one of the greatest hitters of his time. Heck, of all time:
Boggs needs no introduction. A .338 career hitter with twice as many walks as strikeouts, he had an illustrious, 18-year career and is in position to share Hall of Fame induction selfies with La Russa. Boggs was the consummate contact hitter, which is something many of the current Sox could find useful to learn.
It’s true that Boggs could have the downside from the manager’s perspective of greater fame than La Russa, especially because he (or his image) has had guest appearances on The Simpsons, Cheers, and Seinfeld, but he can provide something that makes up for that:
Now, Boggs, unlike La Russa, has never picked up a DUI charge while passed out in his car, and never will, given he is vociferously opposed to drinking and driving since his mother was killed in an accident with a drunk driver. But his beer-consuming is legendary. There are stories of consuming 60 cans of beer on one flight to West Coast games, of downing more than 100 on another, of ... well, you get the picture. Even allowing for a little hyperbole here and there, his beer-swilling capacity ranges well into the superhuman. That he could play Hall of Fame-caliber baseball after so many brews is amazing enough, but consider the bigger question: How could he remain out on the field during a long defensive inning, legs crossed or no, without well, you know?
Now that Boggs is 62, will he even be able to stay in the dugout for a whole batter? Be fun to watch and see.
The point here being, with Boggs and his legendary consumption on the staff, it’s highly unlikely La Russa’s DUI will ever be brought up. Boggs hasn’t been doing much of anything except a very brief broadcasting stint since retiring in 1999, so he’s ready.
Perhaps the biggest worry of La Russa’s ability to manage in 2021 is his well-established attitude on race and ethnicity, which is a total failure to empathize with persons of color. He said all the expected lawyerly things at his White Sox press conference, and maybe there are even a few people who believed them. Still, it’s good that as his pitching coach, he picks:
Rocker was a pretty good, but not great, relief pitcher, mostly with the Braves. However, he was quite good in the postseason — no, make that excellent, outstanding, super, pick your superlative, with a 0.00 ERA over 20 games and innings. That, coupled with a brief appearance on Survivor (even though he got voted off right away because everybody hated him) makes Rocker the ideal pitching coach to take the Sox to the next level, where they’ll have to have survival skills.
But those aren’t the things that make him the perfect coach for La Russa. It’s, as they say, the intangibles.
Sure, La Russa had scathing things to say about any athletes who would dare take a knee during the national anthem, adding in personal insults about Colin Kaepernick for good measure — but he played the old “insult the troops” card to make sure everyone knew he had a perfectly good reason for lashing into people protesting police violence against Blacks. And, sure, he supported the infamous Arizona “show me your papers” law that denigrated Hispanic-Americans, but he didn’t say he’d personally pull innocent citizens out of cars and make them eat some asphalt.
Compared to Rocker? Pussycat.
Rocker hated — presumably still hates — foreigners of all kinds. Hates, hates, hates. Strange, in a sport with so many foreign-born players — a dozen or so on the current White Sox roster — but he wasn’t shy about it, even in his infamous Sports Illustrated interview. He also had plenty of racist and homophobic things to toss into the mix. Hasn’t ever backed down, either.
If that’s not enough, Rocker was also implicated in the Applied Pharmacy steroid ring, so he’s got La Russa covered on the McGwire/Conseco front as well. Perfect man for the job.
For an added benefit, he’s terrific bad pun material, from “ol’ Tony needs his rocker” to, after a tiff, “Tony must be off his rocker.” Good times.
Filling these positions will have to wait. Since the failure to go through proper hiring procedures under the Selig Rule in La Russa’s case could cause problems, making sure there is diversity in the coaching staff is a good defensive move, and the top three hirings come up short.
In searching through minority candidates, there was one person who stood out as being far more well-known as surly, much more disliked, than La Russa, thereby covering the manager on the jerkness front, in case Rocker isn’t enough. However, due to recent events, the Sox will have to wait to see the outcome of his latest arrest and potential for freedom during the 2021 season before hiring ...